FILM REVIEW: Funeral Video 告別進行式3 min readReading Time: 3 minutes
At nearly 80 years old, Granduncle Wu always moves about with a camera to document the life of his family members. Knowing that the end is near, he employs the help of his grandson, Wu Wen Rui, to make a ‘retrospective film’ to be played at his funeral.
Director: Wu Wen-Rui
Cast: Granduncle Wu, Wu Wen-Rui
Runtime: 18 min
Review by Leon Lau
Death is a universal part of the human experience. If we are lucky we get to die at a ripe old age after a long and fruitful life. Why then, is aging generally met with such disdain and sadness? Is it because we sense that our journey is coming to an end? That is the question that Funeral Video (2017) seeks to answer, but what might surprise you is just how joyous and upbeat this documentary is.
We follow the life of a man only known as ‘Little Granduncle Wu’, as he sets out to create an autobiographical documentary to be shown at his funeral. He brings his nephew Wu Wen-Rui along for the ride to film the whole thing, and the result is a heartwarming look into how a man lives his remaining twilight years.
The documentary wastes no time in introducing Granduncle Wu’s lifelong hobby and showcases his love for photography in a rapid fire montage. Whether it’s digital or analogue cameras, every frame of the documentary sees him obsessing over the composition and preservation of his photographs. Director Wu Wen-Rui uses the ‘show don’t tell’ method to great effect, and doesn’t linger on any moment for too long which keeps the pacing light and entertaining.
The subject material of this documentary may be overly simple, but the understated approach to capturing the life of a happily aging man makes for a charming experience. Camera work is handheld and imperfect, while the music used is just sparse enough to be unobtrusive. This low budget nature only adds to the ‘lived in’ atmosphere the film possesses, giving it an unpretentious vibe. What could have easily been a self congratulatory film ends up being relatable and humble because of all these warts left in.
The result is a fun, candid look into how an 80 year old man views the world. Through Wu Wen-Rui’s lenses we also get to see first hand how Granduncle Wu’s hobby affects his family. Certain family members are more camera shy and apprehensive of being documented, and not everyone is happy to indulge in his whims of being a photographer.
But of course, being 80 years old means that Granduncle Wu does not have the luxury of time to worry about what others think of his hobby. The prospect of death is a coming inevitability and the documentary showcases the emotional toll of growing old and witnessing the death of loved ones, which makes for some hugely emotional scenes.
As a documentary, Funeral Video feels so refreshing because of how unrestrained and unpretentious it is. Both Granduncle Wu and Wu Wen-Rui approached the film in a carefree, positive manner that invites you to view life in the same way. At its best, Funeral Video serves as a charming reminder that the end of a journey doesn’t need to be sad, and that aging can be a beautiful period of your life.
About Kaohsiung Shorts
高雄拍 (Kaohsiung Shorts) aims to make Kaohsiung the Taiwanese short film base, to discover and showcase new short films that break the norms, boundaries and stereotypes through the use of media. Started in 2012 by the Kaohsiung Film Archive, Kaohsiung Shorts is a short film grant that aims to encourage film talents to be based in Kaohsiung and be inspired by the city. Films created under this programme will be having their Taiwan premiere during the Kaohsiung International Film Festival. Since 2015, short films created under the Kaohsiung Shorts have been showcased in other countries such as Hong Kong, France, Japan, Korea and Vietnam.