Skip to main content

First documentary film on Taiwan's railway culture premieres in Taipei

  • Date:2023-06-07

Taiwan's first documentary film on railway culture, "On The Train (南方,寂寞鐵道)," premiered in Taipei on June 6. Those present at the event included former Premier Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌), Minister of Transportation and Communications (MOTC) Wang Kwo-tsai (王國材), Minister of Culture Shih Che, and the film production team.

Since 2017, the film's director Hsiao Chu-chen (蕭菊貞), a two-time winner of the Taipei Golden Horse Awards for Best Documentary, has been carrying the camera to explore the South Link Line (南迴線), a railroad spanning across Taitung and Pingtung Counties. It took her six years to complete the film, which is considered the most in-depth documentary of the year from a humanistic perspective.

According to the Taiwan Railways Administration, the documentary captures the sound of the steam train whistle and showcases a series of old-style trains, such as the Blue-painted Ordinary Train (藍皮普快). On December 20, 2020, the South Link Line was electrified, marking the completion of the electrification of the entire Taiwan railway system. The film also unveils 50 pieces of cross-section diagrams of the South Link Line for the first time, along with railway stories that were documented during the filming process.

Director Hsiao said trains are an important testimony to the times and the lives of ordinary people; however, she expressed her disappointment that trains or railways were regarded as mere modes of transportation in the past. In a Facebook post, she said that her intention in creating the film was to resonate with every individual in Taiwan. The presence of the MOTC and MOC Ministers at the premiere holds significant meaning for the director. She sees it as a new milestone in documenting Taiwan’s railway culture and hopes to awaken the collective memories of trains among the Taiwanese people, while encouraging a fresh perspective on the value of railway culture.

In 2022, "On The Train" was selected for the Wide Angle - Documentary Competition at South Korea's Busan International Film Festival (BIFF) and had its world premiere at the festival. This year, the film will be officially released on June 9, which happens to be the same day as the annual Taiwan Railways Festival.

(Photo courtesy of Activator Co., Ltd)