Sunday, 09 July 2017 06:00

    In documenting Taiwan, filmmaker makes ultimate sacrifice

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    TAIPEI, Taiwan -- The Chinese names of the filmmaker Chi Po-lin (齊柏林) and his award-winning documentary "Beyond Beauty: Taiwan from Above" (看見台灣) were displayed on the Taipei 101 Tower on Sunday, June 11, as Taiwan marked the passing the filmmaker who died in a helicopter crash in Hualien on Saturday.

    Chi gave up many things to pursue his dream of documenting Taiwan through aerial photography.

     He mortgaged his house, borrowed money from friends and quit his job as a civil servant at the age of 47 -- just three years before qualifying for a lifetime pension -- all to make his 2013 documentary "Beyond Beauty", which became the highest grossing documentary in Taiwan's history.

    On June 10, the acclaimed 52-year-old director gave up his life doing what he loved most -- shooting images of his homeland from a helicopter.

    The chopper that carried the father of two and his 25-year-old assistant photographer crashed while filming in eastern Taiwan's Hualien County, resulting in their death and that of the pilot. The team was filming for the sequel to "Beyond Beauty" at the time of the accident.


    News of Chi's death stunned film and cultural circles.


    "Contemporary Taiwan has just lost someone like Chi Po-lin -- a man of conscience who is willing to sacrifice himself," said commercial director Kurt Lu (盧建彰), who shot a short film featuring Chi for Google Inc. in 2012.


    Lu, who later became close friends with Chi, described the director as a warm and kind person.


    "He always carried a smile on his face, and almost never got angry with people, whether he was dealing with work or other challenges," Lu said. "I never saw him use mean words toward others. He was always a warm person."


    "He risked his life in the air for every photograph he took. My heart aches tremendously," another friend, TV commentator Sisy Chen (陳文茜), wrote on her Facebook page.


    Chi, who had over 20 years of experience shooting images from helicopters, appeared to be fully aware of the risk involved. In his past writings and interviews, the director had recounted some of the scary moments, especially when filming over mountainous areas.


    One time, filming at Yushan, Taiwan's highest mountain, the pilot of Chi's helicopter lost control of the aircraft momentarily after encountering a turbulence, Chi wrote in one of his books.


    "My mind went blank. Before I could say my prayers, I screamed and shouted instinctively. In those seconds, I really believed the chopper was going to go down."


    "That wasn't the only time...fortunately, we were always able to pull off a narrow escape. But no matter how many times this has occurred, I am still frightened when it does. I never dare tell my family these things because I am afraid they would worry."

    Read 57 times Last modified on Sunday, 09 July 2017 20:56

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