Directed by Zhang Young-Pan / 張永攀作品
中文 /// English
Translator: Brian Hioe
This interview came about because of the karma of being acquainted with Zhang Young-Pan, who studies film at Hong Kong Baptist University. In the past, he filmed documentaries, but after the “Jasmine Revolution” incident in 2011 in cities across China, he was held in detention for approximately a month. During his time in prison, he thought about a lot of things, and decided to use film as a way to allow the world to know China’s present and future. As he is currently studying in Hong Kong, his next film will concern Occupy Central.
I’m very to have this opportunity to introduce a series of three short films to Taiwanese audiences. Although these three films are about Hong Kong, as the situation of Taiwan and Hong Kong is closely connected, they may be of interest to Taiwanese viewers and others concerned with Taiwan. These three films are “Bait,” “The Sun is a Red Star,” and “Dog Person.” Accompanying each of these films will be a short interview with the director, please look forward!
Terry Guo: First, can you introduce this present work, “Bait”?
Zhang Young-pan: My work is very concerned with politics, and the situation of people under different political systems. “Bait” is my criticism of the high-level government officials of Hong Kong. In “free” Hong Kong, there are still very few of these kinds of works. There are some who criticize my works as being overly serious, but before discovering my mature style, I will still continue with this kind of work that can be a narrative which provokes critical thinking. I believe this kind of criticality is still valuable and special.
The truth is, I’m not too satisfied with the work, “Bait,” my early concept eventually changed, and some problems emerged in the process of making the film. But I can count it as an achievement as having formally made a film, of which just for planning there were over ten pages of direction. From filming this will I learned a lot, especially the importance of script writing and directing actors, and that the story and the characters of those stories are the most important factors in the success of a film.
TG: How did you first become interested in filmmaking?
ZYP: When I was small, I encountered the village projection team moving chairs and setting up the screen. Afterwards, the important factor that led to my interest in filmmaking was what I saw in movies. I saw quite a few, though I saw more films when I began studying film.
TG: When I finished watching your film, I felt the concept of “dignity” was important. Can you explain your thoughts regarding this?
ZYP: This question brings to mind a particular perspective of thinking. For each of my works, I emphasizing the political factors which impact people. “Dignity” is a protest against humiliation and oppression and asks the question–what is the importance of “dignity” in the face of power? Before the temptations of interest and power, what is the power of resistance that “dignity” offers? Once a normal person has lost “dignity,” in confrontation with the large apparatus of a country, what will happens?
In some sense, “dignity” is equivalent to the concept of the “human.” In a country under the threat of autocracy, a person who strives for “dignity” will still succumb to the slavery of being a just a piece of meat or being a screw in the system, this is a problem that everyone with the capacity of reflection must face.
TG: As of late, you spend most of your time in Hong Kong. How has the environment of Hong Kong affected you? And what are your views towards Hong Kong?
ZYP: Before I came to Hong Kong, I felt Hong Kong was very free, but as I came to understand Hong Kong more deeply, I came to feel that the freedom of Hong Kong was in peril. The present Hong Kong is already covered in “red spots”, which are increasing in size, and getting bigger.
Hong Kong is the place where I live my life now, so I have to think of ways to defend her freedom, and do what I can within my abilities for her. Because if Hong Kong loses its freedom, it wouldn’t be Hong Kong anymore.
TG: Can you discuss yourself a bit?
ZYP: In the past in mainland China, I filmed some documentaries with other people, but after the “Jasmine Revolution” incident, I was arrested for “inciting trouble” and was detained for a month. When I was in jail, I began to contemplate my life very thoroughly. I felt my life up to that point had been a failure, a slate of confusion, and that I had experienced many things in vain. So I felt that if I could get out, I would have to make films using my experiences, feelings, and realizations to speak out. I would use narrative in my heroes experiences of glory and humiliation as a way to speak out in depicting the reality of China, in using film to let the world know of China’s present and future. When I got out of jail, I began to write a screenplay and left school to prepare filming. As a result, with luck, I got into Hong Kong Baptist University Film School.
TG: Did you come to Taiwan in the past before? Or is this your first time to come to Taiwan? And if you had to point to three shortcomings of Taiwan, what would you point to?
ZYP: To date, I’ve been to Taiwan twice. The first time was to go to Taipei for a meeting, the time I had to stay was shorter, this time is longer, and I was able to go to more places and understand things more deeply.
如果硬要我說出三個台灣的缺點，我會說：一，可能是地理的原因，一般的台灣人都很難想的比較廣闊和長遠。就像曾到過大陸生活的花蓮導遊說的，他有一次看到大陸一張縣城的報紙上登廣告寫“一人一塊錢買非洲”，這讓他覺得很不可思議，台灣人很難有這種思維。我聽說台灣現在台灣對大陸的貿易依賴度已經將近一半，而且有不少大陸的財團來台灣買地。聽說花蓮市長做中介，一下子賣給「大陸首騙」陳光標 60 頃土地。包括「服貿」在內，這很明顯是中共政府利用經濟手段在控制台灣。台灣的政治高層真的這麼蠢看不出來嗎？台灣的民眾對此也沒有體會嗎？我覺得台灣的年輕人應該多出來走走，到廣闊的地方去生活一下，長期呆在富裕而狹小的台灣，看世界的思維也可能會比較狹隘。
If I were to point to three shortcomings of Taiwan, I would say: First, it might because of geography. The average Taiwanese has more difficulty thinking of things in the long-term and the in larger picture. Like a tour guide from Hualien who had lived in the mainland said to me that the first time he went to the mainland he saw a newspaper whose headline said, “One man, one RMB, can buy Africa,” which shocked him. Taiwanese people have a hard time comprehending something like that.
I’ve heard that Taiwanese trade is already dependent upon China by over fifty percent, and there are more than just a few mainland Chinese financial groups that come to Taiwan to buy land. I’ve also heard that in Hualien, the mayor has acted as an intermediary for selling 60 ares of land to Chinese business. Including the content of free trade, it becomes increasingly obvious that the Chinese government is using the economy to control Taiwan. Are the high-level officials of the Taiwanese government too stupid to notice this? Do the Taiwanese people have experience with this kind of problem?
I feel Taiwanese young people should travel more and have broader experiences living in different places, in the long-term, otherwise their ability for reflecting upon these problems will be too narrow.
Second, culture has become entertainment only. This kind of phenomenon has several causes: the first is that some media groups are already controlled by Chinese capital. The other is something that Taiwanese people need to reflect upon: under the condition in which people are obsessed with entertainment, are they unwilling to confront the present reality? Whether through forceful suppression or becoming used to an easy life, people will lose the ability to change as well as their courage to change.
As for the third shortcoming, let me think about it in more detail the next time I go to Taiwan.