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by Wu Yii-Feng
color, 63 min, 1990
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Documentary-maker Wu Yii-Feng delivers a tour de force in Moon Children, a fascinating chronicle of albinos living, working, and finding recreation in modern-day Taiwan. Dubbed “moon children” by the San Blas Indians, albinos were isolated from society and only allowed to work at night. Times have changed, but prejudices have not, and albinos of today still experience discrimination and cruelty. Wu immerses us in the lives of these people, individuals who are clearly just as intelligent and capable as their darker-skinned compatriots, but whose insufficient melanin and poor eyesight still manage to render them outcasts.
We follow one albino man as he marries, goes to his job as a masseur, and waits for his wife to give birth, hoping ever so much that the child comes out "normal." Other parents talk of their experiences with albino children, their tears and disgust when they realized that their children were somehow inferior. Wu's camera moves seamlessly from scene to scene as we grow to understand these peoples' reaction -- they are victims of a conformist culture, one which allows few deviations in looks, and even fewer in behavior. We repeatedly witness people discussing the principal way of insulting the albinos, which is insinuating that they are half American. Such an implication gets at the heart of the need for conformity, and the unwillingness to permit any infiltration of the foreign, bizarre, or incomprehensible.
Wu has another message in mind, though, and that is the power that the albinos can muster when they band together and help one another. Wu documents their songs, religious faith, and compassion, and we realize that although society can be relentlessly callous, those who accept and cherish albinos as they would any other human being have the power to end the vicious cycle. "Love never faileth..."