Nisha Pahuja, director, The World Before Her
As soon as I stepped into the car that had come to collect me at the airport in Taiwan, Wanda handed me a bubble tea, smiled brightly and told me that plans had changed. I had ten minutes to wash away 12 hours of travel before we had to leave for our orientation session at the American Institute of Taiwan (AIT). This fact was of course utterly disorienting but Wanda was charming, no nonsense, completely unapologetic and tougher than Jackie Carlson. I was going to do exactly what I was told.
Taiwan with Film Forward and their amazing partners CNEX and AIT played out just like those opening few minutes of meeting Wanda— a ballet of efficiency, grace and speed. And, it was filled with very memorable characters –far too many to name.
Taiwan the place is a bit of a blur in spite of the many photographs I took. It was as if I took them to remind myself that I was there…that I did in fact pass through brilliant green rice paddies and mountains heavy with cloud and tall, tall buildings stretching as far as the eye could see, but I don’t remember registering much of it.
What I do remember are the people. When I returned to Bombay I spent a full day in doors trying to process the whirlwind of emotions I was feeling. Screening the film is always an intense experience and Taiwan was no exception. There were several young women who shared their own stories of struggle between the old and the new—between what they want for themselves and what is expected of them. Those moments were moving– for them and for us because we could sense these things were not often spoken of publicly.
But the moment that really stood out for me was at a screening in a public library in Taichung. Just before we began I asked the audience to watch the film with one question in mind: What are three things you would like to pass on to your daughter? During the discussion afterward, several people spoke about this but the person I remember most was the father who traveled all the way from Taipei to Taichung to watch the film.
“The three things I would teach my daughter,” he said, “are the same things I would teach my son. To be a good human being; to never think that you are less because you are a girl or more because you are a boy. And thirdly, I would teach them the importance of empathy. Empathy gives us the ability to understand people who are different from us. This to me is the greatest quality anyone can have. And I would pass this on to my daughter and my son.”
These are not earth shattering words, and yet in that moment, after the film ends and all of us sit in that room, drawn together by some kind of common interest and intention, such words take on great power. They reinforce our goodness. They reinforce our need to connect as communities. And, they help to remind us that borders are not real, they are created and as such, can be transcended.
Returning to Bombay after this trip was tough. Not just because this place puts me in a bad mood as soon as I land, but because I was missing that sense of community we had created in such a short spell.
Some trips are special–infused with a certain quality. Taiwan was one of them. On our last day there, I asked everyone to spin while I photographed them. For some insane reason they all did. I wasn’t sure why I wanted to photograph people that way but when I looked at the pictures later I think I understood. I wanted to capture movement—to frame this experience outside the boundaries of time.
Taiwan was my last Film Forward trip and I was sad it ended. All through it, Patrick Creadon kept saying we were the luckiest filmmakers in the world. And we were. It is such a privilege to travel the world and share ideas and thoughts and be challenged by people one would never normally meet. Thanks to the Film Forward Team—especially Jackie, Meredith and Tabitha, and all the Federal partners and on the ground partners for giving us an experience that we will carry with us for a very long time.