Last year at this time, Taiwan was embroiled in a massive student movement, when activists occupied Taiwan’s national legislature for almost a month. Although the protest was ostensibly about China, it brought out frustrations with Taiwan’s democratic system, as well as with a sense of helplessness within the globalized economy.

At this important juncture, we talk with Ho Chao-ti, the producer of the documentary Sunflower Occupation, to take stock of this momentous event in Taiwan’s history, and what it means for Taiwan one year later.

Producer Ho is a member of the board at the Taipei Documentary Filmmakers Union, and is an acclaimed documentary filmmaker herself. She was one of two producers of the film Sunflower Occupation, the special documentary project about last year’s student protest against the Cross Straits Services Trade Agreement, with China.

Ketagalan Media (KM): Thank you Producer Ho, for taking your time out to talk about the documentary “Sunflower Occupation.”

Ho Chao-ti (Ho): And thank you for inviting me on this anniversary of the Sunflower Movement; I think it’s important for KM to look at Taiwan’s place and voice in the world from a broader perspective.

KM: Thank you for the encouragement! First can you talk about how the film came about? How was the team formed?

Ho: The Sunflower Movement was a very important event in Taiwan’s history. For us, there is a “Documentary Filmmakers’ Union”, the only one of its kind, treating filmmakers as laborers. We have operated for eight years, and so we already had experience working with each other. Last year when the protests began, we saw a lot of our colleagues filming on scene and recording the event. As a director of the Union, at the time I thought we need a systematic and complete record of such a watershed incident.

It was not until the bloody crackdown on March 23rd that we had an emergency meeting, and organized up volunteers to record the unfolding events. We needed people to film 24 hours a day, so we won’t have to only rely on mainstream media reporting.

Speaking of which, as the movement began, mainstream media controlled most of the narrative. As documentary filmmakers, we have a healthy dose of skepticism towards mainstream media, because the mainstream represents the majority—it’s dictated by the market. Our job was to give a voice the alternative, minority opinions, and so I see our work as a battle to control the narrative.

KM: People say, “journalism is the rough draft of history,” so you didn’t want mainstream media to be the only ones writing that draft?

Ho: Yes. The question is who wrote this draft, is it a version for the people, or for corrupt politicians? Or for market consumption?

KM: You mentioned a lot of people were filming right from the start, were they doing at as “activists” or “filmmakers”? You were part of the movement, but also observers, how do you deal with conflicts of interest, or trying to stay objective?

Ho: Many of our members were very involved in the movement, and of the nine of the directors of the film, one of them went inside the parliament building [during the occupation by protesters] without his camera. His friends said, “why didn’t you bring your camera? If you are not going to contribute, don’t hog the space!” So he started filming.

As observers, we have a great deal of respect for the activists. They are two different sets of expertise. It’s very difficult to be an activist, and they deserve our respect. I don’t think just by recording we can easily call ourselves activists. Of course, we can understand their thinking (since we are also often opposite the mainstream opinion), and we both ponder about the meaning behind an oppressed opinion. That allows both filmmakers and activists to work closely together.

Second question about objectivity. Let’s be honest; documentaries are not objective. There has to be a certain perspective, and it’s extremely important. Because our job is not to provide “both sides,” rather to ask questions and provide an answer. So we are not objective. This doesn’t mean we are biased, but we need to have a perspective.

KM: This film is very different, because it was done very very quickly. There are nine directors each making a segment. Can you talk about that process?

Ho: We had two producers, nine directors, and 24-person camera crew and 42 other people who provided footage for our database. Including the editors, music, animators, our team was over 100 people. Since the directors were all members of our Union, we were colleagues to start with. However we spent a lot of time discussing what should we record? How do we tell the story? Who are the characters? Do we make one long film or small vignettes? We had many meetings to hash out those questions. We actually screened all of our rough cuts to the whole team, which is very unusual, because we are opening ourselves to criticism at every step.

KM: In the introduction, it says that “once the youth stormed the parliament, they had to answer ‘what is democracy? What is government? What is fairness?’” Do you think they found the answer this past year? Or did they get closer to the answer?

Ho: I can only speak as a filmmaker, an observer. Personally, I think there is no absolute answer. It will be a very long path, taking maybe even an entire generation’s time. I believe simple answers are dangerous—because they are not well thought out, or did not involve a grassroots democratic process.

I believe we see a few possible openings, one year later. Some of the youth are forming new political parties, some other NGOs are reenergized and working in all corners of Taiwan. I think that’s positive. Of course the movement did not happen overnight, it was the release of energy that had been accumulating for a long time. So the aftermath, too, will take a while to unfold. People ask why there were only nine topics, what about this or that issue? But it took us seven months to make a film that usually takes three years. The full picture has 2,000 puzzle pieces, we only picked up nine. I think all civic activity, like political parties or media like KM, through interviews, radio shows, public forums, artwork, seminars, we can diversify our collection of those puzzle pieces.
We need more public discourse in Taiwan. A lot of talking is done in private, but we cannot converge them into a resource for common use. It’s important to make these things public—to make those 2,000 pieces part of the public realm. Even if they are conflicting, that’s ok, we should have them all out in the open.

