Place of Birth: Tainan
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In Huang Hsin-yao’s films, the audience sees concepts depicted with realism and practicality. The characters in his films are portrayed with vibrance and vividness, as if they are plucked straight from everyday life. Huang once remarked that while each of the characters in his films has their own origins, they may not necessarily conform to specific archetypes. Generally, they are amalgamations of ordinary people that he has observed in the world around him. He has said that as he writes and creates his own stories, the people that populate those stories are those whose stories play out around him and are the most relatable and closest to real life.
Born in 1973 in Tainan, Taiwan, Taiwanese documentary director Huang Hsin-yao witnessed a vast array of social and environmental movements and incidents during his student days, and as well as working in politics, he has also spent time working in a beverage store, as a car salesman, and as a radio host. Huang's diverse and rich variety of life experiences and careers has helped his later scripts even more congruent with local culture.
Huang Hsin-yao grew up in the southern Taiwanese city of Tainan before heading north to Taipei to attend night school at the Chinese Culture University College of Journalism and Communication. Once he had completed these studies, he returned to his hometown of Tainan to study at the Graduate Institute of Studies in Documentary & Film Archiving at Tainan National University of the Arts, spending time during his studies traveling between the two cities. Before he enrolled in graduate school at the age of 28, he had no previous practical experience or work related to film, documentary, or video. However, driven by a keen interest in film, he relied on continuous research, self-directed learning, and perseverance to figure out the tricks of the trade.
In 1999, Huang directed his first documentary film, "Yantian Qinzi (鹽田欽仔)," followed by his second, "Seaman (添仔的海)." Between 2002 and 2013, he directed and shot a number of documentaries that would go on to be nominated for or win awards. For example, his documentary "Dogs with Man (多格威斯面)" was nominated for the Taiwan Award at the Taiwan International Documentary Film Festival, and "Bluffing (唬爛三小)" won the Best Documentary Award at the 29th Golden Harvest Awards for Outstanding Short Films. "Nimbus (帶水雲)" walked away with the Grand Jury Prize at the Taiwan International Documentary Film Festival, while "Taivalu (沉沒之島)" was honored with the Grand Prize and the Best Documentary award at the 13th Taipei Film Festival.
In 2014, his first work of narrative fiction, "The Great Buddha (大佛)" was nominated for Best Original Short Film at the 51st Golden Horse Awards. Three years later, he decided to expand on the foundation set down by "The Great Buddha" with "The Great Buddha+ (大佛普拉斯)," which won the 54th Golden Horse Awards for Best New Director and Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Film from the Mainland and Taiwan at the Hong Kong Film Awards, and the Grand Prize and Best Narrative Feature Award at the 19th Taipei Film Festival, for which it was also the opening film.
In an interview, he explained that the "Buddha" in "The Great Buddha+" symbolizes the collective consciousness of the Taiwanese people, although it is not a mythical tale, but rather one that highlights how the humble, ordinary people and the oppressors who abuse their power live the same ordinary and abusive lives and abuse power in his black-and-white world. The characters in the film, such as Sakya, who lives alone in a seaside bunker; the highfalutin committee members and speaker; and the brothers and sisters are drawn larger and further apart by Huang, giving them greater depth while also bringing out the similarities that tie them together, making the content of the film a microcosm of the whole of Taiwanese society.
After "The Great Buddha+," Huang next went on to deliver "Classmates Minus (同學麥娜絲)" in 2020. The two films feature very different scripts and stories, but are both based on the struggles of the ordinary folk, together forming an intriguing tale.
In Huang Hsin-yao's films, the audience is shown a number of concepts in realistic, practical ways. Huang has said that the people in his films actually reflect the majority of people in society, the people next to you when you and I when we stop at red lights. "Most people in this world are actually very ordinary," says Huang. "They like to watch movies full of the extraordinary, despite knowing they can't be those people."
When it comes to plans for the future, Huang points out that he has never been one to think too far ahead, but also that he does have a far off dream of photographing penguins and whales one day.