The 12th Taiwan International Documentary Festival (TIDF) Award Winners Announced

The awards ceremony of 12th TIDF was held on May 6th, with a total of 44 shortlisted films from the Asian Vision, International, and Taiwan Competitions, as well as 18 selected works from the Chinese Documentary Award, vying for the 11 awards and a share of the total prize of NT$2.15 million. The 12th iteration of TIDF received a total of 2384 documentary submissions from 132 different countries and regions around the world for the competitions, which stands as a testament, once again, to the excellent international reputation that TIDF has built!


The entry submissions cover myriad themes that reflect current affairs, and showcase how film practitioners are rethinking and experimenting with aesthetic elements in their documentaries. Issues touched on include refugees, gender, land justice, cultural/personal identity, transformative justice, etc., providing the Taiwanese audience with a rich fest of non-fiction storytelling. TIDF offers one of the highest total prizes out of all the Asian documentary film festivals, and it has also played a role in cultivating many important talents in documentary filmmaking.




LI Yong-de, Minister of Culture, and HSU I-chun, Director of the Bureau of Audiovisual and Music Industry Development made an appearance at the award ceremony. Also present were Chairperson LAN Tsu-wei, Director WANG Chun-chi and Deputy Director CHEN Te-ling of the Taiwan Film and Audiovisual Institute, as well as TIDF Programme Director Wood LIN. Filmmakers whose works were showcased in the festival or in the running, as well as jury members of the competition were also in attendance, while international filmmakers and jury members who were unable to be at TIDF in person had pre-recorded videos that were broadcast on-site. 



On behalf of the film festival team, the Programme Director Wood LIN thanked everyone for their participation. While sharing the difficulties faced in putting together the festival with the COVID-19 pandemic going on, he was briefly overcome with emotion, "The mission of the film festival is to show people the world through documentaries. The pandemic serves as a test that the festival team must overcome. It was particularly difficult, and so I would like to thank the staff for all their hard work and devotion.” He added passionately, “The development of documentary filmmaking is closely attached to Taiwan’s democracy and freedom. By supporting TIDF, the Ministry of Culture supports not only the festival itself, but also the development of Taiwanese society.”




An accurate portrait without resorting to sensationalism, Shadow Flowers takes the Grand Prize of the Asian Vision Competition

Asian Vision Competition Grand Prize winner, Shadow Flowers, focuses on an unwilling North Korea female “defector”. The jury extolled the film’s relevance, for “going beyond the usual North Korean defector story and asking important universal questions: What is freedom and home?” In response to receiving the award, the director, YI Seungjun, has this to say, “This is a great present for me, especially in this gloomy COVID-19 situation.”




Lost Course, the Merit Prize winner, was in production for close to 10 years and talks about the complexity of the Wukan villagers’ struggle in China. The jury enthused, “The film balances a portrait of selected central individuals with a mosaic-like, even Boschian view of the village at large, while reflecting and refracting the influence of broader political forces.” The Special Jury Prize went to Soil without Land, a film about a Shan youth living in the borderlands between Myanmar and Thailand, with the comment, “An insightful documentary with compelling narratives, giving voice to the marginalized and the stateless.” Given the recent turmoil that Myanmar is embroiled in, director Nontawat NUMBENCHAPOL expressed, “I want to dedicate this award to all these small people who try to fight with the dictator for freedom and democracy,” and hope that democracy will come back to Myanmar in the future.




The jury of Asian Vision Competition has two special mentions to share, For My Alien Friend and The Strangers. The former is a project “that challenges the traditional expectations and demands of a ‘documentary film’ and a raw and resonant portrait of the contemporary Philippines”. As for the latter, the jury applauded the filmmaker’s skillful editing and “the restrained and deceptive approach, which transforms the film into an absorbing portrait of working class life where a family’s traumas are interwoven.”




Erased,___ Ascent of the Invisible winning the Grand Prize for the International Competition

The Grand Prize winner of the International Competition, Erased,___ Ascent of the Invisible, a multi-disciplinary performative documentary, the filmmaker found innovative visual forms to address the crimes and disappearances of the Lebanese civil war of 1975-1990. “The film raised important questions that are not only relevant to the local context of Lebanon, but also extremely global as many countries have also been suffering from historical amnesia.” The Merit Prize went to No Data Plan, documenting the Filipino director’s own life story as an illegal immigrant, taking the train across the United States. The jury felt, “The protagonist’s fear of living as an illegal immigrant flows flurrying yet quietly along with the turning wheels. The film is a hidden autobiography refracting a deeper reality from the surface.”




The jury’s special mention goes to Scheme Birds, a bittersweet coming-of-age film with amazing access to some exceptional, mostly young working class people. The jury declared, “The smart use of voice-overs of the protagonists, the efficacious cinematography, the lively editing and the persuasive soundtrack all tie in wonderfully with the slowly but surely unfolding dramatic narrative.”



