I have a very deep and intimate connection with Taiwan that reaches all the way back to my early childhood when my family moved from Germany to Taiwan for two years. Taiwan became the first real home I have memories of and Chinese was, in fact, my first mother tongue. Over the years, my Taiwanese childhood friends became part of my family and the Taiwanese culture and lifestyle became a deeply ingrained part of my identity. This personal connection with Taiwan, paired with the fact that I never considered the Taiwanese culture to be strange or exotic, offered me the ideal starting point to take a deep dive into both its visible and hidden beauties, without concealing some of the uglier aspects of Taiwanese society.
Being extremely lucky to still have friends in Taiwan who helped me wherever they could, I was able to get an intimate and indigenous perspective on local life. Without the dedication of my friends, I would, for example, not have been able to film a master of calligraphy at work, nor would I have succeeded in capturing traditional face painting and dancing in the temple of Lukang. I would have missed out on lesser-known but gorgeous locations and would have never been able to create the film I set out to create. It was extremely important to me to not visit Taiwan as a “Tourist” and even though I was always treated as one (as an „ethnic European“ in Taiwan one is usually regarded as foreign by default) I never actually assumed this role. I believe it is for this reason that I was able to produce a video that does not reinforce the stereotype of an exotic and romanticized Asia.
A suspension bridge in the Alishan Mountains
The Fo Guang Shan Monastery close to Kaohsiung
Taiwan is without a doubt a mesmerizing place, but it is not a perfect paradise. Its scenery is not defined by temples hidden behind waterfalls, nor by monks praying against the backdrop of a rising sun. I did not want to make a video that feeds into these occidental clichés of what characterizes an East Asian country, I just wanted to show Taiwan as it is. After the publication of "Taiwan Face-To-Face", for example, I often got criticized for my choice of music for this video. Many western viewers consider the soundtrack to be too technical, soulless or even commercial and, hence, argue that it does not fit the images shown. None of the Taiwanese viewers, however, have found fault with the music. It was an active decision of mine to not use a romantic, traditionally Chinese melody, with the goal that viewers of the video are forced to leave their romanticized ideas – at least partially – behind.
All in all, it was a beautiful journey that means so much to me. I want to thank all the people who helped me along the way and made this video possible. I hope that "Taiwan Face-To-Face" inspires some people to travel to Taiwan and experience it through their own eyes.
Traditional Taiwanese Face Painting & Ritual
Traditional Taiwanese Calligraphy
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