Review: Green Island
Green Island is not only a well-researched and informative work, but also a well-written one. Spanning a period in Taiwanese history from the 228 Massacre to the 2003 SARS crisis as told through the lens of the protagonist’s personal experience, Green Island ably tells the story of Taiwan’s authoritarian period.
Questions of Art and Politics In The Controversy Over Ten Years
Hong Kong film Ten Years would have come to the world’s attention after unexpectedly winning best film at the Hong Kong Film Awards. A dystopian speculative fiction film about Hong Kong in the near future under Chinese rule, the win has provoked controversy. What is controversial is the unorthodox nature of its victory and the questions of art and politics which are at stake.
That Day, On the Beach
Along with the In Our Time omnibus released in 1982—to which Edward Yang contributed a short, That Day, On the Beach set the groundwork for much of the Taiwanese New Wave of films to come. The early years of the 1980s were a time of rapid technological development in Taiwan, particularly Taipei. While his contemporary and fellow pioneer, Hou Hsiao-hsien zeroed in on the plights found in the countryside, Edward Yang held a fascination with the lives of affluent city-dwellers—one that would span his entire filmography.
Seeds: Japanese Volunteers at the Tainan Earthquake Site
On February 13th, at the Tainan earthquake disaster site, I saw about 20 Japanese volunteers wearing Taiwan Presbyterian Church vests with Japanese flags displayed on their clothes or badges. In the supply section, the Japanese volunteers outnumbered the Taiwanese volunteers. I spoke to a few of them, and the common sentiment among the Japanese volunteers was that the felt compelled to help with the rescue effort, since Taiwan donated the most money out of all the nations in the aftermath of 3.11 earthquake that ravaged Japan back in 2011.
二月十三日，維冠大樓災區，我看見大約二十位身穿台灣長老教會背心，在衣服或吊牌上別著日本國旗的志工。物資站裡，日本籍志工人數也比台灣籍的還多。我與其中幾位交流以後發現，他們的共同認為幫助台灣救災是極其重要的事，尤其是日本311地震時，臺灣捐贈的金額是所有捐款國家中最多的。現居於台南的職業撞球選手–北山亞紀子 (Akiko Kitayama) 表示”當人們遭遇困難時，我們就要伸出援手。即使彼此互不相識，你也會幫助。更何況現在是有恩於我們的人們，當然要幫忙。日本與臺灣將會成為永遠的摯友。”
Seeds: Notes from Earthquake Relief Efforts At the Site of the Disaster on February 12th
The relief workers and volunteers came from all over Taiwan. Some came from as far as Japan and Korea. Many had not slept for days. Some slept on the floor. One could easily fall asleep due to exhaustion. Survivors had not been found for more than a day. At around 2 AM, we heard that a survivor was found. Everyone was emotional and many cried. We eventually found out that the information was wrong, but a puppy was rescued. Christians. Daoists. Buddhists. Police officers. Firefighters. Rescue workers. Nurses. Volunteers. Monks. Activists. Soldiers. All working, resting, or standing by.
史明。九十七歲的年輕人。充滿生命。今天去投票。我遇到他時，他在運動車上運動。他知道我是去那攝影，說了一句，”辛苦了“，來問候我。他坐下來，跟我談。很高興聽到他的知識。他的智慧。他對歷史的專長。很大方得，給了我他的知識，也很有耐心得解釋當臺灣人的意義，我們的歷史，與中國的不同。一位有幫中國共產黨做事的左派革命家。問了他對中國共產黨的意見。他說，他們是獨裁者。人民想要自由，卻被殺了。幾十萬人賠了生命。從史明聽到中國的威脅, 有真實感，因為，他親自體會了這些暴行。 所以，他是一位熱心民進黨支持者。
Seeds: Su Beng
Su Beng. 97 years young. Full of life. Went to the polls today. I met him while he’s on his exercising bike, exercising. Knowing I went there to photograph him, greeted me with, xing kuo le, a Taiwanese expression for gratitude. He sat down and spoke with me. I was very happy to hear his knowledge. And wisdom. And his expertise in history. Generous with his time, he patiently explained what it means to be Taiwanese, how our history is different from that of China. A leftist revolutionary who also worked for the the Chinese Communists. Asked about them, he remarked that they’re authoritarians. People wanted freedom, and they killed them. Tens of millions. Dead. Threat from China coming from Su Beng, become real, as he personally witnessed the atrocities. Hence an ardent supporter of the DPP.
