One Tree Three Lives 三生三世聶華苓 (2012) – Hong Kong / Taiwan

“I am a tree, with roots in China, the trunk in Taiwan and the leaves flourished in Lowa (USA)”

“I was always an outsider. I was considered a mainlander in Taiwan. And among the mainlanders in Taiwan, I was still an outsider. Mainlander, Outsider, Outcast, I was aliened in every way.”

“The job of a poet is to put into intense language, those things in his life that move him intensely.” Paul Engle

Review by: Andrew Chan FCCA AACTA
Review Date: 27th February 2013

Starring: Hualing Nieh
Directed by: Angie Chen

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In order to make a documentary affecting, it requires more than just a human touch, it needs a story worth telling about and the audience can learn something from it in a rewarding way. “One Tree Three Lives” is one of those unique documentary that tells an even more unique life story of an outsider and a writer that is anything but ordinary. Famed author Hualing Nieh, is the focus of the story and director Angie Chen is impressive in pacing and editing of a journey about human adversity and the importance of living a legacy behind, not because of fame, but simply by being a human being. This is a beautifully shot bio-pic that is equally knowledgeable historically and culturally important and extremely engrossing and touching tale of a writer born in China, married in Taiwan and finally finding her true meaning of life in the Western world.

I have always a soft spots for films that take the audience on a journey and don’t let them off the train, till a long time after the film is finished. “One Tree Three Lives” is such a rewarding journey that is require the audience to invest their own life experiences, the feeling of being an outsider and everything else that makes us essentially human. Even at the ripe old age of 80, author Hualing Nieh is able to demand the centre of audience and is every bit charismatic. It is not hard to imagine why she has become so popular among fellow writers and peers alike. Her retelling of her love story with Paul Engle gives the audience a truly romantic story to emote about. It is especially resonating after the tough and luckless first two chapter of her life. Her story is one of inspiration and like many successful people, they never gave up hope and the persistent in her own art and viewpoint in face of adversity is that of admiration.

All in all, this is powerful and emotionally intense documentary about a forgotten generation that went through so much. What I believe makes a good documentary is that it strives to deliver a truth or something to say in a manner that the audience can relate, question, learn and come out of it with some sort of new light. “One Tree Three Lives” delivers exactly that and something more. What I am certain about is that I gained something within all the midst of events as well. A lovely little documentary and easily one of Hong Kong shining light in 2012. (Neo 2013)

I rated it 9/10

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