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Slamdance Film Review: Invisible Nation

Film Reviews

Slamdance Film Review: Invisible Nation
Director: Vanessa Hope

100 Chapters Productions, Seine Pictures and Double Hope Films
Premiere: 01.25.24 

Amidst the luscious chartreuse of a subtropical, evergreen forest, the Formosa country of Taiwan, officially known as the Republic of China, spans centuries of cutting-edge progress. Through major innovations in communication technology and a “liberty or death” take on progressive politics, it seems that Taiwan holds its rightful place for diplomatic recognition. Unfortunately, Taiwan’s intention to claim their spot as a thriving country appears as a David and Goliath conflict since Mainland China seeks to seize total control in annexing the entire island.

Following Tsai Ing-wen—Taiwan’s first female president—through a fly-on-the-wall perspective, Vanessa Hope’s Vice-style documentary, Invisible Nation, catalogs the politician’s hopes and dreams for the nation’s independence. Key cultural moments like the radical Sunflower Movement and the legalization of same-sex marriage fuel Ing-wen’s campaign to ensure ROC’s democracy is fully just. As the world evolves through pain-stricken parliamentary tribalism and a global pandemic, Taiwan collides head-on into geo-political pushback from the mainland’s “One China ” principle and the U.S. shifting sands in faithful allies. 

One thing is for sure, Invisible Nation is a necessary, informational data-dump. Every minute detail, from a strategic layout of previous pre-colonial rule over the territory to Nancy Pelosi’s arrival to discuss rising tensions, is a versatile brick to Taiwan’s Libertarian attitude—a drive for sheer independence that’s backed only by a “we’ll be ready” mindset. As on the nose as its subject matter, Invisible Nation’s timeline of current events is relevant to a global scale, drawing a great juxtaposition to the Russian invasion of Ukraine as Taiwan prepares for a similar invasion by China. The people of the world must know what’s going on in Taiwan, and this efficient documentary acts as a quick rundown of Taiwan’s history and existing state of affairs.

Due to the film’s heavy reliance on facts, the average viewer might not see the documentary as an entertaining watch. Which it’s not supposed to be. Invisible Nation’s 85-minute runtime does not linger on cliche storytelling, where it could easily drive the tone into make-believe propaganda.  The documentary encourages you to dig deeper both during your watch time and after the credits fade to black; no sugar-coating, no mumbo-jumbo to run the clock, just straight-up facts. Sure, you might want a laid back approach to national affairs, but Taiwan has been waiting long enough for some type of gratitude. For a country as old and diverse as Taiwan, that truly hasn’t accepted self-governed freedom, ever since having six occupied colonies that stretch older than the Qing dynasty, it’s about time that they got the recognition they deserve. –Alton Barnhart

Read more of SLUG‘s comprehensive coverage of the 2024 Slamdance Film Festival.