SOAS University of London

Centre of Taiwan Studies

Book launch Documenting Taiwan on Film “Issues and Methods in New Documentaries” & screening of Viva Tonal: The Dance Age 跳舞時代

Sang Ze-lan
Sang Tze-lan (Michigan)

Date: 13 February 2014Time: 7:00 PM

Finishes: 13 February 2014Time: 10:00 PM

Venue: Russell Square: College Buildings Room: KLT

Type of Event: Film


Tze-lan Deborah Sang is Professor of Chinese Literature and Cultural Studies at Michigan State University. Her research interests include gender, sexuality, documentary film, Taiwan Studies, and early-20th-century Chinese popular literature. Her representative publications include: The Emerging Lesbian: Female Same-Sex Desire in Modern China (University of Chicago Press, 2003) and Documenting Taiwan on Film: Issues and Methods in New Documentaries (Routledge, 2012, co-edited with Sylvia Lin).

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Issues and Methods in New Documentaries” and screening of Viva Tonal: The Dance Age 跳舞時代 - Sang Tze-lan

About the book

To date, there is but a handful of articles on documentary films from Taiwan. This volume seeks to remedy the paucity in this area of research and conduct a systematic analysis of the genre. Each contributor to the volume investigates the various aspects of documentary by focusing on one or two specific films that document social, political and cultural changes in recent Taiwanese history. Since the lifting of martial law, documentary has witnessed a revival in Taiwan, with increasing numbers of young, independent filmmakers covering a wide range of subject matter, in contrast to fiction films, which have been in steady decline in their appeal to local, Taiwanese viewers. These documentaries capture images of Taiwan in its transformation from an agricultural island to a capitalist economy in the global market, as well as from an authoritarian system to democracy. What make these documentaries a unique subject of academic inquiry lies not only in their exploration of local Taiwanese issues but, more importantly, in the contribution they make to the field of non-fiction film studies. As the former third-world countries and Soviet bloc begin to re-examine their past and document social changes on film, the case of Taiwan will undoubtedly become a valuable source of comparison and inspiration. These Taiwanese documentaries introduce a new, Asian perspective to the wealth of Anglo-American scholarship with the potential to serve as exemplar for countries undergoing similar political and social transformations.
Documenting Taiwan on Film is essential reading for all those interested in Taiwan Studies, film studies and Asian cinema.


Viva Tonal (The Dance Ages) (跳舞時代)

“I'm a cultured woman, traveling about footloose and fancy free.” So begins a lilting tune from Taiwan's "Dance Age" of the 1920s and '30s, a paradoxical time when the island's occupation by Japan also brought youth culture and a measure of artistic freedom. This historical documentary explores this time in depth through the conduit of a Taipei oldies DJ with an obsessive passion for '30s music. He takes the viewer on a voyage of discovery to meet surviving singers, composers and record aficionados of the era.

  • Best Documentary, Golden Horse Award, 2003
  • Taiwan International Documentary Festival, 2004


2003 金馬奬最佳紀錄片
2004 台灣國際紀錄片雙年展台灣奬

Taipei Times film review

Although the event is open to the public and free to all it is recommended that you contact Niki Alsford ( if you plan to attend.

Organiser: Centre of Taiwan Studies

Contact email:

Sponsor: The Understanding Taiwan through Film and Documentary Screening Series is supported by the Ministry of Culture’s Spotlight Taiwan Programme. Special Thanks to Dr. Samuel Yin for his generous support to the Spotlight Taiwan Programme.