Only The Sea Knows

Recently I watched a Taiwanese film at Babylon cinema in Berlin. I was invited by a very kind Taiwanese lady to join the movie screening. She was kind enough to give me 3 tickets, although I had to end an exhibition and clear the space on the same day, I was glad that I made it and it was totally worth to watch. Before I attended, a kind of loneliness was sensed through the film poster and its description when I read it, I was aware that it could be a touching film, but in fact, it was deeply moving.


At the end my eyes were being flooded with tears while watching half of the movie, and I kept hearing people around me sniffing and opening their tissue paper packages. The film is called "Long Time No Sea" (中文譯: 只有大海知道).


It was screened at one of the most magical cinemas in Berlin, where it is located in Mitte. The cinema was built in 1928/29 and designed by Hans Poelzig by the order of Alfred Schrobsdorff. Babylon have been showing lots of cutting edge of new-release documentaries and films.


Long Time No Sea was shown in a historical theater room which has an orchestra inside with wall and ceiling painted in a shaded yellow, gallery niche and the stalls painted red that contrast with a narrow copper-coloured band and the blue seats balustrade, it gives you a warm and cosy mood.



Directed by Heather Tsui, it took her 6 years to make this movie, which was finally shown in theaters last year. The movie is based on several true stories, including the grandma raising her grandchild alone and the Palm-Oil Primary School dance competition team led by Mr. Yen.



Heather fell in love with the Tao people on Lanyu or the Orchid Island in 2012. The island is hard to reach even by modern transportation, and the Tao is an Austronesian ethnic group. There are currently 6 tribes on the island. Tao is one of the Taiwanese offshore indigenous groups living in the Orchid Island (Lanyu), whose cultural spirits is nearly being abandoned as a result of serious labor migrations.


The film not only reflects current problems of rural education in Taiwan, but it also presents the spectacular scenery in the island Lanyu and an interdependent kinship between a grandmother and a grandson. Shoot on the Orchid Island, the film is based on a true story that a Taiwanese teacher has taught on the island for a decade and forms a close bond with his students and residents.


The joys and sorrows of the Tao people motivated Heather to make a film about their stories and to raise awareness of their situation.


Heather did modify the true stories a little bit to raise awareness on themes such as getting in touch with oneself and the cultural differences between mainstream Taiwan and Tao.



This film has won the Best New Performer at the Taipei Golden Horse 2018 (which is the Oscar in the Chinese speaking community), Special Jury Prize at the Seattle International Film Festival 2019, the Best Narrative Feature Film at the Asian Film Festival of Dallas (USA) 2019, and the Best Young Actor at the Minsk International Film Festival in Belarus in 2019.


It has been nominated at 7 other film festivals, including in Tokyo, Los Angeles, Amsterdam, Melbourne, Hawaii, and Hong Kong. If you are interested, make sure you watch it. The trailer is here.


Thanks Shining Chen for sharing and Impression Taiwan Association for organizing it. Can still taste the salty sea and tear~

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