Prof. Kuo Wei LanDepartment of Film and TV, I-Shou University
Speech Title: Re-mapping Environmental Protection and Literacy in Taiwan through an Environmental Documentary, Beyond Beauty: Taiwan from Above (2013)
Abstract: Since technology accelerated the emergence of industrial societies during the 18th to 19th-century industrialization, the world’s modern environmental problems began with or were aggravated by the Industrial Revolution. In the late 20th century, environmental issues have become global in scale, and in the 21st century, the significant impact of climate change raises an increasing global awareness. Accordingly, Taiwan began to industrialize in the 1950s and ranks as the 21st world economy in 2022. The 1970s already exacerbated the environmental damages caused by the high industrialization. However, it was not until the 1980s when a series of pollution incidents awakened Taiwanese society as it experienced high economic growth, and the Taiwanese government chose to ignore the importance of environmental protection and sustainability. The government started to pay attention to balancing economy and the environment as the Environment Protection Administration was established in 1987. Taiwan passed the Environmental Education Act in 2010, and officially came into effect on June 5, 2011. Meanwhile, many civil organizations and environmental groups formed in the 1980s which helped spawn the modern environmental movement. Ecological movements have developed to this day and have become a vital force affecting Taiwanese society on environmental issues. In particular, the evolution of documentaries on environmental issues in Taiwan is closely related to the development of Taiwan’s environmental movement and the change in people’s environmental awareness. Mass media are the primary source of information and knowledge on environmental issues for laypeople other than scholars and scientists. Therefore, this paper will re-map the evolution of documentaries on environmental issues in Taiwan and then use a theatrical release of the documentary Beyond Beauty: Taiwan from Above (2013), the highest budget and grossing documentary ever made in Taiwan, to explore how this documentary problematizes environmental issues by combining the narrative of trauma and conflict with the visual aesthetics to raise the audience’s ecological awareness.