Letter #69

Letter #69 is a reinterpretation of the prison letters by Shi Shui-Huan, a victim of Taiwan’s White Terror. Letter #69 attempts to highlight the blankness of Shi’s last letter, describing the invisible image of that period, as well as the “shield / screen / screen memory” generated by reading and examining the letters during the filming process. The film is a narrative made up of three perspectives: The silent writers (political victims Shi Shui-Huan and Shi Zhi-Cheng), the present off-camera narrators (female family members of the victims), and the interwoven first, second, and third person narration that is the discourse of the people involved in contemporary events (Li Zhe-Yu, the filmmaker).

The “photographic film image” in the video, Letter #69, is an old photographic film from an abandoned old Taiwanese theater. After cleaning the film, Shi Shui-Huan’s letters were printed on it to construct a stop motion. The reproduction of old film serves as a response to the esoteric, dark history of Shi Shui-Huan and her brother Shi Zhi-Cheng in their last escape where they hid in the ceiling. It is also a response to the historical violence of Taiwan that cannot be cleared and is difficult to look back at.

The simulation of body movements serves as a “restoration” of the soon-to-be obscured history in a filming method that conducts “self-presentation”. The scene is set in an abandoned Japanese-style building in Taiwan and a prison scene in a human rights park. The actors simulate the daily labor in prison in a setting without props. Through operating invisible “objects”, the personal history of the victims are construed in non-archival data.

Several voice-over is captured from the interview files of Huang Xiu-Ying, Lin Zhao-Zhi, and Zheng Sa-Shu, three female family members of the political victims. 
.Li Zhe-Yu curated Red Team: 2014-1949 which referenced the White Horror burial plan. The sound source is Li’s oral narrative on his experiences regarding the mass graves in Liuzhangli. 
.The Xindian old Taiwanese language narrates the memory of the execution shooting that took place during the White Terror period in a thick crater of the mountain behind Binlang Road, Xindian. 
.Some narrations are the reverse playback of the director reading Shi Shui-Huan’s letters, serving as an audible but incomprehensible discourse.

Enacting part of Shi Shui-Huan’s letters from 1954 to 1956, the actors’ repetitive hand movements of opening parcels express the emotions in the letters. The contents of the parcels are not “reproductions”, but old objects found between 1954 and 1956 in Taiwan. The parcels served as Shi’s only “medium” of contact with her family members. Not only do the parcels convey their thoughts and desires, the “household objects” mentioned in the letters also provide personality and self-clarity to the person without a voice during national collective violence.

Starting from the abandoned Taijian employee dormitory in Tainan, the film scenes in Letter #69 are comprised of reading, shooting, and examining the “key points” of the process of Shi’s letters, rather than historical sources. When “others / researchers” are filming and researching “different cultures / the people being filmed” through “media”, are they searching for “”cultural truth”? Or are they self-stating the “present identity” of the subjects? The method of shooting, process of conversation, translation of words, distribution of cultural location, and even the watching and reading” of the last file are paths that must be handled with care. Through the method of shielding memory, this corresponds to perspective of how the current cultural body is covered, constructed, and watched.

2017 What Time Is It There?: Taiwanese Film Biennial, UCLA Film & Television Archive and the Taiwan Academy in Los Angeles 
2017 Media Library, Visions du Réel International Film Festival NYON 
2017 Landscape of Asian Shorts section, Busan International Short Film Festival, South Korea 
2016 Outstanding Selection, Kaohsiung Film Festival 
2016 Merit Prize, Women Make Waves Int’l Film Festival

Not only Letter #69 brings to the surface an obliviated past and directs its gaze towards a crucial spot in Taiwanese history, but the filmmaking style that made 3 Islands so powerful and fascinating for me is here in full display again. Aesthetically Letter #69 is a fragmented and kaleidoscopic work that blends the beauty and clearness of the digital image with the grain and the roughness of overused celluloid film ー an old strip of film where the director printed the woman’s letters ー sound manipulation and voice distortion with reenactment, and read and written passages from letters with the constant sound of a running film projector. I might be partial because my cinematic taste tends definitely towards hybrid documentaries, but 3 Islands and now this Letter #69 are so fascinating and challenging that make Lin Hsin-i one of the most interesting filmmakers working in experimental nonfiction today.

— Matteo Boscarol 

Director Biography – Hsin-I Lin

Lin, Hsin-I

LIN is an independent film-maker, she holds a Ph.D. and teaches visual culture, film aesthetics at IAA National Chiao Tung University. LIN is currently researching on contemporary ethnographic practice, experimental film and anthropology. 
Along with her intention to develop new issues, she has turned toward community theatre and the third voice films. Her films have received 2016 Women Make Waves Film Festival Special Award, 2016 Kaohsiung Film Festival Outstanding Award, 2015 South Taiwan Film Festival Rookie of the Year Award, and screen at various international film festivals and museum.

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