2021.12.27 | Projects
Finding the Next Chi Po-lin—The Chi Po-lin Documentary Award

In 1990, Chi Po-lin was a public servant at the National Expressway Engineering Bureau. His work required him to aerially photograph major construction projects. This unintended episode of his life led to a “digression from his career” in the years to come. The more he saw, the more he desired to express. Through the lens, it was as if he had heard the story of the earth, which was filled with both laughter and tears. So, he eventually decided to keep documenting what he saw from the sky. 

In 2003, Chi entered the program of first Johnnie Walker – The Keep Walking Fund, and was successfully awarded the grant with his documentary film proposal – “Aerial Images of Taiwan’s Water Resource,” which launched a courageous journey of this public servant who dared to dream. This tender seedling of an aerial photography dream encountered and overcame various tests and hardships, and eventually grew into a giant tree that would amaze the world—in 2013, Beyond Beauty – TAIWAN FROM ABOVE created an unprecedented sensation after it was released in theater, and brought about numerous initiatives of environmental protection and land restoration organized by the private and public sectors. 

Sadly, four years later, when Chi decided to take us into the air, and show us the environmental problems faced by the entire world from an even more macrocosmic perspective, his brief yet splendid life ended prematurely in an accident while filming Beyond Beauty – TAIWAN FROM ABOVE II. However, his story did not end there and then. He has become a guiding star for all documentary filmmakers now. We look forward to seeing that the end of Chi’s life could become the starting point for more environmental documentary filmmakers.

To Continue the Vocation, We Are Looking for the Next Chi Po-lin for Taiwan

All the good and bad deeds taking place on this land should all be documented. Only through documentation can we truly gain the ability to understand the impacts we have produced on the environment.” This passage from Chi Po-lin has lingered in the mind of Wan Kuan-li, who is the CEO of the Chi Po-lin Foundation.

Although Chi is no longer with us, the environment has never stopped changing, and the destruction and problems of this land have never ceased, either. Therefore, the work of documenting the environment and using images to engage more people in becoming more aware of environmental issues should not stop. For this very reason, Wan has always viewed “finding the next Chi Po-lin” as an important mission of the Foundation: “We hope to find more creators to tell the stories of Taiwan with images and exert an environment-changing influence.”

Looking back on the period of more than three years since the establishment of the Foundation, we have focused on perfecting the Chi Po-lin Museum in Tamsui, building the digital archive of the massive number of Chi’s works, as well as applying aerial photographic images to promote environmental education during this initial stage. In 2021, with the support of Family Mart’s “spare change donation,” we have finally been able to take the first step in realizing the goal of “finding the next Chi Po-lin”—in the name of Chi Po-lin, an environmental documentary award has been established.

Offering Documentary Filmmakers the Wings to Fly

After more than a year-long preparation period, and having consulted various film festival institutions, including the Taipei Film Festival and the Taiwan International Documentary Festival, the Foundation eventually entered a collaborative partnership with the New Taipei City Government. 

“The New Taipei City Documentary Film Award (NTCDF Award) not only provides documentary filmmakers the first pot of gold to realize their dreams, but also offers a comprehensive mechanism of consultation and marketing in relation to their creative work, which coincides with the Foundation’s intention to ‘nurture’ documentary filmmakers,” states Wan Kuan-li. More importantly, the year of 2022 marks the 12th anniversary of the NTCDF Award. Having cultivated and supported documentary filmmaking, the Award is indeed the cradle of Taiwanese documentary films. “We are very honored to be able to collaborate with such a highly reputed platform that is the NTCDF Award to take our first step!”

Since 2022 onward, the NTCDF Award has established the “Chi Po-lin Documentary Award,” which accepts submissions of documentary films featuring thematically Taiwan’s environmental issues. Excellent projects which are accepted in the public pitching forum will not just receive a filmmaking fund of US$10,000 offered by the Foundation, but will also gain consultation from professional film producers, as well as marketing and promotion assistance from both the Department of Information, New Taipei City Government and the Chi Po-lin Foundation, who will accompany the documentary filmmakers to realize their dreams. 

Director Chang Ai-chin of the Department of Information, New Taipei City Government also encourages filmmakers by saying, “one does not have to be remarkable to start, but one must first start to become remarkable.” Join the race of the Chi Po-lin Documentary Award, and take the first step bravely. Perhaps you will be the next Chi Po-lin. 

The “Strong Kick” of Documentaries Reveals the Power to Better the Environment

Also engaging in the environmental filmmaking for more than two decades, director Mai Jue-ming believes that to make ecological or environmental documentaries is to preserve the touching sentiments aroused in certain moments so that they can affect more people—“much as you could tell people how beautiful Taiwan is, they could not truly perceive it; however, when you hit the play button and show the films, words are rendered redundant as the palpitating feeling will spread naturally.”

Like Mai has said, the greatest feature of documentaries is that it has a “strong kick.” Many volunteers at the Foundation decided to join the volunteer work because they felt the impact and calling of environmental images. “To me, the images present a very direct impact, which is also a power pushing me to think about what I can do for the environment,” according to Tsai Yao-I, an environmental education volunteer at the Foundation.

Tsai’s share is echoed by the words from Wan Kuan-li, the CEO of the Foundation. Before watching Beyond Beauty – TAIWAN FROM ABOVE, she did not have much expectation and thoughts about environmental documentaries. However, Chi Po-lin’s work and what the film has achieved make her profoundly realize that this land we call home has undergone such tremendous changes—“in the past, we simply did not ‘see,’ and quietly accepted the destruction done to our environment. Now because of documentaries and through ‘seeing,’ we can never turn a blind eye again.”

It is our firm belief that the power of documentary films is the best medium to awaken the environmental awareness of all Taiwanese people. Through funding, nurturing, and promoting environmental documentary production, the Foundation aims to bring forth more fine-quality works, and enable them to be seen by a wider audience, forming a positive cycle between documentary filmmakers and the public. Thus, not only the filmmakers’ dreams can be fulfilled, but all the noteworthy environmental issues can also be seen and understood by more people to engender actions for necessary changes. 

We look forward to seeing more filmmakers participating in the Chi Po-lin Documentary Award and working together to preserve the images of our environment and tell the stories of this land. We sincerely invite you to support environmental documentaries with concrete actions, and take the first step to better the environment from “seeing.”

A New Version Launched – iTaiwan8 Offers a Library of Taiwan Aerial Photography
Reflection of Rivers—Annual Feature Exhibition of the Chi Po-lin Museum