KM: Within these 2,000 puzzle pieces, do you see any changes in opinions that were against the movement this past year?

Ho: I think they are also still developing. I have to admit, the movement has become somewhat mainstream too. We have to reflect how we can improve our particular version of the events.

KM: It’s just a rough draft, right?

Ho: Yes! We need people to critique and oppose our work too, to bring out other voices that didn’t get to speak. It’s relative, who is mainstream and who is not. After the movement became politically correct, we have to think about the voices we covered up. Some of the directors from this film are pursuing the same topics still.

KM: Relatively speaking, when you put Taiwan’s narrative in a more global context, it is also a minority voice. For example, Hong Kong’s Umbrella Revolution garnered a lot more coverage by Western mainstream media. What do you think about that?

Ho: I believe we need a new set of vocabulary, a new global language to explain what is happening in Taiwan. The way we talk about our issues is very internal, and hard for outsiders to relate to. Also, our mainstream media is used to focusing on very trivial things, or gossip, but very incapable of understanding world trends. It’s not a matter of English, because many foreign correspondents are fluent in Mandarin. The question is, how do we tell a story about ourselves that is global.

Another thing, I think compared to China, Taiwan is just at a disadvantage. People care about China, they want to understand it, because it poses as a threat. Taiwan is not a threat, so people don’t feel as urgent about it. It’s a very practical issue.

KM: So China has a reason why people have to care. Does Taiwan need to come up with a reason why people should care? Not that Taiwan should become a threat, but we need to come up with an explanation, a narrative to convince everyone else. You were a journalist for a long time, how was that different from being a documentary filmmaker?

Ho: As the movement was happening, I thought Taiwan’s mainstream media’s attitude was more “peeping” at the whole thing, because it was a very sensational story they can play up. We didn’t see any in-depth analysis, those I had to find online. What were the short and long term causes and effects?

Mainstream media is dependent on the political economy, and they all have their political stance too (even if they present “both sides.”) Our media is also very heavily influenced by China. As documentary filmmakers, we had to go through layer after layer of fog that the media gave us, to know what’s happening. Our topic wasn’t to look at the fog itself, but we haven’t really touched on the root causes of such a large movement. Hopefully we will have more documentaries on these questions.

KM: We were going to ask about sequels but I think we’ve answered that questions somehow! Just want to know, what are the next steps for the filmmakers?

Ho: We won’t have a “Sunflower Occupation II”, but we are working on a database of footage from the entire movement. As I mentioned I am encouraging people to come forward, and put their puzzle pieces into the public realm. If anyone wants to use the footage for non-profit purposes, we will provide the footage for very low fees. The footage are all primary source, shot mostly by mobile phones.

I believe we must have a public database, and not one created by mainstream media, only with the perspective they like. This will have the voice of the people, the minority. Also it would be cost-prohibitive for independent filmmakers to access them, so we want to have a public resource for them.

KM: Thank you so much for your time, and I’ve learned a lot about objectivity, media, and how to reflect on such a watershed event in Taiwan’s history.

Ho: Thank you.



Ketagalan Media (以下 KM):今天謝謝賀製片,給我們這個時間談一下「太陽,不遠」這部紀錄片的一些觀察與想法。

賀照緹製片(以下「賀」):也很感謝 KM 的邀請,KM 很難得能以比較宏觀的立場去看台灣在國際位置上的發聲,我覺得是滿重要的;製作這個影片到現在約滿一年,看看 KM 有沒有特別想要了解的問題。



一直到 3/23~24 號行政院大規模的流血鎮壓行動後,「紀錄片工會」緊急的開了會,召集有意願的會員來幫忙做有系統的紀錄,至少我們需要 24 小時都有攝影師在現場紀錄,以免到時候紀錄片的素材變成只有傾於主流大眾媒體的說法,這個會議開得很倉促,但有很多人都是義務的來幫忙。

所以核心的精神是我們有觀察到在台灣,早期對於太陽花運動有發 言權的其實都是大眾媒體,做為紀錄片工作者,我們一向對於大眾媒體是比較有戒心,大眾媒體代表的是社會絕大多數人的主流價值,也是非常市場取向,但紀錄片工作者很重要的角色是紀錄社會非主流的聲音為何,這牽涉到對事件的詮釋權的爭奪,我把它視為一個詮釋權的爭奪戰,我們應該站在主流媒體的另外一邊去把詮釋 權搶奪下來。




賀:第一個問題回答我們是運動者還是紀錄者,我們有很多成員是非常進入這個運動的,他們一開始就已經進入立法院,九個合作導演中有一位本來甚至不是帶著攝影機進去立法院,他當時就是運動參與者的身分,還被周遭的朋友笑:「明明是紀錄片導演怎麼沒帶攝影機?來這邊佔一個位置浪費有限的資源,你下次還是帶著攝影 機進來吧!」於是他就乖乖的把攝影機帶進去。

