A Documentary that Asks
where & why we belong
A Documentary that Asks
where & why we belong
Taipei, like many global cities in Asia, is in the middle of an unprecedented quest for urban redevelopment. As land in the city center becomes more and more valuable, the city has played a significant role in paving over inner-city neighbourhoods with modern structures made out of glass and steel -- all in the name of “urban renewal”. But here, Taipei’s rapidly changing urban landscape belies the very real human costs of expropriation.
Directed by emerging Chinese Canadian filmmaker Betty Xie, The Home Promised is a short documentary film that takes us to the heart of one of the last “illegally-constructed” neighbourhoods in downtown Taipei soon to be torn down. With its earliest buildings dating back to the Japanese colonial period, the neighbourhood was later settled by loyal Kuomintang soldiers who fled mainland China after 1949, as well as rural migrants who desired to find jobs in the city. Through its architecture, people, history, and collective memory, the Shaoxing neighbourhood is not only a reflection of Taipei’s current growth and urban history, but also a self-enclosed world within the city center.
Shot with a distinct cinema verite style, The Home Promised centers on Wang Chang-biao, the leader of the local residents’ association, and his struggles to help chart a permanent solution for the neighbourhood. Juxtaposed with shots into the everyday life of the residents, the film follows Wang through a visit to a potential relocation site and heated citizens’ meetings. It is during this process of dealing with an uncertain future, that the residents begin to see each other as part of a shared community.
Candid and moving, The Home Promised depicts the fight for relocation as an integral part of community-formation, calling into question where and why we belong.
The Shaoxing Neighbourhood is located at the heart of Zhongzheng District in Taipei (surrounded by Shaoxing South Street, Xinyi Road, Linsen South Road and Renai Road), approximately a ten-minute walking distance from the National Taiwan University. Living in the neighbourhood are largely soldiers who followed the Kuomintang (KMT) party to flee from mainland China in the early 1950s. In August 2010, the residents received an unexpected letter from the National Taiwan University (NTU), suing them for illegal occupation of land, demanding monetary compensation, and forcing them to relocate.
To date, although negotiations between both sides are still on-going, the case has not been settled yet because of the historical complexities of the situation. Students and NGOs have actively protested on behalf of the Shaoxing residents, in hopes that the current KMT government properly addresses the issue.
Quick facts about the Shaoxing Neighbourhood
Cinema Studies and Asia Pacific Studies Major at the University of Toronto
Director, Girlfriends (2013), Unsung Voices Youth Shorts Program at the 2013 Reel Asian Film Festival
Director, Untag Taiwan (2012), a student documentary screened at the Asian Institute in Oct. 2012 xiebetty.com
This project is inspired from a chance encounter I had visiting the Shaoxing neighbourhood with my research teammate when we were in Taipei to observe the 2012 Presidential Election. We revisited the neighbourhood in early 2013, and the experience of the residents still lingers in my mind. Given the opportunity, how can i walk away from telling their story?
I drifted from Guangzhou to Vancouver to Toronto. For me, “home” is always in future tense: we pursue it, for tomorrow.
I study at the University of Toronto, but in my spare time I like to gallivant across Asia, explore literary worlds, or navigate gastronomic landscapes.
Last summer, I interned at a television broadcasting company in Taipei where I fell in love with the city. Thus, I could not pass up the opportunity to tell a story about “belonging” in Taiwan, which is something my family is quite familiar with.
In a bowl of noodles (tonkotsu ramen, pho, wonton noodles, udon, oyster vermicelli …), or anything my grandma makes!
I’m in my last semester at the University of Toronto and I dabble in photography. I’m constantly picking up projects outside of school and I'm blessed to have friends who push me to challenge my creative limits.jessielau.com
I have been involved with all of Betty’s film projects in different capacities and I convinced her that she needs me in this.
I was born and raised in Hong Kong and I moved to Toronto with my parents at 14. Anywhere with my parents and a WiFi connection is home.
Recently completed Political Science & Cinema Studies double major from University of Toronto and determined to devote remaining living and awake hours to the infinite realm of creativity. As a relatively newcomer to filmmaking, I made my feeble first attempt at making a thriller short called Elude (2012) for the Unsung Voices Youth Shorts Program at Toronto’s Reel Asian Film Festival 2012. It left me very confused yet increasingly intrigued about filmmaking, and curiosity, is quite fatal.
By tirelessly nagging the director.
No where, but can be anywhere. Like ‘nostalgia’, to me, it is almost an imaginary and merely a relative concept.
Graduated from University of Toronto Scarborough with double major in computer science and new media studies. Current working as website developer, I am always passionate about film and culture. I am in the marketing community for Reel Asian Film Festival for the past two years.
I told Betty and David if they won the pitch, I will help them to make this documentary. I have found this project is a once a lifetime opportunity to reach a dream that I always have.
Home is where my culture can be practiced, expressed, and respected.
A big thank you to all the contributors to our successful crowd funding campaign. Our deepest gratitide goes to the following contributors: