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The Boy At Sea: Growing Up and Finding Community

April 27, 2019

by Madeleine Tokunaga

Director and Writer Heather Tsui’s film LONG TIME NO SEA is an untold and unseen story of indigenous peoples off the coast of Taiwan through the eyes of the youth living there. The unique struggles and lives that separates them from their close neighbors also makes their community stronger. Manawei, a young indigenous Tao boy living on Orchid Island with his family in a state of poverty, is a happy boy living with his grandmother and uncle, who enjoys swimming in the ocean and exploring the island he calls home. Manawei’s father is in Kaohsiung working to support the family and Manawei anticipates his father coming home everyday with both his love and brand new shoes.

Chung-Hsun is a primary school teacher at Yayo Primary School who has just moved to the island from Kaohsiung and meets Manawei by coincidence the day he moves to the island. At first he finds himself disliking the place and wanting to go home to his girlfriend and old life.  However, during his time on the island, Chung-Hsun meets a woman who becomes a friend and mentor and also becomes almost a father figure to the young Manawei.

On the very first day of school, Chung-Hsun is told about an opportunity to receive merit and accolades at the school, which could lead him to moving back to his home. He is tasked with the job of getting the young students to go to an indigenous dance competition in Kaohsiung. At the same time, Manawei’s father finally comes home with a new pair of shoes, in the wrong size, and only seems to care about getting back out of the town and earning money. Manawei tries so to win the love and attention of his father, but is constantly brushed aside.

This film is a beautiful story of growth, change, and development shown through a real lens. The young boy playing Manawei skillfully portrays the boyishness of his character and the pains of childhood. It is an everlasting story of love and community coming in all different forms.

You can watch LONG TIME NO SEA at Regal L.A. LIVE on Monday, May 6 at 9:00 pm.

This film is part of “Spotlight on Taiwan,” supported by the Ministry of Culture, Republic of China (Taiwan) and Taiwan Academy in Los Angeles.

Madeleine Tokunaga is a third year at CSUN as a Cinema and Television Arts Multimedia Production and Asian American Studies double major. She enjoys reading books, watching TV, and fangirling over K-Pop in her free time. She hopes to one day work for an Asian American production company, helping Asian American voices be heard in the media.

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