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'Beyond Beauty: Taiwan From Above' is a beautiful film with a serious message

Documentary film Beyond Beauty: Taiwan From Above gives audiences a rare bird's-eye view of Taiwan's natural beauty and explores the environmental issues plaguing her.

SINGAPORE: Taiwanese director Chi Po-lin's documentary film Beyond Beauty: Taiwan From Above (Beyond Beauty) is a film that offers its audiences a bird's eye view of Taiwan.

The 93-minute film, which raked in over NT$200 million (S$8.3 million) since it began its run in Taiwan last November, allows viewers to go on a journey across Taiwan, and visit its grand mountain ranges as well as a host of other remote locations where few people have set foot, all from the comfort of their cinema seat.

It is full of amazing visuals that make it seem as though they were meant for a promotional video to attract tourists to the island.

Yet, it is actually a film that also aims to highlight some of the environmental issues plaguing Taiwan like water pollution and soil erosion due to deforestation, by not only looking at the natural beauty of Taiwan but also the devastation wrought by careless human activity, from the air.

The problem is the film relies completely on the narrator Wu Nien-jen and its musical score, which was composed by Singapore-based music producer Ricky Ho, to help audiences make sense of all the crisp, gorgeous visuals presented in the Golden Horse award-winning film.

Both Wu and Ho both did a great job on the film - the narration is spot on while the music is beautiful and fits the mood at any given moment in the film perfectly. It's just that Beyond Beauty can get a little boring for those who aren't really excited about environmentalism.

The film takes on a bit of a preachy tone in the middle, when it highlights how untreated industrial sewage is being dumped into Taiwan's rivers, or how projects like mountain highways harm the environment.

Fortunately, the film picks up after that, and looks at how people are trying to improve the situation. This section of the film features interesting aerial footage of people instead of merely scenery -  people working on a farm, of crowds at a festival and people going about their lives in the city. It is refreshing to see all that from above, and gives one a strange feeling of omniscience.

All in all, Beyond Beauty is simply a gorgeous film with a strong environmental message. It is highly-polished and gives audiences a fresh experience. Those who are not too environmentally conscious may find it a bit dull sometimes, but the film's excellent visuals and haunting music more than makes up for it.

4/5 stars.

Beyond Beauty: Taiwan From Above opens in Singapore on Aug 28, as part of a special showcase at Cathay Cineplex Jem and Cathay Cineplex Cineleisure Orchard.

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