Camphor Blues

After 1860, with the invention of celluloid and smokeless gunpowder, which uses camphor as raw material, Western countries flocked to an island abundant with Camphor Trees - Taiwan. The mountainous homeland of the Hakka people, whose origins are in China, gifted them with sufficient knowledge of camphor manufacturing early on. After immigrating to Taiwan, they encountered a thriving camphor industry, and many people devoted themselves to the production of camphor. However, as the industry developed, people began venturing deep into the mountain and were frequently attacked by the Atayal tribespeople, causing heavy casualties. Driven by global camphor interests, both the Qing Dynasty and the Japanese government were committed to conquering the Atayal tribes, resulting in many tragic stories. Being on the front line of the production side of the industry, the Hakka people spread across the lower altitude mountain areas all over Taiwan.They kickstarted businesses and made fortunes. This has improved the status of the ethnic group and also led to the rise of mountainous towns such as Zhudong, Dahu, and Dongshi. During the hundred-year run of the camphor industry in Taiwan, the Hakka were heavily involved not only in investment and technology, but also in on-site production as well. This era has proved to be one of the most important pages of the Hakka people in Taiwan.

  • Elaine Wei
  • Yale Yang
  • Hsu Kuo-yang
  • Project Type:
  • Runtime:
    51 minutes
  • Completion Date:
    March 7, 2021
  • Production Budget:
    10,000 USD
  • Country of Origin:
  • Country of Filming:
  • Language:
  • Shooting Format:
    Digital HD
  • Aspect Ratio:
  • Film Color:
  • First-time Filmmaker:
  • Student Project:
Director Biography - Elaine Wei, Yale Yang

Director Elaine Wei has been committed to making ecological and cultural documentaries for many years, focusing on refining her style and story narrative. Man and Trees is her second directorial work. She is good at portraying her characters’ emotions in a naturalistic way. The Way Home, Wei’s directorial debut, won the Best Female Director Award at the Istanbul Film Awards in Turkey, and was shortlisted in the “Best Documentary” category for the Taipei Film Awards, Japan’s Top Independent Film Awards, the British Golden Film Awards, the European Film Awards, the Berlin Sailing Film Awards and the Istanbul Film Awards."
Director Yale Yang (Yang, Tzu-yi) was born in Taiwan, but grew up in Mississippi in the United States. After graduating from the Department of Psychology in National Taiwan University, Yang went on to pursue a master's degree in film directing at the University of Miami. In 2017, Yang became a qualified director for the Discovery Channel (Asia), and directed the first two seasons of Amazing Super Nutrients. Besides working on the Man the Trees documentary series, Yale has made a few short documentaries in recent years as well, including a project called A Slice of Fengjia, a short documentary that dives into the tasty world of night market snacks.

Add Director Biography
Director Statement

I’ve always loved making this series, especially during production. When doing field research, many stories were re-discovered from the memories of the elderly people we interviewed. It felt familiar, because when I was a child, I would always sit in front of the gate, and listen to my parents chat with relatives and elders and tell stories. The stories are full of love and a deep connection to the local surroundings. And I remember the fragrance of different seasons in the countryside. These memories I cherish a lot.
Trees and people. It’s all about people and how we interact with nature. It is my hope that we will always retain the beautiful memory of this interaction and never stray too far away from the wisdom of those that came before us.