Fantasia 2020: “Detention”

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

It is unthinkable for us today to know that there was a time when people would get prosecuted for reading books. The books that would boost one’s knowledge and expand their world outlook. Films like “Detention” is important to value in our current situation. Of course, aside from COVID-19, we live in a digital world with the internet full of a variety of information and books. It allows us to know more, be educated, and open minded. That kind of privilege was a luxury for the heroes of “Detention” who had to go through a different path to retain what is being lost for many lives.

Set in Taiwan in 1962, during the White Terror with martial law being enforced, “Detention” follows
a young woman named Fang who is madly in love with a teacher named Zhang. Zhang, in the meantime, runs an underground group of people whom he allows to read banned books. One of his students is Wei, who same as Zhang and everyone else, dreams of freedom. When Zhang disappears, Fang teams up with Wei to learn about Zhang’s fate and what led to his disappearance only to find out a shocking truth that will force her to make a life changing decision.

Powerfully shot by director John Hsu, “Detention” offers a dark historical view by introducing it in a subtle way. For instance, Zhang is a nice young man who does his best in delivering a good education to his students. During 1962’s Cold War, Taiwan was under martial law. All books containing Communist or left-wing thoughts were strictly prohibited. Reading them or even slightly touching any of them would cause one to lose their life. Despite Zhang’s deep knowledge about it, he continues his mission for the greater good but falls victim to one person who he thought he can trust.

The film offers a path to redemption but with a high price attached to it. When Fang joins Wei in their mission, she is getting haunted by the ghosts of her past that literally reminds her of her past and during existence. Even though she may disagree with everything she learns, at some point she will be forced to make peace with it, face it, and eventually do something about it. That journey won’t be easy but she knows one must at least live to remember how hard it was to fight for freedom. And she is strongly determined to make it happen no matter what.

As for you, my dear reader, get ready for at extraordinary journey of a historical drama that will deliver both exciting and scary moments for you to cherish in the 21st century. More importantly, it will remind you about the difficult past, people we have lost to have what we have today, while the previous generations had to spend their time in detention for us.

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