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‘Imagining a difficult future like that is challenging’ — Radio Free Asia

Taiwan’s frontier archipelago of Kinmen is positioned less than 10 kilometers (6.2 miles) from China’s Fujian province, the subject of the Oscar-nominated short documentary “The Island Between” by Taiwanese-American director S. Leo Chiang. The area was once the site of sporadic exchanges of shelling between the former Kuomintang government of the Republic of China and Chinese communist forces after the Chinese civil war. Today, this tiny democratic outpost finds itself in the crosshairs of military tensions and propaganda wars across the Taiwan Strait. Recent events have further heightened the situation, as both Taipei and Beijing have stated their intentions to “enforce the law” in the waters between Kinmen and China’s mainland following a sea chase that resulted in the deaths of two Chinese men aboard a Chinese boat. This tension comes after Chiang’s short film was shortlisted for the Academy Award for Best Short Documentary on Jan. 23.

Chiang expressed that his goal was to draw attention to the ongoing military tensions and their impact on local people to an English-speaking audience. He also shared that he was born and raised in Taiwan, which contributed to the decision to tell the story in the first person and in English. The interviews conducted for this project aimed to tell the story through the voices of Kinmen locals. This approach was later supplemented with his own personal story and narrative to provide meaning and context to the documentary’s themes.

Chiang emphasized that the film aims to shed light on the pressure that history exerts on the present and the desire of the people of Taiwan to be able to decide their own future. He spoke of the need for the support of other countries for peace across the Taiwan Strait, highlighting the complexity of the situation and the importance of understanding the nuances between the two sides.

The documentary also included footage of news broadcasts from the United States and Taiwan to demonstrate the historical role that the United States has played in relation to Taiwan and its influence on cross-strait relations. Released on YouTube in December, the film has been well-received as touching and representative of the stories and unique perspectives of overseas Chinese and Taiwanese audiences.


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