Realm of Reverberations

Realm of Reverberations
Director: Chen Chieh-jen
2015 /Taiwan/104min /B&W /DCP
2016, Taiwanese Competition, Taiwan International Documentary Festival, Taiwan

In 1930, the Japanese colonial government established the Rakusei (Losheng) Sanatorium for Lepers of Governor-General of Taiwan in what is now Xinzhuang District. The sanatorium was created to forcibly house and quarantine sufferers of Hansen's disease and carry out the government's policies of marriage prohibition or forced sterilization. Residents were forbidden to leave the grounds, which were enclosed within a barbed wire fence. In the period immediately following the Kuomintang government's takeover of Taiwan in 1945, policies at the sanatorium were left unchanged, but later were gradually relaxed until 1961 when the quarantine mandate was lifted. Nonetheless, the long-term stigmatization of Hansen's disease sufferers has made their reintegration into society very difficult.

Influenced by bureaucrats and local politics, the Taipei Department of Rapid Transit Systems (DORTS) decided in 1994 to move their depot operation in Xinzhuang District to the property occupied by the Losheng Sanatorium, necessitating the relocation of the remaining residents. In 2002 DORTS undertook the first phase of the project by demolishing the sanatorium buildings, thus triggering intense resistance among residents and various other groups. Consequently the seemingly endless Losheng Preservation Movement (which continues today), the resident-organized Losheng Self-Help Organization and the student group Youth Alliance for Losheng were all born. Furthermore, countless scholars, lawyers, engineers, documentary filmmakers and others have joined the movement to preserve the sanatorium and help the residents. In late 2008 the police forcibly cleared the area of residents and their supporters, after which DORTS immediately erected a fence and started bulldozing the site. Today, less than 30 percent of the original Losheng Sanatorium remains.

After more than five years of demolition, the remains of the sanatorium and massive construction for the Metro depot look like two enormous wounds sitting side by side, or perhaps a wound and a symbol of the desire for progress.

Realm of Reverberations comprises four sections, each presenting perspectives of individuals whose lives have been touched by the Losheng Sanatorium: old residents (Tree Planters), a young woman who accompanies sanatorium residents (Keeping Company), a hospice nurse who lived in Mainland China during the Cultural Revolution (The Suspended Room), and a fictional political prisoner who travels through Taiwanese history from the Japanese colonial period to the present (Tracing Forward). They discuss what many believe to be the inevitable outcome for the Losheng Sanatorium. But is that really Losheng’s legacy? Other possibilities include serving as a starting point for multiple dialectics and other imaginings.

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