Touch of the Light, one of the must-sees at the Asian American International Film Festival, may require a box of tissues. Directed by Chang Jung-Chi, the movie centres around Hung Yu-Siang (starring as himself) and Xiao Jie (Sandrine Pinna), two characters with different backgrounds, but the same yearning to be “seen” by others. Siang is a blind piano prodigy with dreams of making it big in the world of music. He goes off to university to study piano, but is not initially accepted by his peers, who aren’t comfortable with having a visually impaired member in their class. Siang deals with animosity from a classmate who is asked by the teacher to guide him around campus. Determined not to be a burden on anyone, Siang memorizes the number of steps he must climb from his dorm to the music room, and the number of paces between different landmarks of the campus. Despite his efforts to not burden his classmates, they are still not particularly accepting of him.
Jie, meanwhile, is a dancer, dreaming of joining a troupe. However, Jie’s mother, who is somewhat of a shopaholic, encourages her to stick with paying jobs and do something practical with her life. Working for a juice shop, Jie feels lost, with little passion for anything except dance. When her relationship with her womanizing boyfriend finally sizzles to an end, Jie bumps into Siang while making a juice delivery. While Jie does not initially notice Siang, Siang is instantly drawn to Jie’s voice on campus.
When they encounter each other again a few days later, Siang immediately recognizes Jie’s voice, and the two become friends. As their relationship grows, Jie learns that Siang is a genius at piano, but has been discouraged by his past experiences and stopped participating in competitions. Jie, meanwhile, confesses her love for dancing, and is encouraged by Siang to follow her passion. After some hesitation, Jie decides to sign up for free dance lessons.
The two lean on each other for strength and comfort. Jie shows Siang what it feels like to dance, while Siang shows Jie what life is like without eyesight. When the two are presented with opportunities of a lifetime, they must confront their inner demons and make decisions that could change the course of their lives. Touch of the Light is a beautiful, moving tale that tells the story of two different characters – and their two different art forms – brought together by passion for their art.
What really moved me the most was learning that the movie is based on the real-life events of Hung Yu-Siang. This definitely explains the realism of the movie, and the classic ending. The movie wasn’t cheesy at all; it told the story in a believable and beautiful way.
I would definitely urge everyone to add Touch of the Light to the top of their must-see lists for AAIFF!