Pool to Table
Tiny, circular “fishing floats,” attached to baited lines, bob on the water like wayward mini-beach balls. Plastic lawn chairs scrape against the concrete floor, as would-be fishermen shift and wait for the slightest tug. Tinny Mandarin music accompanies the bubbling of large water filters. But the most evocative sound reverberating through Taiwan’s catch-your-own shrimp bars is the sizzle of prawns on the grill.
Most of Taiwan’s shrimp bars are situated on the outskirts of large cities, rather than near the center, because of the proximity to springs. Just a 40-minute drive from downtown Taipei lies a strip of these enterprises, built under mountains and over freshwater sources. Not all shrimp bars are created equal. At one in Taichung, an industrial city on the west coast, the water quality is dubious and the slow-moving shrimp compete with the distracting movements of exotic dancers—a different type of sizzle.
The film is about the very indispensable pastime of shrimping in Taiwan. A leisure activity that I’ve been aware of its existence growing up in Taipei, a twenty year old business. Shrimping has been popularized in the past decade from food celebrities like Anthony Bourdain and Eddie Huang. Unfortunately, because of the exposure; the practice has received many ridicules from foreigners -- its’ uncleanness and older generation claiming it's a gathering ground for mobsters. With all that public perceptions of the activity, it is still the top two activity westerners look forward to experiencing while on the island of Taiwan, the other being the night market. The film is to revisit the old pastime traditions with a modern, aesthetic look at the beauty of these mediation esque sanctuaries. Where architecture and space plays a great deal of importance to the existence of these businesses. Unknowingly, repurposing old factories and warehouses to give life back the concrete shell. Certainly, a place to quiet the noise of the bustling city of Taipei, with the simplicity of you, a pole and a pool of crustaceans.
Directed by Tim Cheng