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International conference proves another world of TV is possible

I first became a fan of INPUT while attending the Best of Input at CBC television. For one weekend of the year, I could see an extraordinary range of television from around the world. Best of Input was also a place to see and speculate about trends. I remember watching the first “off the Island,” reality show. It was produced in Scandinavia and the initial contestant kicked off the island returned home and committed suicide. The series was pulled. Next year the concept was all over American television, and although many viewers may have been driven to thoughts of suicide, it seems none of the American contestants have.

Each Best of Input left me wanting more– wanting to see the whole festival. I was delighted when I won the CMG draw to go to INPUT 2005 in San Francisco. Finally I would get to see the real thing! Unfortunately a strike by hotel workers meant that, as a CMG delegate, I couldn’t cross a picket line to get in to the conference. However CMG agreed to carry the prize over and, as luck would have it, INPUT 2006 was to be the first Asian INPUT in Taiwanese capital Teipei.

I was able to arrange to do some filming in Taipei the week before the conference, so was lucky enough to explore things like the night markets, with their sumptuous food stands, and the Saturday jade market (held under a freeway,) before the conference opened. The warmth and friendliness of the Taiwanese made the city a delight to explore. Its spotlessly clean subway system and the orderly queue of patrons getting on and off the trains made me thoroughly ashamed when I came home and entered the grotty mess known as the TTC!

Our Taiwanese hosts spared no expense in creating a memorable INPUT. The venue was The International Conference Centre which lies in the shadow of Taipei 101, the world’s tallest building. In fact, the food floor of Taipei 101 quickly became the most popular luncheon spot for delegates and animated discussions about morning screenings could be heard over the lunchtime conversations in Mandarin. There were various excursions organized including a night-time visit to the National Palace Museum and a rollicking party with a Hakka fusion band in the ballroom of the opulent Grand Hotel.

The five-day conference was packed with screenings that brought together an extraordinary feast of public television. While public television everywhere seems to be under assault, it is reassuring to see the range of creativity and ingenuity brought to the screen in Taipei. Shows ranged from the magnificent “The Score,” by Vancouver director Kim Collier, to Pola Rappaport’s “The Story of O.” Another gut-wrenching piece of documentary filmmaking, La Sierra, will open this year’s Best of INPUT.

Thinking Allowed is a fine example of the kind of things you see at INPUT and nowhere else. Indian director Judhajit Sarkar deconstructs Mother Theresa of Calcutta in a way that will make adherents squirm and thoughtful people question who we valorize and why.

Even more important than the films themselves was the opportunity to meet and compare notes with people who are passionate about public television and the kinds of things we do that are done nowhere else. The next INPUT will be held in Lugano Switzerland and, while I doubt that the food will match Taiwan’s, get there if you can because I’m sure there will be new delights on the screens. Click here to find out more.

Robert Prowse works at TVOntario and attended INPUT 2006 with the support of the CMG.

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