On April 10th, 1994, the first mass demonstration demanding educational reform marched through the streets of Taipei. The movement was later known as “The 410 Demonstration for Education Reform”. A decade later, Taiwan Public Television Service’s View Point program called on in-house directors and independent filmmakers to produce a series of documentaries on education reform, i.e. the Documentaries of Education Reform series. A total of twelve documentaries were made featuring issues pertaining to education reform, including ability grouping in junior high schools, spoon-fed education, corporal punishment, hair regulation, teaching approaches, a school principal’s idea of how to orun a school, student teacher relationship, and teaching English to preschool children. They are Cry Out Loud, Don’t Cry Principal, Fairy Tale Theater, People with Nine Lives, Mirror, Mirror on the Wall, There’s Light on the Roof, Hsia Hsia’s Contact Book, Carry Your Head to School, I Love Little Devils, Teacher, and Finding Sheep in New Zealand. From subject matter to filming approach, from aesthetic technique to documentary ethics, these films sparked fierce debate between parents, students, education professionals and the media to the extent questioning the essence of documentaries.
This essay takes a rare view of the diversity and rich variety of the aesthetics of Taiwan’s documentary films to re-evaluate the PTS Documentaries of Education Reform series. Critical segments are selected from a number of films to explore how documentary film styles such as “the performative mode”, “the poetic mode”, and “the expository mode” are applied and handled in the series. Innovative narrative strategies including the use of animation, opera, inner monologues, empty shots (空景描述), opposing shots (對立剪輯), separation of time and space (時空抽離), scenario creation, musical narrative, unfolding of emotions, memory playbacks and voice-over commentary are also investigated in detail.
Documentaries of Education Reform series, documentary aesthetics, documentary approaches, narrative strategy
(Taipei) A second year Banciao junior high school student in Taipei County was punished for arriving late to a group assembly a few days ago. The Section Chief of Student Activities punished him by making him do three hundred stand-squat-stands. The boy only made it half way through before he suffered exhaustion and was unable to stand up again. He was in pain for two more days before finally seeing a doctor, who declared that he suffered from rhabdomyolysis (rapid breakdown of skeletal muscle due to injury to muscle tissue). The boy was immediately sent to the emergency room, where he was hospitalized for three days. His parents were infuriated with the Section Chief of Student Activities for excessive corporal punishment. The school has already admitted negligence on their part and stated that they would bear full responsibility. A reprimand has been issued to the Section Chief of Student Activities.
Principal Wu Ji-chu mentioned that last Tuesday the Section Chief of Student Activities summoned all class leaders to the Office of Student Affairs through the broadcasting system. The student, last name Lai, did not hear the message during recess because of the noise level on campus. He arrived late and was consequently ordered to do stand-squat-stands. He was halfway through when his strength failed him. Two days later, he could barely crouch or sit. He was taken to the hospital during school hours. Doctors found that his urine was deep brown in color and that he suffered from rhabdomyolysis. Principal Wu also mentioned that the teacher in question blames herself for his...