A Critical History of Taiwanese Independent Documentary

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


This thesis is the first history of Taiwanese independent documentary. It asks what independent documentary (dulijilupian) is in Taiwan and how it changes in different historical periods. To address the characteristics of Taiwanese independent documentary and pursue the connection between social and political circumstances and independent documentary production in Taiwan, the thesis relies on primary data collection and archival documents to write a chronological and analytical history. It argues that independent documentary in Taiwan should be periodised according to changes in the in the mode of production, which are related to changes in the social and political environment. Deploying this approach based on mode of production and socio-political environment, the thesis divides the history of independent documentary production in Taiwan into four periods. First, the independent documentary making originated primarily as a vehicle against government-controlled media and in order to reveal alternative points of view during the political movements of the 1980s. Thus, independent documentary is a form for participating in political movements in this period. Second, the period after the cessation of Taiwan’s martial law (1987) saw independent documentarians shift their focus from political and social movements and towards social issues. Here, the independent documentary revealed the problems of the socially marginalized, which had been ignored by mainstream media. It participated in the idea of Community Development, which was a major topic from the late 1980s to the mid- 1990s. Third, after the mid-1990s, the decline of the Taiwanese feature film industry drove filmmakers, especially members of the post-New Taiwan Cinema young generation, to turn to digital video and make low-budget documentaries independently. Their approach placed art as a higher priority than social and political engagement. Fourth, since the early 2000s, independent documentary making has also become a way for expressing identities. For instance, filmmakers who used to be the filmed subjects of documentaries, such as Taiwanese indigenous peoples, foreign spouses, or other marginalized groups in society, have used independent documentary to express their cultural and social identities from their own viewpoints, and to claim equal rights.
Date of Award2014
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • King's College London
SupervisorChris Berry (Supervisor)

Cite this