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Mining Taiwan's Darker History

 
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sunshine
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註冊時間: 2007-09-22
文章: 1909

發表發表於: 星期五 十月 16, 2009 5:19 am    文章主題: Mining Taiwan's Darker History 引言回覆

from: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/10/14/arts/14iht-YONFAN.html?_r=1

By JOYCE HOR-CHUNG LAU
Published: October 13, 2009


HONG KONG — The story usually goes like this: China was taken over by Chairman Mao and became a brutal Communist state. Taiwan broke free and became a vibrant democracy. The ugliness of the last half-century — persecution, martial law, mass execution — happened on the mainland.


“Prince of Tears,” the latest film by the Hong Kong-based director Yonfan (who goes by one name), turns that telling of the story on its head. It is the first major movie in 20 years to explore the “White Terror” that followed Taiwan’s separation from China in 1949. In Taiwan, the ruling Kuomintang, or Nationalist Party, staged anti-Communist witch hunts that killed thousands.

The gorgeously crafted film, set in the 1950s, refers only obliquely to larger politics. Instead, it focuses on daily life in a remote Taiwanese village where anyone — a schoolteacher, a housewife, a soldier — could commit a political faux pas and be sent to the execution squad.

The project originated with the real-life story of the actress Chiao Chiao, a longtime friend and collaborator of Yonfan, whom she met in Hong Kong when she was a starlet there from the ’60s to the ’80s. The actress, who uses only her surname, grew up in Taiwan, but hid her childhood memories of the White Terror for years until she found a confidant in Yonfan, who also grew up in Taiwan in the 1950s. Several years ago, they decided to make a film based on her memories.

“I never spoke of my past until I found someone I trusted,” Chiao Chiao said of Yonfan. “I was so young when it happened and children back then were not allowed to ask questions.”

The film opens with a scene of a perfect-looking family in Taiwan: a handsome air force pilot, his pretty, doting wife and their two girls.

But, after Kafkaesque political complications, the parents are dragged off and the father is killed in a field. As the executioners fire their shots, his daughters hide in the tall grass in a desperate attempt to get one last glimpse of him.

“It begins like a fairy tale, with this beautiful family playing music in the woods,” Yonfan said. “But it’s actually a black fairy tale set during the White Terror.”

The younger sister — the character representing Chiao Chiao — is sent to live with an eerie and physically scarred government agent nicknamed Uncle Ding, whom she suspects is the informer who turned in her father. In a strange turn of events, her mother is released from a prison camp and — under pressure to resume a normal family life and support her girls — gives into advances by Uncle Ding, whom she marries.

“My father really did play the accordion,” Chiao Chiao said in an interview, referring to the idyllic opening scene in which he serenades his daughters. “I remember my mother going away and coming back. I remember being separated from my sister and being sent to live with Uncle Ding in a warehouse. My mother really did remarry. She’s still in Taiwan today and 88 years old.”

While speaking, Chiao Chiao flipped through an album of old family photos and dabbed at her eyes. She had declined to be interviewed during the 2009 Venice Film Festival last month, where “Prince of Tears” had its premiere and was well received, because she found it too difficult.

“Of course there are changes to some details, and my memory is sketchy; but Yonfan captured those feelings,” she said.

In addition to Venice, “Prince of Tears,” which is currently beginning its release in Hong Kong and Taiwan, has also been screened on the festival circuit in Toronto and at the Pusan International Film Festival in South Korea, which runs through Friday. It has also been chosen as Hong Kong’s submission for the Academy Awards for best foreign language film.

At his Hong Kong studio, Yonfan traced a finger over the elaborate model of the set he built for the film, which included an entire village with homes and a school.

“I didn’t need a historic researcher,” said Yonfan. “This was my childhood — the traditional clothes, the handmade food. I remember visiting friends’ homes where relatives had disappeared for seemingly no reason.”


“Prince of Tears” veers between the dreamlike and the nightmarish. The village is painted in exaggerated, almost surreal colors — whether it’s the neon yellow of the killing field, or the electric-blue portrait of Chiang Kai-shek that looms over the village.

While the film is a creative work, and not a documentary, close attention was paid to re-create the sights and sounds of 1950s rural Taiwan.

Yonfan’s crew moved to Taiwan for several months to film the movie on location and hired all the extras locally.

As for the principal actors, Asian moviegoers may recognize a few names: Kenneth Tsang, a veteran Hong Kong actor, plays a cold-hearted Nationalist general, while the Taiwanese actress Terri Kwan is his doomed trophy wife. Chiao Chiao makes a cameo appearance as a prison interrogator.

But many of the cast members are relatively new Taiwanese names, like Joseph Chan, who plays a pilot, and Fan Chih-wei, who plays Uncle Ding.

Zhu Xuan, a Beijing native who had been working in Hong Kong television, has her big-screen debut in the film as Chiao Chiao’s mother, who had fled from the mainland to Taiwan.

“When I heard her voice, her accent, it was perfect,” Chiao Chiao said.

The assistant directors auditioned more than 1,000 rural schoolchildren before they chose Yan Xin-Rou and Cai Pei-Han to play the sisters.

“We wanted kids who were village-y, not professionals,” Yonfan said.

There are parts of “Prince of Tears” that leave the viewer guessing and some of the subplots are never explained.

