Continuing her dealing with the marginalized after “My Fancy High Heels” and “Sock ‘n’ Roll”, Ho Chao Ti this time deals with  two Taiwanese indigenous teenager girls, Chen and Pei, both coming from broken homes, for several years until they reach their 18th birthdays.

Turning 18” is screening at CinemAsia Film Festival

Chen takes care of her nine siblings and he drunk, way into debt mother, finding occasional comfort in Taekwondo and dreams of leaving. Eventually, and as issues of domestic abuse also arise, she is sent to a halfway home, while a bit before, she has started acknowledging her homosexuality.

Pei lives with her boyfriend, also in an effort to escape an abusive home, but soon he is revealed as a no-gooder, while Pei finds herself having to take care of a baby and providing for their household.

Ho Chao Ti presents a sensitive and dramatic, but also quite realistic portrait of rural poverty in Taiwan, while also dealing with themes as the lives of indigenous people (and their history through some footage of propaganda programs), LGBT, alcoholism, family, and sexual abuse, through a coming-of-age story that highlights all the aforementioned elements in the best fashion.

Furthermore, and despite this being a story of very little hope for the most part, this is not a portrait of despair. Chen still finds a way out by discovering her sexual identity, focusing on Tae Kwon-do and by loving her mother unconditionally, while Pei, despite her harsh living conditions, still seems to be at least somewhat happy, particularly due to her baby.

Ho Chao Ti followed her “subjects” for a number of years, as close as possible, to the point that there are scenes where she is actually running behind them (chasing them, one could say) in order to avoid missing anything important. The way the two girls open up about their lives is a testament to the quality of her approach and the trust she managed to built with them.

Through all these tactics, Ho Chao Ti also highlights life in the poor sides of Taiwan, where rundown houses and broken families seem to be the rule, and that seems to be where the main value of the documentary lies, as a presentation of people whose lives are very rarely depicted on cinema.

My name is Panos Kotzathanasis and I am Greek. Being a fan of Asian cinema and especially of Chinese kung fu and Japanese samurai movies since I was a little kid, I cultivated that love during my adolescence, to extend to the whole of SE Asia. Starting from my own blog in Greek, I then moved on to write for some of the major publications in Greece, and in a number of websites dealing with (Asian) cinema, such as Taste of Cinema, Hancinema, EasternKicks, Chinese Policy Institute, and of course, Asian Movie Pulse. in which I still continue to contribute. In the beginning of 2017, I launched my own website, Asian Film Vault, which I merged in 2018 with Asian Movie Pulse, creating the most complete website about the Asian movie industry, as it deals with almost every country from East and South Asia, and definitely all genres. You can follow me on Facebook and Twitter.