Review of the Film, “Finding Sayun” (2011, Taiwan) — The North Star Reports – by Samantha Roettger. Sponsored by The College of St. Scholastica and The Middle Ground Journal

Review of Finding Sayun [不一樣的月光] Directed by Chen Chieh-yao [陳潔瑤] Taiwan, 2011.


Good story-tellers from any culture tell stories through appealing to the emotions of others. Whether it is through humor, tragedy, or ever-lasting love, they portray a story through these strong emotions. With adding in emotion to the story, the story is often dramatized to attract the attention of the viewer. In the Taiwanese film “Finding Sayun”, a range of emotions are used to connect the viewer to the story. We see emotions from teenage love and rejection, loss of a family member, and the humor of the young. It is through these emotions that people, from any point on the globe, can connect to one another.

The film starts with a film crew accidentally capturing the death of a Taiwanese man falling off a car over a bridge. This immediately captures the attention of the viewer. The group filming decided to show the film to the man’s family and attend the funeral. Despite this man and his family not being the main subject of the film, we already connect emotionally to the family and the film. Continuing on their journey, the group of filmmakers follows the lives of a few aborigine families in a small village in Taiwan. They mostly follow the teenagers of the village so the viewer can then connect with the underlying theme of Finding Sayun and understanding her as a Taiwanese teenager. Sayun was the most beautiful girl in her class who tragically fell to her death in a stream while carrying her Japanese teacher’s belongings during the setting of World War II, when Japan still occupied Taiwan. How accurate this story is, is hard to determine. The story comes from the grandfather of one of the main characters who was a classmate of Sayun. It is hard not to believe the elderly man’s story of Sayun because of his affection toward the young girl, but at the same time, stories are often exaggerated. The old man changed his identification of Sayun throughout the film which does not make him a completely reliable source. The only other criticism of this fictional film is that an idea or phrase may be misinterpreted due to the indirect translation to English subtitles.

Fictional films are often times criticized when used in K-12 classrooms: for example, fictional films are not always accurate, therefore they may be considered a waste of valuable class time. As a future K-12 teacher, I do see learning opportunities in using fictional films. For example, students will be more engaged in the film if it is entertaining. If the film has characteristics like humor or teenage love, students will be more inclined to pay attention and learn the information being presented in this more creative approach. Students may actually learn more from a fictional film than from a non-fictional documentary simply due to the fact that they will pay attention to it more. Students will become immersed in the plot, characters, and setting. Since schools cannot bring their students to any place on the planet, film is a way to bring the world to the classroom. This may sound cliché, but after viewing Finding Sayun, I have a deeper understanding of not only Taiwanese aborigines but also the physically demanding landscape of the island. So once the students connect to the story, they will be able to use critical thinking skills to determine fact from fiction. Critical thinking skills are one of the most important life skills to have and it is also difficult to teach. Through fictional films, students will learn how to better use critical thinking skills to identify conflict, biases, and make inferences about the film. In a historical fiction film, students will consider the different types of interpretations of history. Studying different interpretations of history will allow students to reflect on their own role in history and the world.

The use of fictional films in the classroom teach students to identify with others from anywhere on the globe. Students will learn compassion and empathy through viewing fictional films. In Finding Sayun, I learned that no matter the hundreds of thousands of miles that separate Taiwan from Minnesota, human beings are very similar. Elders are respected, teenagers flirt, and children play hide and go seek. Fictional films connect the viewer to the characters through using emotions that anyone can relate to. Despite some inaccuracies, fictional film is beneficial to classroom use. [From Professor Liang’s Spring 2015 World History Seminar.]

For additional information, see:

Please contact Professor Liang if you wish to write for The North Star Reports — HLIANG (at)

See also, our Facebook page with curated news articles at

The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy, The Middle Ground Journal and The College of St. Scholastica’s collaborative outreach program with K-12 classes around the world. We acknowledge North Star Academy of Duluth, Minnesota as our inaugural partner school, and the flagship of our program. We also welcome Duluth East High School and other schools around the world. The North Star Reports has flourished since 2012. For a brief summary, please see the American Historical Association’s Perspectives on History, at:

The North Star Reports publishes edited essays from our students, particularly from those who are currently stationed, or will soon be stationed abroad. Students have reported from Mongolia, Southern China, Shanghai, northeastern China, The Netherlands, Tanzania, Ireland, England, Finland, Russia, and Haiti. We also have students developing reviews of books, documentaries, and films, projects on historical memory, the price individuals pay during tragic global conflicts, and analysis of current events from around the world. We will post their dispatches, and report on their interactions with the North Star Reports students and teachers.

We thank The Department of History and Politics and the School of Arts and Letters of The College of St. Scholastica for their generous financial support for The North Star Reports and The Middle Ground Journal.

