Wednesday, November 12, 2008

High and Rich Cultures in the Non-Mandarin languages of Taiwan

This year we are beginning to see some good signs that Taiwan's cultures and languages are breaking free of the 100 years of suppression by the China-centric KMT authoritarian regime and the Japan-centric Japanese colonial era.

* Wei Te-sheng (魏德聖) directed one of the most successful film of the year is "Cape No. 7" (海角七號), filmed in south Taiwan's Pingtung County Taiwanese Holo, Japanese and Mandarin languages.

* The director of Cape No. 7 had been working on a film project called "Seediq Bale" about Taiwan's Austronesian Seediq people in their war to maintain their freedom against the Japanese. With the success of Cape No. 7, the director my be able to produce a feature-length film (in Seediq and Japanese languages).

More Information: Taipei Times 2008/11/28

* Another film using the Hakka language & Japanese just came to theaters: "1895 in Formosa" (一八九五) about the defense of the first republic in Asia -- the Republic of Taiwan -- that did not last longer than a few months before Japanese troops came and conquered the pro-Taiwan fighters. It is reminiscent of the hopeless last-stand against overwhelming odds of the Alamo in United States history.

* And finally, there is an animated DVD out with many of the legends of Taiwan's Austronesian peoples. You can set the audio to Taiwanese Holo, Hakka, and Mandarin, and one of the legends also has audio in Tayal Austronesian language. It would be great if they could go ahead record the voices for the respective Austronesian language which corresponds to the source of the legend including: Saisiyat, Rukai, Tayal, Amis and Bunun


* The Black Bearded Bible Man - an epic on George Leslie MacKay, the first presbyterian missionary in North Taiwan. Taiwan's most famous young composer, Gordon Chin, spent five years working on this opera. The World Premiere will be performed in Taiwan's National Concert Hall on November 27, 28, 29 and 30th. It is sung not in Italian, not in Mandarin, but instead in Holo Taiwanese and English. Librettist Joyce Chiou wrote the piece with Ju-Fang Shih who wrote the Holo Taiwanese lyrics.

The lead actor, Thomas Meglioranza, writes in his blog about learning Taiwanese

* Here's a commercial for one of Taiwan's largest computer companies in Taiwan, Acer. What's excellent about this commercial is that it vividly portrays the beauty of Taiwan's Austronesian cultures and lets us know what a loss it is that their cultural aesthetic has not greatly impacted Taiwan or penetrated its public education still dominated by Han Chinese chauvinism. Just think of how beautiful the art, architecture and fashion if leaders in these industries were to embrace and explore Taiwan's native cultures.


I'll also mention a Mandarin-language film because it was (1) produced and filmed in Taiwan, (2) captures the strong classical music culture of Taiwan, (3) represents the creativity of the young generation of Taiwan's filmmakers, (4) shows college student culture, (5) was filmed on location highlighting the beautiful historic port of Tamsui in north Taiwan.

The movie is "Secret", directed by Jay Chou. It has a plot twist I think is much better than the M. Night Shyamalan blockbuster, The Sixth Sense, starring Bruce Willis.


One English-language Hollywood movie, "Formosa Betrayed" is now in post production. It is a political thriller inspired by events in the earlier 1980's of assassination and political suppression during the authoritarian dictatorship of Chiang Kai-shek's son, Chiang Ching-kuo and his Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT)
Formosa Betrayed

Here is a Bangkok TV interview at the film set. I'm very curious about the ultimate quality and story-line of this movie.