Yonfan said he did this on purpose, as the tale is told from the perspective of the children, who don’t quite grasp the adult conflicts and motivations going on.

The “Prince of Tears” premiere in Venice coincided with the 20th anniversary of Hou Hsiao-Hsien’s “City of Sadness,” which is the last major film to portray Taiwan’s White Terror.

“Martial law was only lifted in 1987,” said Yonfan, when asked why the subject had been neglected for so long. “After that people wanted lighter films — comedies, romances, kung-fu flicks.”

“This period of history is a scar on the Kuomintang,” he added, referring to the Nationalist Party that regained power in Taiwan, after the Democratic Party lost the 2008 elections.

Yonfan waited until after the vote to release the film. “I didn’t want it to be used as a political vehicle for any party,” he said. “It’s not a film about correcting a political injustice; it’s a film about human frailty.”

The making of the film, and the real lives of the characters that inspired it, are tightly interwoven. In the film, Uncle Ding escorts his friend, the pilot, to his death. After the execution, the agent gets down on his knees and burns paper offerings to the man he felt he had betrayed. After making the film, Yonfan went back to the field where Chiao Chiao’s father is thought have been buried. With him were Chiao Chaio’s sister and Joseph Chang, the actor who played the pilot. “We burned paper offerings,” Yonfan said. “And we prayed to the heavens.”
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sunshine
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註冊時間: 2007-09-22
文章: 1909

發表發表於: 星期五 十月 16, 2009 5:27 am    文章主題: 引言回覆

Taiwan and China



http://www.nytimes.com/2009/10/07/opinion/07iht-edbowring.html?_r=1&scp=2&sq=taiwan&st=cse

HONG KONG — Taiwan’s position as a de facto independent state seems to be morphing very slowly toward the “one country, two systems” status of Hong Kong. The process is not irreversible but the sentiments of those of mainland origin in the governing Nationalist Party, along with the self-interest of business groups and a widespread sense of economic vulnerability are all pushing the island toward accommodation with Beijing.

The trend could mean an erosion in the support Taiwan gets, albeit erratically, from the United States and Japan.

The most striking evidence of a desire to please Beijing — at the expense of the liberal values which have gained Taiwan much praise in recent years — was the denial of entry to the exiled Uighur leader Rebiya Kadeer. This was done in the name of “national interest,” apparently linked to the finalization, expected soon, of a memorandum of understanding on cross-strait financial links.

For sure, the memorandum would be a major advance, enabling banks in particular to escape the confines of Taiwan, with its low growth and surplus savings, for the fast-growing mainland. And it would bring more mainland capital to local stocks and property. But the government of President Ma Ying-jeou may have forgotten that Taiwan’s national interest as an independent state, albeit one that may one day merge with the mainland, sometimes requires sacrifices. The degree of autonomy that Rebiya Kadeer has been seeking for Uighurs is a fraction of that enjoyed by Taiwan or even Hong Kong.

There is real benefit in increasing cross-straits financial links. Banks have much to gain by being able to service clients in Taiwan with business on the mainland. Cross-straits links may attract service industries to Taiwan that would otherwise go to Hong Kong. Mainland tourism is also an unqualified plus.

But Taiwan seems to be talking itself into believing that it is even more dependent on the mainland than need be the case. The island would be a more attractive place for foreign business if it removed the many restrictions that exist to protect local businesses, or stem simply from bureaucracy and outdated rules. Tax issues also tend to keep business offshore while not preventing a huge outflow of capital. The Ma government has made progress on these issues, but they get scant attention compared to cross-straits ones.

It is easy to blame a lackluster economy on being unable to take full advantage of the mainland. But in reality, Taiwan is a mature economy with minimal growth in its work force. Like Japan, its problems lie with an inefficient domestic services sector, not with an inventive export-manufacturing one.

Dependence on China is often overstated. While 40 percent of Taiwan’s exports go there, more than half are components for globally traded items like laptops and cellphones made by Taiwanese companies and then re-exported from China. The dependence is self-imposed for profit reasons, which may be shifting as mainland costs rise. There are alternatives.

Worrying too for friends of Taiwan’s liberal democracy is the vengeance being meted out to the opposition by powerful supporters of the governing Nationalist Party, or KMT. Former president Chen Shui-bian was found guilty of corruption and his conduct has left the opposition Democratic Progressive Party demoralized and frustrated. But given the pervasiveness of money politics and the past reputation of the Nationalists for corruption, the life sentence for Chen is extreme. Now, in the name of fighting corruption, there is talk of a witch-hunt against other members of the Chen administration. To some this smacks of an attempt by pro-unification elements to please Beijing by demonizing Chen, who supported independence and who suffered much in the cause of breaking the KMT’s authoritarian hold on power.

None of this is likely to help Taiwan’s relations with its main supporter, the United States. Chen upset a natural ally in George W. Bush by needlessly provoking Beijing in an attempt to score political points at home. Now the KMT seems to have gone to the other extreme. Taiwan has long disappointed Washington with unwillingness to spend money on arms. Now it may sense a lack of willingness to pay an economic price for the principles of independence and liberalism it claims to stand for. President Ma remains well-regarded abroad, but his grip on the KMT is uncertain. Taiwan lacks a strategic view of itself and how to balance relations with the Chinese mainland, the United States and the global economy with liberal democracy and de facto independence
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