SDP’s Chen Shang-chih Election Ads Go Viral
By all appearances, Taipei Legislative candidate Chen Shang-chih is a mild-mannered, bookish professor. He has a deliberative speaking style that seems more suited to a life of academia, than for a candidate running for a seat in Taiwan’s Legislative Yuan formerly owned by notorious rumour-mongering KMT legislator Alex Tsai. But a series of new Facebook campaign videos has put Chen in the media spotlight by cutting through his seemingly shy demeanour to reveal a gift for deadpan comic delivery that is unique for a legislative candidate.
Aesthetic and Political Experimentalism in 2016 Election Campaigning by the DPP and Third Force Parties
It may be interesting to note the biggest winners of 2016 elections will probably be those political parties who were most aesthetically effective, as well as inventive, in their approaches to political campaigning. As should obvious at this point, it will be the DPP that takes the presidency under Tsai Ing-Wen. Moreover, of the Third Force parties, it will likely be the New Power Party which wins the most.
The KMT Attempting to Stir Up Intergenerational Conflict?
A recent video uploaded by the KMT on Facebook focuses on the idea of intergenerational conflict. Recent events that have occurred in Taiwan, mostly issues that rose out of the Sunflower Movement led by students, are framed in the ad as an attack against those of the older generation. Why would the KMT attempt to provoke intergenerational conflict?
Aesthetics and Politics in 2016 Presidential Campaign Ads
Recent campaign ads by Chu and Tsai are revealing of the priorities of the KMT and DPP in the current presidential election. In examining these ads, we can point to how both parties are aiming at appealing to certain target demographics, particularly young voters. The DPP has largely been more successful the KMT in this regard.
When Heavy Metal Meets Activist Politics
Freddy Lim’s concert held at Freedom Plaza in Taipei on December 26th has drawn international attention on the basis of the unusual nature of a political rally which was, in part, a concert by a heavy metal band. The concert was also to mark the twentieth anniversary of Chthonic. Though Freddy Lim is currently an electoral candidate of the New Power Party, Lim originally rose to fame as frontman of symphonic black metal band Chthonic. We may more broadly view this concert as expressive of the past two year’s development of youth culture, aesthetics, and politics.
Shinsuke Ogawa and Kidlat Tahimik’s Confluence of Image
26 years ago, on October 15, 1989, a group of Asian filmmakers at the first Yamagata International Documentary Film Festival in Yamagata, Japan published the “Asian Documentary Filmmaker’s Manifesto”. This was far from the first public manifesto of Asian filmmakers, but it was the first manifesto of Asian documentary filmmakers which became well known internationally. It is hard to say how many still remember it, but the Manifesto is far from being a relic consigned to museums. The difficulties facing filmmakers described in the manifesto still exist today, and so the words of the Manifesto still have relevance to the present. Within the connections formed at the 1989 Yamagata International Documentary Film Festival, was that of Kidlat Tahimik and Shinsuke Ogawa, whose connection was particularly special.
The Taiwanese Television Series Bao Qingtian in Context of Thailand’s (Un)Democracy
That the Thai government manages to bring Taiwanese television series Justice Bao to Thai screens again and again is revealing. The central ideals of Justice Bao are what the present military regime would like to instill within Thai citizens. The screening of the series Justice Bao is ideologically sound, since not only does the character Bao help the government in a favorable light, as upholding justice and rooting out corruption, but the series propagates the continuation of the class system nonetheless.
Hou Hsiao-Hsien’s “The Assassin” and The Pro-Unification Left
What are the politics that undergird Hou Hsiao-Hsien’s The Assassin, which has been much fêted on the film festival circuit? Are they ultimately the politics of Taiwan’s pro-unification Left? It is interesting to note that Hou Hsiao-Hsien first came to international attention because he was seen as a quintessentially “Taiwanese” film director, as the director of the first depiction of the White Terror in City of Sadness and in that way as an incisive critic of KMT authoritarianism. But in years since, Hou has gone from resisting the KMT to becoming a voice of the pro-unification Left.
The Transformation of Modern Chinese Landscape Painting
The transformation of Chinese landscape painting should not only can be seen as a history of incorporation with Western style, but also should be regarded as the psychological molding process of building a culture’s subjectivity, in which artists contribute to the construction of national nostalgia and a literature of tragedy.