A closer look at wounds from biological warfare, Opening Closing Forgetting won the Grand Prize of the Taiwan Competition

Taking the Grand Prize of the Taiwan competition was James T. HONG’s Opening Closing Forgetting, which laid bare the historical trauma caused by the Japanese Army's Unit 731’s biological warfare experiment in Northeastern China during World War II. The jury spoke highly of the film, “a powerful, courageous and well researched film which brings to light an unknown historical trauma that seventy years later hasn’t healed yet.”




Gubuk (Hut) secured the Merit Prize of the Taiwan Competition with its story about a group of migrant workers who come together in a hut and talk about their life stories. “As they hide in this momentary anonymity, pleading creative license in this narrative altogether, a story about their community unfolds,” described the jury. The jury would like to specially mention Flow with the following commendation, “The filmmaker adopts ‘flow’ as a metaphor to address daily scenes, refracting the wandering presence in the fringe of the cities. An exquisite piece of short film.”




Taking Back the Legislature and Inside the Red Brick Wall both won the Grand Prize for the Chinese Documentary Award

Taking Back the Legislature and Inside the Red Brick Wall from the anonymous Hong Kong Documentary Filmmakers took the Grand Prize of the Chinese Documentary Award. “The award is given to the two films that are inseparable, for their powerful vérité immersion, precise framing and sharp editing, fearless determination to document pivotal historical events at great risk of facing retribution from authorities, and for inspiring audiences to reject tyranny all over the world,” affirmed the jury in their assessment. “The fact that both films can be publicly screened and receive an award in Taiwan means a lot to us,” acknowledged the Hong Kong Documentary Filmmakers in a short thank you video, “The meaning of the films wasn’t only to witness. Through looking back, we hope we could all get to know and better understand how we stand in solidarity.”



After just winning the Merit Prize in the Asian Vision Competition, Lost Course once again took the spotlight, winning the Chinese Documentary Award’s Special Jury Prize, as well as the Taiwan Film Critics Society Prize. The jury for the Chinese Documentary Award looked favorably upon it, recognizing it to be “an outstanding observational documentary about a social movement” while the Taiwan Film Critics Society lauded it, “for trying to dig deeper into the nuanced complexity of democracy.” The jury’s special mention went to Happy Valley by Simon LIU, with the remarks, “The film has succeeded in expressing the artist's feelings, love, and impatience with the looming threat directly and poetically. The jury praises the filmmaker’s young, pure and straightforward perspective.” The director expressed his gratitude, saying this wonderful recognition really inspires and motivates him “to keep pushing on with my practice of chronicling the city of Hong Kong, a place that has meant everything to me.”


The Taste of Secrets clinched the Next Generation Award, while the Audience Award went to Walchensee Forever

Chosen by a jury of 27 teenagers, the Next Generation Award was given to The Taste of Secrets, with the following observation, “The film shows the contradictory relationship between ‘the director’s eager to restore’ and ‘the subject’s intention to pretend to forget,’ displaying the filmmaker’s delicate execution ability.” As for the Audience Award, it went to the finalist of the International Competition, Walchensee Forever, which deals with the stories of three generations of women in a family, following each woman’s pursuit of the meaning of life in a different time and space. Clearly, the message hit home for many in the audience.



Awarded films will be screened again on May 9th. For more information, please refer to the TIDF website.



2021 TIDF Award-Winning List

Asian Vision Competition

Grand Prize:Shadow Flowers

Merit Prize:Lost Course

Special Jury Prize:Soil without Land

Special Jury Mention:For My Alien Friend, The Strangers


International Competition

Grand Prize:Erased, _____ Ascent of the Invisible

Merit Prize:No Data Plan

Special Jury Mention:Scheme Birds


Taiwan Competition

Grand Prize:Opening Closing Forgetting

Merit Prize:Gubuk (Hut)

Special Jury Mention:Flow


Chinese Documentary Award

Grand Prize:Taking Back the Legislature, Inside the Red Brick Wall

Special Jury Prize:Lost Course

Special Jury Mention:Happy Valley


Taiwan Film Critics Society Prize

Lost Course


Next Generation Award

The Taste of Secrets


Audience Award

Walchensee Forever


Outstanding Contribution Award

Ren Jian Magazine


Jury Members

TIDF put together a strong jury lineup, composed of important curators, filmmakers and culture specialists from Taiwan, Asia and the world. 


Jury of Asian Vision Competition

Jesse CUMMING, Canadian independent curator 

TAN Pin Pin, Singapore's preeminent documentary filmmaker 

CHUNG She-fong, well-known Taiwanese music producer and curator 


Jury of International Competition

Martijn te Pas, senior Dutch producer and documentary consultant 

NGUYEN Trinh Thi, Vietnamese artist 

LEI Chen-ching, Taiwanese senior award-winning film editor 


Jury of Taiwan Competition

Dimitris KERKINOS, international documentary curator from Thessaloniki, Greece  

John TORRES, Filipino independent filmmaker

Amy CHENG, Taiwanese independent curator 


Jury of Chinese Documentary Award

Rasha SALTI, commissioned editor and independent curator of the German-French public television station Arte

Takashi MAKANO, influential Japanese contemporary moving image artist 

CHUNG Yung-feng, renowned Taiwanese poet, record producer and cultural professional