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IN THEIR TEENS - The 2021 Golden Horse Best Short Documentary Winner《度日》— 記錄著農田與鄉間巷口的日常

Updated: Jul 23, 2022

English written by Li Ji, edited by Chen Yi-Tsun

中文:Jessica Kuo | 編輯:陳奕村


Director Lin Yu-en's debut short film, In Their Teens, has won various prestigious awards, including Best Documentary Short Film at the 2021 Golden Horse Awards, as well as Grand Prize and Best Music at the Golden Harvest Awards (equivalent to FlickerFest in Australia). With a background as a photojournalist, director Lin has years of training, enabling him to capture the moments even in a splinter of an encounter with the subjects.

Around 2017, Yu-en was conducting a project, In Their Teens, In Their Ruin, for a non-profit media organisation, The Reporter, which focuses on and is highly reputed for in-depth reporting and investigation of social issues in Taiwan. In this project, they interviewed and documented a group of teenagers, returning to their homes after becoming discharged from juvenile residential institutions.

Teenagers in this documentary had yet to be 18 years old at the time of their stories being reported. Spraying pesticides on crop fields has been one of the ways they can earn a living. Regardless of the diverse range of everyday struggles facing this group of teenagers, they are the victims of social injustice towards family dysfunction and live in the ruins of their youth and life. Most of them are or will become dropouts; the education system, meant to provide support to students in need, has failed to come up with effective resolutions to their impoverished living conditions even though witnessing their plight. Most of the time, the children face the reality of overwhelming pressure alone, due to inadequacies and deficiency of social welfare support.


The adolescents drive their trucks through the countryside, talking about money and delivering joss papers (also known as incense papers burned as money in tribute to the deceased or deity) to bereaved households for their deceased. Selecting the funeral as the opening scene and the burning of incense papers as the conclusion forms a strong contrast with the young age of a 19-year-old. Following the funeral, the documentary captures Tudou’s singing, “Many times, in the face of brushoffs and scorn, I never gave up my dream.” Then, Tudou tells the director, “There’s nothing more to film. I have nothing to do now. This is my life. I am doing nothing. I’m uncomfortable with your questions. I don’t know how to answer you.”

These young people would only like at least to sustain their lives with a minimum amount of food to eat and simple clothing to wear. They must exploit their young and productive bodies to work for jobs, such as spraying pesticides, transporting crops, and delivering the joss papers, demanding heavy labour, and putting their health at high risk. Their exposure to workplaces with a higher risk of damaging one’s health and life is in search of and exchange for more fortune to better support themselves and their families. Ironically, despite delivering millions in “money,” joss papers are not “real money” for daily use. It is the conflict between reality and their dream of making a fortune, causing them to not only spend their days in confusion and hopelessness but also to fritter away their days rather than enjoying their adolescence.

The style of this documentary is calm and objective. Director Lin believes that such an impoverished family background, inherited from generation to generation, should not be the only template for a decedent's life to follow. In editing this documentary, he doesn’t use too much information, hoping that without any prescribed frame, the viewer can understand the confusion of life and the search process facing these teenagers. His training as a photojournalist and the substantial time he spent with the subjects also contributes to more of his freedom in the composition of his shots.


At the end of the film, Tudou and his brother go out to “earn big money (make a fortune)” at night by engaging in a kind of illicit business. It is Tudou’s dream of becoming rich, prompting him to take the risk. Then, the film shows an intersection with a flashing red light. When will the red light turn on to warn Tudou about such a risk at the crossroad of his life? And which way should he choose to go? The director's voice-over jumps out to say, “We can wash the car together when I'm back.” To the director, helping Tudou to get rich may be too far away, whereas caring for friends is more practical.

Through constant companionship and understanding, Yu-en has recorded his short period of participation in the lives of these young people. He also feels the uneasiness and changes with which Tudou and his mates are forced to grow up. The plain and natural language of the camera brings the viewer a deeper reflection of the social structure by which lives amongst these teens are impacted. After the shooting is over, life still goes on. What has yet to be captured in the film is their ceaseless caring about each other. This relationship originated from the production of reportage and has now evolved into a connection entailing a more far-reaching meaning.

Being asked, “Has the film ever been considered a feature-length film?” the director answered, “I think that this situation has reached my limit at this stage of being a director, no matter how I deal with it … unless you would have to explore the deeper aspects about this individual, the protagonist's role, or the very dark issues that we’re incapable of making any change.”


《度日》— 記錄著農田與鄉間巷口的日常






















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