Sun Yat-Sen: Personification of China
Telling of present ideological imperatives of the Chinese state may be recent depictions of Sun Yat-Sen in Chinese media. The deployment of Sun Yat-Sen is to serve as the personification of an ideal for today’s China—the internationally-oriented revolutionary founding father of a country whose gaze is increasingly set on the international world.
李惠仁導演《蘋果的滋味》於今年的四月底在蘋果日報員工餐廳進行首映後，於公視播出，五月初已在 YouTube 上線。李惠仁導演繼《睜開的左眼》後，再次以媒體生態為題材，片中從壹傳媒最惡名昭彰、為人詬病的經營方式和媒體商品的探討出發，時間軸一拉十年多，不但見證了黎智英媒體帝國底下壹電視的起步和結束，更是映照出各種事件彼此重疊和相互呼應下，政治與媒體間不得不牽起的緊密關聯性。李惠仁導演進到壹傳媒集團的內部核心拍攝，訪問了不同位階的員工、上司乃至黎智英，卻拍出壹傳媒一直企圖想攻破的台灣大媒體生態、甚至是兩岸三地政治和媒體之間微妙的轉變和角力關係。十年多的時間，不長也不短，但一把十年間媒體生態中發生的事情濃縮在這一小小蘋果中，其中所投射出來複雜的光譜可能就如同紀錄片《蘋果的滋味》中所敘述的一樣：「蘋果咬一口，滋味如何？台灣人最懂。」《破土》有幸於李惠仁導演七月初在紐約的一場「如何發揮公民力量：林祖儀、Freddy、李惠仁之公民練功堂」論壇前訪問導演。
Yearning for Home: An Internal or External Threat?
Since the Chinese economic miracle, the Taiwanese film industry has been awash with Chinese money. Such opportunistic investment in Taiwanese films may be view as a form of assistance, but underneath that surface, something darker lurks: soft power diplomacy. We might examine several examples found in recent films.
Revisiting Jackie Chan: Man of the Chinese Communist Party?
It is a question whether or not Jackie Chan is playing the role of the Chinese Communist Party’s spokesman in recent film. Indeed, during the Umbrella Movement in Hong Kong, Chan said “Hong Kong has become a city of protest […] People scold China’s leaders or anything else they like and protest against anything”. This is illustrative of how he significantly involves himself in China politics. More specifically, we might examine how the depiction of masculinity in the film 1911 sets forth certain ideals for its audience, in prescription with cultural values that the CCP would like to offer as ideals.
Neoliberalism and Queer Cinema
Like Love is the first mainland Chinese LGBT-themed movie in mainstream cinema. But can we point to an underlying neoliberal ideology within the film? Westernized individuals serve as protagonists, and the environments they inhabit are also highly westernized. The movie represents its protagonists in a chic-Western fashion, noticeably in their clothes and haircuts. Such establishments as houses, dorms and airport are trendsetting; almost nothing is of local tone.
山形影展、小川紳介和 Kidlat Tahimik 的烏托邦影像合流
Profile: FoxCarn & the Betel Store
FoxCarn & the Betel Store will be the China and Taiwan regional project for Burning Man 2015. The project will feature “worker” participants drawn from Burning Man attendees, who will make Apple parody products as part of an interactive art installation in which participants will experience working in an electronics factory meant to draw parallel to the real-life Foxconn, complete with a robotic overseer arm overhead. New Bloom caught up by e-mail with Ian Rowen, whom we previously interviewed regarding his experiences as one of the few individuals to participate in both the Sunflower Movement and the Umbrella Movement regarding the project.
Seeds: James Lane
Mr. Lane is a political activist who has run for elections, so the title of “political activist” is a distinction he makes a point of emphasizing because he does not believe in “politicians”. I asked Mr. Lane what activism is, and he answered candidly, “Being an activist usually means planning protests and actions and hoping to get on TV. You finish one protest and then move on to the next one.” Mr. Lane finds this narrowly defined activism limiting and would like see more activists to take activism to a different battlefield – the ballot box. Mr. Lane understands why many activists stay away from electoral politics, as the election process has generally speaking, yielded very poor candidates and politicians who beg for votes during election and do not do anything for the community once elected. However, Mr. Lane questions the refusal to engage in the electoral process, as voting is the most concrete and direct way to effect policy changes in the system of representative democracy.
