Part of the Ten Years International project that also includes Japan and Thailand, Ten Years Taiwan features five shorts that predict what would happen to Taiwan in ten years. Sitting on the style spectrum between the understated Ten Years Japan and outlandish Ten Years Thailand, the film features the most diverse lineup of directors out of all the Ten Years projects to date. Avoiding the cross-strait political tension often captures headlines, these filmmakers focus instead on social problems affecting different strata of Taiwan society.
The omnibus kicks off with The Can of Anido by Cilangasan Lekal Sumi (Panay). Set on Orchid Island, off the eastern coast of Taiwan, the short follows the quiet life of an old man from the island’s Tao tribe. As a typhoon approaches, the old man becomes haunted by his anxiety over the storage site that has been storing nuclear waste from nuclear power plants since 1982. Poetically filmed with a touch of magical realism, Anido is a melancholic protest over an issue that has haunted generations of Orchid Island residents.
Also directly ripped from the headlines is Rina B. Tsou’s 942. The short starts in the future with the story a Taiwanese nurse who has been raped by her boss whilst working in an overseas hospital. Tsou’s backwards chronological structure finally makes sense when the story’s inspiration is revealed at the mid-way point: In 2016, an Indonesian helper in Taiwan who was raped by her employer sent a video of the vile act to Indonesian media after her employment agency refused to act. Devastating and sometimes hard to watch, 942 is a seething indictment of Taiwanese society’s attitude towards the plight of migrant workers.
Lu Po-shun’s Way Home examines the widening economic and social gap between Taiwan’s urban and rural areas through the eyes of Dong-yang, a young man living in a rural town. Unwilling to join his parents in the city, he decides to go out with his friends to search for a job, only to face a landscape of empty streets and shuttered factories. Filmed with long, roaming Steadicam shots reminiscent of Terrence Malick’s recent works, Way Home is a beautifully made meditation on rural malaise.
The film’s most enjoyable short is Hsieh Pei-ju’s A Making-Of. Like Cheng Yu-chieh’s Unwritten Rules for omnibus film 10+10, A Making-Of uses a film set crisis to satirise a high-profile debate. In this case, the crew of a dumpling ad must search for a real infant actor in a future society where the birth rate has dropped dramatically. Lightweight but often very funny funny, the short also satirises how different generations view evolving social mores in modern Taiwan.
Malaysian-born and Taiwan-based Lau Kek Huat offers the film’s most sci-fi-driven episode with The Sleep. Set in a world where people can choose to lose themselves in customised dreams, The Sleep follows a woman who gets increasingly deeper into sleep to numb herself of pain in the real world. The most ambiguous, but also perhaps the most ideologically radical of the film, The Sleep is an allegorical cautionary tale against political and social apathy.
Like many omnibus films, Ten Years Taiwan suffers from tonal inconsistencies. However, it’s also the most ambitious among all the Ten Years films, thanks to the decision to include a diverse range of voices. When put together, these fives shorts make a powerful statement about the effectiveness of cinema as instigator for social change.