The screening of eight films presents a view of Taiwan’s society many people aren’t familiar with

By: Mike O’Brien | News Reporter
Issue date: 10/17/07 Section: News

Most University students have never seen a 12-year-old Taiwanese boy build a fighter plane. This Saturday, they’ll get the chance when “Shonenko,” a documentary exposing Taiwanese child laborers in Japan during World War II, makes its University debut.

Shonenko” is one of eight films to be screened at the University courtesy of the 2007 Taiwan Film Festival. Following stops at Stanford University, the University of California-Davis and the Salt Lake City Film Center, the film festival will take place from Thursday to Saturday in the Lillis Business Complex.

“It’s a really unique opportunity for us,” said Lori O’Halloran, Center for Asian and Pacific Studies assistant director. “These films probably wouldn’t be seen otherwise in Eugene.”

As faculty adviser to the film festival, Tze-Lan Deborah Sang, an assistant professor in the University’s East Asian Languages and Literatures department, chose the films that will be screened.

She was provided with a list of 16 films from San Francisco’s Taipei Economic and Cultural Office, one of the groups presenting the event. Sang, who specializes in modern Chinese literature and cinema, aimed to make her choices as varied as possible.

“I wanted to showcase the diversity of film practices in Taiwan and let people who are not otherwise familiar with Taiwan get a sense of its society, its people, its culture,” she said.

Featuring up-and-coming Taiwanese directors, the free film series will showcase four feature films and four documentaries.

In addition to “Shonenko,” the documentaries will explore Taiwan’s socio-political changes through the eyes of three women (”Tigerwomen Grow Wings”), visually-impaired children trying to learn about sight (”Vision of Darkness”), and a radio station that discusses community divisions and their effect on the future (”Radio Mihu”).

Following the screenings of “Tigerwomen Grow Wings” and “Vision of Darkness,” respective directors Monika Treut and Sylvia Feng will participate in question-and-answer sessions.

Feature films include “The Touch of Fate,” which follows a troubled 15-year-old runaway on his own in the city, and “Island Etude,” in which a young man with a hearing problem makes new friends while biking around Taiwan. In “Three Times,” director Hou Hsiao-hsien chronicles the same couple in three different love stories set in 1911, 1966 and 2005. And “Eternal Summer” is a coming-of-age story about three teenagers amidst a love triangle.

“They look like fascinating films,” said Mills International Center Coordinator Sonja Rasmussen.

“It’s a chance to get a look at a rising film industry from Taiwan,” she said. “Film in East Asia is very diverse, vibrant, and very cutting-edge.”

Rasmussen is particularly looking forward to “Three Times,” while Sang is most excited to see the films on the big screen.

“It’s different when you look at stuff on TV or on a computer screen,” she said. “You sort of get the gist of the film, but you don’t quite get the visual effects the filmmaker intended.”

Sang added the Taiwan Film Festival could be an eye-opening experience for the University community.

“Many Americans know about the political tension (between Taiwan and China), but don’t know very much about the culture and society of Taiwan,” she said. “So it’s a good opportunity for the students and faculty to get to experience the culture of Taiwan.”