A Foley Artist film review: niche Taiwanese documentary on Hu Ding-yi sheds light on a dying art

Foley artists add sound effects to films, in the past using household items and things they had collected over the years. Computers and audio technology are making these people and their art obsolete. Wang Wan-jo’s film follows Taiwanese veteran Hu Ding-yi and is definitely a niche movie

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 07 February, 2018, 7:03am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 07 February, 2018, 7:16pm

2.5/5 stars

Documentaries about filmmakers and the filmmaking process remain very much a niche offering, even when focusing on the biggest names in the industry. Wang Wan-jo’s film hones in on Taiwanese veteran Hu Ding-yi, a forgotten master of a dying art, still toiling away in the secluded confines of Taiwan’s dying studio system. A Foley Artist, it is fair to say, will draw a very specialist crowd.

Foley is the art of creating sound effects to accompany a film’s dialogue and score, bringing life to the characters and their surroundings on screen. Standard procedure since the introduction of sound, foley artistry has nevertheless remained a mostly unsung element of filmmaking. Today, advancing technologies are making it easier than ever to record usable audio on location, while many additional effects can now be created digitally. Foley artists unable to move with the times risk being left behind.

Film review: Shuttle Life – Malaysian family drama takes unflinching look at poverty and illness

A Foley Artist follows a familiar narrative, celebrating an elderly master craftsman, whose idiosyncratic skill set is on the verge of extinction, as younger generations seem reluctant to embrace it. We see Hu at work in his sound studio, creating everything from footsteps to rainfall using an assortment of household objects collected over a 40-year career.

Wang casts his net wider, exploring other aspects of dubbing and sound design, while attempting to chronicle the history of Taiwanese cinema. But the film seems to accept foley’s fate all too readily, while Wang’s reverential, observational style of filmmaking will only attract wholly committed viewers.

A Foley Artist opens on February 8

Want more articles like this? Follow SCMP Film on Facebook