Tokyo Film Review: ‘Long Time No Sea’

Ethnography and entertainment are neatly mixed in “Long Time No Sea,” an uplifting drama set among the indigenous Tao community from Orchid Island in Taiwan. Based on life experiences of first-time feature writer-director Heather Tsui (also known as Tsui Yung-hui), this tale of a newbie teacher from the city who prepares students for a dance competition is sweet without ever getting sticky, and sends strong but never-didactic messages about the need to preserve traditional cultures and languages. Following a successful local release in June, this family-friendly film deserves to attract further festival attention in the wake of its international premiere in the Asian Future competition at Tokyo.

Tsui’s impressive feature is deftly structured to inform audiences outside Taiwan about the challenges facing an indigenous people while also spinning a thoroughly entertaining and accessible “let’s put on a show” yarn. Featuring a cast comprised almost exclusively of non-professionals from the Tao community, “Long Time” has an unforced authenticity that will connect with viewers everywhere.