有一個很重要的概念是做為紀錄者是非常尊敬運動者的,紀錄者跟運動者是兩種非常不一樣的專業,很多人以為做運動很簡單,但事實上很困難,他是一個需要我們去尊敬與尊重的專業,所以我並不認為一個紀錄者可以輕易的僭越這樣的角色來聲稱自己就是運動 者,我們構不上運動者的專業度,雖然可以說我們理解運動者的想法,因為紀錄片工作者也常常站在主流的對立面去看,一個比較被壓抑的聲音背後深刻的意義是什麼?而這些理解與同理會讓紀錄者與運動者常常走在一起,這是一個紀錄與願意被紀錄者的合作關係。



賀:我們一共有兩位製片、九位導演一起工作,在這背後還有更龐大的團隊,24 位攝影師,42 位的義務工作者在幫忙做紀錄,提供了他們拍攝的素材,來做為我們資料庫的形成,再加上周邊的剪接師、配樂、動畫人員等等,這其實是一個超過百人的團隊,最核心的當然是這九位導演,然後拍出九部的短片,而我們合作的方式就 是有些建立在從剛剛提到的「紀錄片工會」之前合作的默契,工作起來還滿容易的,第二個就是我們花很長的時間做討論,從要紀錄什麼?故事要怎麼說?人物是誰?要拍哪些人?要拍哪些事件?最後我們要把所有的素材打散變成長片?還是我們用許多短片來呈現?我們開了非常多的會,在這些工作會議裡面他其實就是凝聚共識的過程,而紀錄片在完成之前會有很多的初剪,我們的初剪是放給所有的工作人員與導演觀看討論,這其實對於紀錄片導演是個很大的挑戰,通常我們都不太願意把初剪拿出去給所有人做評論,我們只會給我們想要聽意見的人看,這是一個要心臟很強才能做的事情,所以我們的導演們都非常棒,心胸開闊的接受很多意見, 我們就是在這樣不斷磨合的過程裡面去凝聚合作的默契。



我認為,至少台灣在青年世代的部分有找掉一些可能性的出口,一年後的現在我們已經看到一些青年團體開始組黨,有一些 NGO 在太陽花運動這次的爆發後得到了豐沛的能量,充斥在台灣的各地,所以我覺得整個發展的過程是讓人滿樂觀的;當然太陽花運動不是一天之內發生的,他是聚集了非常久的時間與能量,所以事件爆發後延續的發展我們還需要一段時間的觀察,很多人問我們,這個紀錄片一共有九個主題,那為什麼其他的主題沒有被包含在內?我覺得這個事件累積了非常久,有很長時間的醞釀,所以他其實是一個內容豐富而精采的運動,但我們事實上製作這部片只有六七個月的時間,就一個正規紀錄片的做法是需要至少三年的時間來完成這種紀錄,如果要把這個事件做到窮盡要說清楚而且有深刻的觀點,就會像一個拼圖的過程,兩千片的拼圖我們現在只有九塊,我覺得所有公民力量像是組黨或是 NGO 或是像 KM 這樣的媒體來談這件事,都可以透過各種不同的形式,像是紀錄片、廣播節目、公共論壇、藝術創作、發言、研討會等等都可以讓這個拼圖變的豐富而多采。











賀:可能不會是一個「太陽,不遠。二」續集的形式,可是現在我們正在進行一件事,剛剛有提到我們有42位朋友義務提供影像給紀錄片工會,於是我們建製了一個太陽花運動紀錄片工會的工作小組,裡面有影像資料庫,除了對個別的訪問之外,現場的場景,當時到底大約發生什麼事的素材我們都有,都存在紀錄片工會裡面,就像我剛說過兩千片的拼圖,我們只佔九塊,所以我們很鼓勵很歡迎第十塊、第十一塊的拼圖一直拼下去,所以以後如果有人要做非營利式的用途,紀錄片工會會以非常低的手續費讓大家取得這些素材,這樣的計畫原先是我提的,就大約在 3/23 那天提出來,因為大家都有手機,很多素材都是用手機拍下的。

我在那個晚上想的事情是一定要有一個資料庫是人民建立起來的,而不是主流媒體的資料庫,其一是因為主流媒體的資料庫拍攝角度會是他們自己想要的,卻不是人民或者比較弱勢這邊的聲音,其二是一般在做影像如果要跟主流媒體買素材,那都是天價,我覺得這對於獨立工作者來說是一個過大的負擔,所以才提議要成立資料 庫,讓他變成公共財,他需要具有公共財的精神,可是因為紀錄片工會需要運轉,所以我們需要收小額的處理費來支應我們行政人員的支出,這個資料庫,會是一個如果未來有續集的話的一個可能性,所以我們也很歡迎大家來使用這個資料庫,那另外就是我們有些導演繼續在拍一些他們有興趣的題目。











(Feature photo of youth at the Sunflower Movement, by Alysa Chiu.)


The Ketagalan Project

History and culture are the frames that prescribe how we understand the world around us. Our co-hosts present in-depth interviews on how art, culture, history and politics intertwine throughout time and space to connect us. Find out about the cosmopolitan modern Taipei downtown in the 1920s, regional trade, the future of aboriginal culture and more.