River of Forgetfulness

An astronomer’s failed research leads him spiraling down the memories of his painful childhood and the dreams of his past life.

  • Tzu-Yang Chen
  • Tzu-Yang Chen
  • Tzu-Yi Mo
    Key Cast
    Dear Tenant
  • Christopher Purdy
    Director of Photography
  • Project Title (Original Language):
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  • Genres:
    Drama, Fantasy
  • Runtime:
    2 hours 53 seconds
  • Completion Date:
    July 1, 2023
  • Production Budget:
    600,000 USD
  • Country of Origin:
  • Country of Filming:
  • Language:
    Chinese - Min Nan, Japanese, Mandarin Chinese, Other
  • Shooting Format:
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  • First-time Filmmaker:
  • Student Project:
Director Biography - Tzu-Yang Chen

Tzu-Yang Chen grew up in Auburn, Alabama but moved back to his home country of Taiwan at the age of 12. Afterwards, his long struggles of language, culture and identity triggered an interest in storytelling, and returned to the states to pursue filmmaking, graduating with an MFA from Chapman University Dodge College of Film and Media Arts. He currently resides in Taipei, Taiwan.

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Director Statement

Growing up between eastern and western cultures, my personal journey had long been in an “in-between” state. I had difficulty finding an identity and, in the process of doing so, I learned that Taiwan, and the people its throughout history, have always been in this state. My grandparents grew up identifying themselves as Japanese. My parents grew up being taught they were Chinese. And most of my contemporaries identify as Taiwanese but find it an uphill battle for the world to do so as well.

In this “in-between” state, one cannot dream.

My father grew up in this dreamless state. He is a man of science and logic and his most interesting experience was skipping class for a game of pool. I once teased him by asking him to choose a religion or belief. His answer took me by surprise.

Everyone we meet in the present, we have met before in the past. It is in the Buddhist belief that all relationships are predetermined by unsettled debts or favors of the past, and, without it, two would never meet. However, we are not meant to remember. Before souls reincarnate, they must drink from the river in the underworld. The water clears all memories, ensuring souls to forget the past before being reborn. Souls that aren’t willing to forget will be stuck in the “in-between” state between lives. And only by “flowing” forward through the reincarnations, will we be able to reach paradise.

That “flow” inspired River of Forgetfulness.