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Xiao shi da kan | Chen Hung-i, 2011
Taiwan | 103 minutes
Contemporary films are no stranger to the presence of virtual communities and social networking sites, typically with a focus on the loneliness of those who spend their time on Facebook in contrast to performing more “healthy” social activities such as going to the multiplex and buying popcorn. Far more rare is the film that captures with an ethnographer’s eye the spirit of an active virtual community, and how it intersects with the lives of its very human participants. Chen Hung-I’s Honey Pupu is an accomplished specimen of the latter variety, a beautifully shot, truly new film that feels like no one over 30 could have made it, let alone understand it.
Overwhelmed by loss after her boyfriend mysteriously vanishes, overnight radio DJ, Vicky (Tseng Peiyu), drifts through her life like it’s a dream, fixated on stories of the missing and the lost—stories she shares with her audience between moody selections of classical music. Stories like: “On Earth, a lot of bees have disappeared. The strange thing is we can’t find the bodies of the dead bees, not even one.” As she attempts to solve the mystery of her boyfriend’s disappearance, she stumbles across an online community where her boyfriend, going by the handle “Dog,” was a regular participant. The site is a digital sanctuary where users contribute lyrical evidence about all the things that have gone missing, from buildings to people. The conspiracy theory that binds them together is the belief that all these missing objects are slipping over into a parallel world.
Vicky reaches out to these online chroniclers of the missing, hoping they’ll help her find out what happened to her boyfriend. As it turns out, Dog’s disappearance is also a mystery to them, and so she tries to bring them together in the real world to help her track him down. But her efforts to force this virtual community to interact in “reality” destroys their delicate ecosystem. As Vicky agitates for answers, her online friends are ripped from the comfort of their own online loneliness, and their delicate digital world falls apart even as new relationships bloom.