Hong-Ming Liang, Ph.D., Chief Editor, The Middle Ground Journal, Associate Professor of History and Politics, The College of St. Scholastica, Duluth, MN, USA

(c) 2012-present The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy The NSR is sponsored by The Middle Ground Journal and The College of St. Scholastica. See Masthead for our not-for-profit educational open- access policy. K-12 teachers, if you are using these reports for your classes, please contact chief editor Professor Liang at HLIANG (at)


Filed under History, Professor Hong-Ming Liang, Professor Liang's Classes

17 responses to “Review of the Film, “Finding Sayun” (2011, Taiwan) — The North Star Reports – by Samantha Roettger. Sponsored by The College of St. Scholastica and The Middle Ground Journal

  1. Zach Friederichs

    Very cool article. You make an excellent point in saying that the students are likely to learn more from fictional films due to the simple fact that they’ll pay more attention. Also, the students’ ability to critically analyze and make inferences between the film and actual life is a very important skill to develop.

  2. David Miler

    Great job Sammi on writing this piece. Having watched this movie before i feel that you have done a wonderful job in depicting the message of the movie. Keep up the good work.

  3. Chelsey L

    Very interesting and cool article. I like how you explain on emotions and also how you talk about the global. Also making films for people of the younger generation will be able to pay more attention

  4. Carley Henning

    I agree with your opinion and that fictional videos/movies can relate to a variety of people. Teenagers especially, really won’t understand something unless they see it actually happen to someone. That being said, I think fictional movies provide a realistic scenario where teenagers can truly understand what the message is.

  5. Benjamin Carlson

    Using a fictional setting to teach very real ideologies and philosophies is something that can be found throughout history. Examples specific to our generation are the Dr. Seuss story and even the Harry Potter series. These help us stretch our imagination and keep us fixed on the content, leaving us with a deeper understanding of friendship, love and hardship. Thank you for sharing!

  6. Luke S

    I really like your connection between emotion and storytelling. I think that is such a universal concept, the appeal through human emotion, that it should be more widely accepted in the classroom. A lot can be learned from well-developed fictional characters, possibly more so than from a film that is entirely accurate.

  7. Becca

    I’m glad you decided to write this review! I love how you connected it to education. I agree with you that movies such as this give students the opportunity to learn, even when they may not realize immediately how much they are actually learning, since they are being entertained. Awesome review!

  8. Emily Schiro

    This is a great article because you are absolutely right that we do connect on an emotional level with movies. We as humans are very empathetic when it comes to emotions. I also agree that if a movie is entertaining we will stay engaged and learn something from the movie.

  9. Andy Lawrence

    This is a great article because this has a lot to do with the debate of using videos in the classroom. I believe that using fictional movies can help in the classroom because entertaining the students is very important

  10. Josie Thao

    Stories are a gift to the memory. I think what makes fictional characters so appealing is that there is room for development. I enjoyed watching the movie in class as well but it was not how I envisioned a part of Taiwan to be depicted. I had such a soft spot for the grandfather because I could empathize with him as I witness my grandparents yearning for their motherland.

  11. Kyle Hellmann

    I also enjoyed the movie Finding Sayun, and learned a lot more than what I thought I was going to. I like how you point out that fiction films are often more knowledgeable, as the context is just as important as the story line. As one of my siblings is a teacher, I will gladly share this knowledge with her! Thanks for sharing Sami!

  12. Ada

    Thank you for sharing your analysis! I really liked how you incorporate K-12 classroom teaching in it and advocate for the inclusion of more fictional films to foster critical thought. Movie time in school settings is always incredibly enjoyable, and if teachers manage to make it more educational and though provoking it would be very beneficial for students.

  13. “Students may actually learn more from a fictional film than from a non-fictional documentary simply due to the fact that they will pay attention to it more.”
    Great point, throughout my college life I have come to discover that we usually do well in subjects we are particularly interested in. It when we grow to enjoy a topic that we begin to appreciate it and focus. Same with films, people will tend to pay attention and learn when something is entertaining.

  14. Eleni

    Appealing to a person’s emotions is a very effective way of getting them to notice/act on things. Like you said it is what makes a story great and relatable. As for the credibility of the story, we often see things being distorted and changing over time even in our own memories, but I still think this one is an important story to tell. Even though it is fictional it does teach people around the world the experience people went through and that in the end we are all human.

  15. Thomas Landgren

    I really liked how you pointed out that fiction films are also full of knowledge and also have more knowledge at times. I feel like many kids will pay attention to a fictional movie because it just has a totally different feeling to the experience of watching it compared to a monotone documentary. I feel like a idea that is fairly common but rarely used is, if a something is entertaining people will always pay attention and even take things away from it. Great Article!

  16. Breena Alfredson

    I was very interested in your ideas about using fictional movies in the classroom. While I think that media like movies is so mindless, it is such a part of our lives we almost have to consider using it in the classroom. As for fiction being more engaging then non, I think you’re on to something. I definitely remember certain fictional movies making things stick in my head, ie., The Prince of Egypt, Pocahontas, etc.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.