《瘋狂麥斯：憤怒道》這部科幻動作片，是我鮮少會花錢進戲院觀看的種類，卻讓我大為驚豔。無庸置疑，這是一部融合了所有能夠滿足好萊塢動作片粉元素的大合集：純種英國猛男、世界末日劇情、軍閥戰爭、武裝車隊撞廝殺場景、澳大利亞沙漠、衣衫不整的種族不明美女、硬蕊金屬樂。有趣的是，在電影上檔後，竟然引起美國男權主義份子（Men’s Rights Activists，一個仇恨女性的婉轉說法）在部落格上的大崩潰。Aaron Clarey在《Return of Kings》的部落客上寫到：「我們不僅僅該拒絕去看這部電影，更應該傳達消息給越多男人越好…如果讓《憤怒道》成為了賣座鉅片，那麼你，我，和所有其他的男人（以及真正的女人），將永遠無法看到一部真正的動作電影，不包含任何要命的政治演說或者女性主義教條，社運狂熱份子，和社會主義。……美國和世界各地的男人將被爆炸物、火焰炫風、還有沙漠機車給騙去接受這部除了女性主義政治宣傳外，沒有任何內容的電影，同時間看著自己被眼睜睜地侮辱，並見證美國文化被破壞和竄改。」
Fresh Off The Boat in Retrospect
Despite having finished its first season’s run and having been renewed for a second season, the future of Fresh Off The Boat would seem to be up in the air. Though receiving no small amount of praise from Asian-Americans in the US early on, its run as a show depicting Asian-American experience through its portrayal of food personality Eddie Huang’s “Taiwanese-Chinese-American” experience, critical consensus is now divided.
Film Notes: Don’t Think I’ve Forgotten
“Don’t Think I’ve Forgotten” is a film that celebrates pre-revolution Cambodian music culture. The film frames Cambodia’s ‘lost’ trove of rock and roll music in the obvious historical context of the Vietnam War and the rise of the Khmer Rouge. The film is a stock cultural-historical documentary looking at a kitsch cultural phenomenon in a foreign country. But is the film’s narrative of Cambodian rock and roll too simplistic?
Seeds: Kiki L. Park
Kiki L. Park is an organizer for the Taiwanese community in New York City. She is involved in many organizations, such as Cafe Philo New York and Taiwanese American Association in New York. She also organized 330 Global Taiwan Solidarity to support the Sunflower movement in 2014, a vigil to support Lin Yi-Hsiung’s hunger strike against Gongliao Reactor #4, and many other events in New York City.
Film Notes: 太陽，不遠 Sunflower Occupation
With social movements, it seems that once recognition of a movement’s historical significance sets in, so, too, does the impulse to document the movement for posterity. It is from this impulse that the documentary film about the Sunflower Movement, 太陽，不遠 Sunflower Occupation (“The Sun is Not Far”) came into being, produced by the Taipei Documentary Filmmakers’ Union. It is as such that directors and filmmakers were among those filming the Sunflower Movement and were allowed insider access to crucial events occurring inside the Legislative Yuan. But, ultimately, the documentary may be an uneven one.
Seeds: Hertencia Petersen
Hertencia Petersen is the aunt of Akai Gurley, who was murdered by NYPD officer, Peter Liang, on November 20th, 2014. This is a letter written by her to Taiwanese activists in solidarity and the second installment of Seeds, a column featuring activists and their causes.
Film Notes: Red Sorgum (紅高粱)
After a series of films studying rural areas and living in them, director Zhang Yimou was given permission by novelist Mo Yan to film a carte blanche adaptation of Red Sorghum. The result is a life-affirming film that functions as a shallow critique of contemporary Chinese life. Despite or because of its aesthetic value, the movie’s dissemination into Chinese popular culture and the ideology it professes makes it an interesting subject of critical reflection.
Interview: I Have It Maid (快跑三十六小時)
On January 7th, New Bloom’s Brian Hioe interviewed Alex Wolfgram, director of I Have It Maid, a documentary about runaway Filipino migrant workers in Taiwan. The documentary focuses the story of one migrant worker in particular, Vicky, but also more broadly details the process by which Filipino migrant workers come to Taiwan.
