Island of the Winds
In following the endless and unforgettable fight of a social movement centered around a leprosy sanatorium in Taiwan for two decades, a filmmaker composes her life’s work.
On the outskirts of Taipei, a group of leprosy patients has been in life-long quarantine since Japanese rule in 1930. For so long, their voices went unheard; their presence was invisible. Over the last two decades, they have awakened to the fight for their land – the only value they can claim while Taiwanese authorities sold the sanatorium ground to the Taipei Metro and later, turned it into a memorial museum supposed to commemorate their history. Led by the courageous Ms. Lan, who manages to live an independent life with her partner, and supported by the unwavering spirit of Uncle Wen, who vividly recalls his powerful presence against the authorities with his crippled body, and the compassion of Aunt Ying, who takes care of both the patients and the homeless animals of the sanatorium, they’ve become Taiwan's most influential grassroots democratic movement.
However, as the patients grow old, construction looms over them and the government oppresses them more aggressively. They face a constant threat of eviction– a force that destroys their homes, lives, and memories. Wen battles dementia and loses limbs. Ying is threatened with separation from her beloved cats and dogs. Lan becomes even more determined after losing her partner. As they struggle with the menace trying to erase this history of segregation and discrimination, they refuse to give up. Finally, the lifeless museum occupies the land while they keep battling. This film follows two decades of their lives and what remains of them: love, spirit, and, eventually, death–that and their connection to the land. As they suffer the pain of leprosy, aging, and dying, they are fighting to survive oblivion.
Uncle Wen, (aged 87) born in 1936 in the south of Taiwan (Kaohsiung), moved to Losheng in 1955 at the age of 20. He is the most disabled patient but able to overcome his disability and live freely. Even though he suffered from low self-esteem due to his disfigurement, he decided to take to the streets against the authorities' eviction. In doing so, he discovered the power of his singing voice and his strong presence.
Aunt Ying, (aged 73) born in 1950 in the capital of Taiwan, Taipei, moved to Losheng in 1964 at the age of 15. She is the youngest patient. She was able to receive better medical care and has been less affected by leprosy. But life-long segregation and social discrimination has made it difficult for her to return to society. She dreams of having her own family along with her.
Ms. Lan, (aged 90) born in 1933 in Yilan, moved to Losheng in 1953. She initially resided in the Single women’s dormitory, and later relocated to the top of the mountain after the eviction of 2008. Known for her caring and attentive nature, she shared life with her partner, Old Chen. They remained unwavering in their resilience and active advocacy for the rights of all patients. Though illiterate and physically disabled, she continued to be a gentle yet determined force in the preservation movement.
Losheng Self-Help Association, established in 2005, comprises a group of leprosy patients fighting for the preservation of their historical home and rights. Despite facing opposition from authorities, they have staged numerous protests and composed music to voice their concerns. They’ve garnered significant attention from society that thousands of supporters jointly launched a march for their rights. It has become the most iconic grassroots movement in Taiwan. To this day, Losheng Self-Help remains extremely influential though the average age of members is 88 years old. Though obvious challenges remain as they continue to face the threat of forced eviction, they remain steadfast in their patient-centered principles and determination to fight until the end.
The film is meant to show how power and time evolve over two decades. It follows the patients' daily lives and illustrates how the authorities take away their integrity gradually. From their present struggles, it cuts to the past to reveal the patients’ true value and very existence, which conflicts with the pale history that the museum imposes on them. This film focuses on the patient's perceptions and captures what they confront at every moment by following them during the dramatic moments of their eviction struggles. We see their failures and victories; their strength and fragility; their willpower in battling illness and their loss to death. I present how these moments allow them to grow and to create their own histories. Over time, we see the journey of life as the landscape changes, the policies of the authorities change, and how, eventually, the land itself changes. By documenting this landscape as it changes—from close-up to panoramic shots of the whole land, I present how urban revitalization has gradually affected and oppressed daily lives. Finally, this isolated island becomes a metaphor for their shrinking bodies and disappearing lives.
Pitch and Training experiences
2023 Cannes Docs, Docs-in-progress, Docs by the Sea Showcase
-won Docs-in-Progress Award
2023 European Film Market at Berlinale, Taiwan Showcase
2022 Docs by the sea, Bali, Indonesia
-won Current Time TV Prize in the pitch sessions
2021 Asiadoc-Docmonde, Yogyakarta, Indonesia
2021 DOC+, Taiwan
2019 DOCDOC, Taiwan
Argosy films and media productions (Taiwan)
Moolin Films, Ltd.(Taiwan)
Moolin Production Co., Ltd. (Japan)
Wide Productions (France)