Taipei, like many global cities in Asia, is in the middle of an unprecedented quest for urban redevelopment. As land in the city center becomes more and more valuable, the city has played a significant role in paving over inner-city neighbourhoods with modern structures made out of glass and steel -- all in the name of “urban renewal”. But here, Taipei’s rapidly changing urban landscape belies the very real human costs of expropriation.
Directed by emerging Chinese Canadian filmmaker Betty Xie, The Home Promised is a short documentary film that takes us to the heart of one of the last “illegally-constructed” neighbourhoods in downtown Taipei soon to be torn down. With its earliest buildings dating back to the Japanese colonial period, the neighbourhood was later settled by loyal Kuomintang soldiers who fled mainland China after 1949, as well as rural migrants who desired to find jobs in the city. Through its architecture, people, history, and collective memory, the Shaoxing neighbourhood is not only a reflection of Taipei’s current growth and urban history, but also a self-enclosed world within the city center.
Shot with a distinct cinema verite style, The Home Promised centers on Wang Chang-biao, the leader of the local residents’ association, and his struggles to help chart a permanent solution for the neighbourhood. Juxtaposed with shots into the everyday life of the residents, the film follows Wang through a visit to a potential relocation site and heated citizens’ meetings. It is during this process of dealing with an uncertain future, that the residents begin to see each other as part of a shared community.
Candid and moving, The Home Promised depicts the fight for relocation as an integral part of community-formation, calling into question where and why we belong.