哈欽斯先生是紐約當地的社會運動者。他的工作是擔任「遊民想像」（Picture the Homeless) 的研究員、發言人與代表，遊民想像是一個為遊民公民權、就業與居住問題努力的組織。哈欽斯先生對遊民問題有廣泛的研究，曾在抗議與示威活動當過發言人，亦曾以遊民想像組織代表的身分會見政府官員。他也參與過反戰的示威，「重視黑人生命」（Black Lives Matter）運動與佔領華爾街運動。除了是社會運動者外，他也是劇作家、編劇家與古典歌劇歌唱家。他有電影研究碩士學位，也完成了三部舞台劇劇本與五部電影劇本。
Seeds: Scott A. Hutchins
Mr. Hutchins is a NYC based activist. As an activist, he works as a researcher, spokesperson, and representative for Picture the Homeless, an organization that works around homeless people’s job, housing, and civil rights issues. Mr. Hutchins has done extensive research around civil rights and housing issues, spoken at protests and rallies, and met with government officials as a Picture the Homeless representative.
Fresh Off the Boat and the Limits of Cultural Representation
Premiering in early February, Eddie Huang’s Fresh Off the Boat has been hailed as not only something for Asian-America, but for mainstream American television overall. Detailing a “Taiwanese-American” family after a move to Florida, the show follows the acculturation of an Asian family to the norms of America. Apart from being one of the first representations of Asian-Americans on mainstream American television, the show has been hailed as a historic victory for Asian-Americans who have struggled to find representation in the popular media. But can we be more critical?
The Search for General Tso
The Search for General Tso is the latest food documentary to use food as a symbol through which to explore a culture at once familiar and exoticized. Tso is the kind of film that will end up on Netflix queues and consumed by businessmen on United Flights to Asian Pacific countries. The film exceeds in utilizing the titular dish to introduce elementary historical topics to its viewers despite its lack of compelling footage to accompany its major ‘discoveries’. In this sense the documentary is a spoonful of sugar for the oft painful narratives that define Asian immigration to the United States.
Film and Interview: Bait / 誘餌
Interview: Ian Thomas Ash
On August 9th in Tokyo, Japan, New Bloom’s Brian Hioe sat down with documentary filmmaker Ian Thomas Ash for a conversation. Ian Thomas Ash is the award-winning filmmaker of documentaries including A2-B-C and In the Grey Zone, both about children living in Fukushima after the nuclear meltdown. -1287, Ian’s latest documentary, will begin screening in the autumn of 2014. The Asian Premier will be at the Taiwan International Documentary Film Festival running from October 9 to 19.
Interview: Hung Chun-Hsiu (洪淳修)
Hung Chun-Hsiu (洪淳修) is a documentary filmmaker and, most recently, the director of The Lost Sea (刪海經). His other films include Fishermen in the City (河口人),《城市農民曆》and《船長要抓狂》. On August 21st, he was interviewed by New Bloom’s Brian Hioe. The following is the English language translation of the interview.
Review: Homeland: Edge of Desolation
If the artwork of Hwang Buh-Ching can be said to be concerned with the artistic representation of “homeland,” as his current exhibition “Homeland: Edge of Desolation” at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Taipei suggests in representing Taiwan, Hwang points to both falsity and authenticity.
Review: Wanted: Dean I-Mei: A Retrospective
The specter of Taiwanese politics is everywhere in the artwork of Dean I-Mei. While, certainly, the artist himself poses his recent exhibition in light of a search for personal identity in the title “Wanted Dean I-Mei,” his search for individual identity is one deeply bound up with Taiwan’s state of unbelonging in the world.
Review: Meeting Dr. Sun (行動代號孫中山)
Music Video: 灰色地帶 / Grey Area
Film: 戒不了癮 / Can’t Quit You
“Can’t Quit You” is an autobiographical short film about Zico, a hair stylist based in Hsinchu, Taiwan. It’s the story of his first love, a relationship with a man called Yin that blossomed when Zico began his career as a hairstyling assistant in Hsinchu.
Photos: Sunflower Retrospective by Justim Pam
This photo series shows the lead singer of the Taiwanese band Fire EX (滅火器), Sam Yang (楊大正）, when he visited to the Legislative Yuan chamber to support the students and teach them how to sing one of his songs.