On March 21st, the North American tour of the documentary "A Letter to A'ma," directed by Hui-ling Chen, arrived at the Fashion Square Premiere Cinema 14 in Orlando. The screening event was organized by the Taiwanese Student Association at University of Central Florida and sponsored by the Taiwanese Chamber of Commerce of Greater Orlando, CINO International Inc, Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Miami, and Taiwanese Association of America Greater Orlando. Approximately 150 enthusiastic viewers attended the film screening.
Before the film started, a message from Director General Charles Chou of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Miami was played, congratulating the film, and praising the director's international award-winning contributions. He believed that the documentary would help Taiwanese people find their roots, as well as a collective memory and cultural identity for Taiwan.
Director Chen spent 14 years making this documentary, which started with her returning home to mourn her grandmother's passing. She was once a school art teacher, and she guided her art students to interview their grandparents and paint their portraits, interpreting family histories through these artworks and interviews. Behind each portrait, audiences could see stories of different ethnic groups, such as the ancient trails of the indigenous Seqalu people, a veteran who fought as a guerrilla in Burma during the Sino-Japanese War for 12 years and later retreated to Taiwan hopes that his descendants will send his ashes back to Myanmar. Descendants of chief of Tsou tribe, Uyong'e Yatauyungana, who was persecuted because of the "February 28 Incident", held a family concert to commemorate their ancestor through music. Meanwhile, the family of Wen-gong Huang, a dentist who was executed during the "White Terror" period, received letters he wrote to them on the eve of his execution only 57 years later, after the government declassified documents. Unfortunately, his wife had already passed away without seeing the letters. Another victim, Ju-chen Shih, was convicted simply for attending a study group and was forced to go into hiding for 18 years in a one-person space made of bricks at his brother's house to avoid arrest.
A princess of the Paiwan tribe, fluent in multiple languages and of Hakka descent, reveals her past love story with a Japanese military officer during the Japanese colonial era. Decades later, her young crush came to visit her in Taiwan. Without making any judgement or providing answers, Director Chen presents a beautifully crafted narrative and visuals, recounting the histories of families with different backgrounds and identities intertwined within the same timeline. Through this precious interviews, Taiwan's collective memory is once again molded and reshaped.
After the screening, a discussion with the director was held, and many viewers were moved to tears as they shared their thoughts and family stories. They expressed their gratitude to the director for capturing so many important memories and stories and felt that the documentary was an exquisite tribute to the unique history of Taiwan. The Taiwanese community in Orlando also generously donated to the director's fundraising campaign, hoping to raise sufficient funds to continue this beautiful project. After the discussion panel, a raffle was held, with Orlando Taiwanese businesses such as sweet shops, restaurants, and supermarkets generously sponsoring gift cards and prizes, bringing another wave of excitement to the event. Professor Hsien-Ho Chang from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, who won the first prize by correctly answering the director's questions, generously donated the prize money back to the director's fundraising project. The director also took photos with the audience who won other raffle prizes.
"A Letter to A'ma," which took over 10 years to produce, was nominated for Best Documentary at the 58th Golden Horse Awards and won the awards for Best Documentary and Best Original Soundtrack at both the SMR 13 Festival, 2021, and Les Rimbaud du Cinéma, 2021. However, the life of this documentary did not end after its release. Director Chen launched the "Collective Memory of the Island" project, collaborating with several schools to invite students and families to participate in an art creation project about family stories. Through the perspective of young people, the project aims to revive the stories of past generations that are gradually fading away and sew them into our present, ensuring that the island's memories are no longer fragmented. Chen further expanded this project into the "World Family Story Exchange Program," hoping that participants from different countries can work together across generations, disciplines, and borders to unearth these forgotten stories that have been left behind in the history.