Hot Docs 2017 The Silent Teacher

Hot Docs 2017: The Silent Teacher Review

International Spectrum 

In Taiwan, silent teachers are cadavers used by medical schools to teach anatomy. The particular silent teacher is a loved mother and wife who died of cancer. Her body was donated to Fu Jen Catholic University (FJU) and has been in storage for two years, waiting for the right anatomy class to come along.

The widower, a swimming coach, says he’s here to see his wife. He visits his wife in the school morgue and talks to her as if he was doing the cinematic equivalent of a graveyard visit. He tells her about his day and what he has been doing lately. He talks about the kids and his hopes for them. It’s obvious he loves her very much.

This documentary by Maso Chen is a quiet, contemplative one. It is about the sacrifices and hopes we have. The sacrifice of a “pure” body for burial, and the postponement of closure (funeral services are not held until after the body is finished teaching). The hopes for a new medical class learning how to respect those they will work with and that, one day, they can prevent cancers like this one from taking lives.

I was expecting a documentary along the lines of Mary Roach’s Stiff, with facts and figures about medical school, and instead got a private one about a father and his family in mourning. I was not necessarily in the right frame of mind, I’m afraid, and this documentary caught me by surprise.

“I’m here to see my wife,” he says. He tells his friends that his wife is a teacher, but not the subject (at least not right away). His wife is a teacher, and so is he. I’m not finished taking their course, and this warrants a repeat viewing for me under better viewing conditions.

Accessibility Note: This was my first film with Captiview that I saw at Hot Docs ’17. It worked well, but was not as needed since the film is subtitled – just not the sound effects, which are displayed on the machine.

Screening:

Thu, Apr 27 9:15 PM TIFF Bell Lightbox 4

Fri, Apr 28 3:00 PM Scotiabank Theatre 3

Sat, May 6 5:45 PM Scotiabank Theatre 13

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