Tears and transitional justice

I reviewed Tears (眼淚) last year after I saw it at the Golden Horse Film Festival. The movie is officially released in Taiwan today. The movie tells the story of Guo, an old policeman who employs some unethical policing methods and eventually has to face up to his past.

The movie is being widely discussed in Taiwan for its theme of transitional justice. I have selected a couple of articles on the topic and translated part of them. In the Liberty Times (自由時報) Wang Dan (王丹), who recently spent six months in Taiwan as a visiting professor at NCCU, wrote:

做為「轉型正義」三部曲的第一部,鄭文堂並沒有去處理白色恐怖這個政治性的轉型正義議題,而是從員警執法的 社會層面入手,我認為這是很值得肯定的努力。關於轉型正義的議題,我一向認為過去的討論太政治化,反而不利於這個議題的深入進行。其實在社會層面,也有很多轉型正義的面向要去處理,這些面向涉及的是人性和人與人之間的關係的問題,因而來 得更加復雜。同時,這也是政府和國家權力無從處理,而需要公民社會本身來處理的問題。

In the first of a trilogy of films about transitional justice, Cheng Wen-tang didn’t deal with the issue of the White Terror period. Instead he began by looking at how the police enforce the law in society. I think this is a commendable effort. With regard to the topic of transitional justice I always believe the discussion in the past was too politicised and it’s not really favorable to discussing this topic deeply. Actually at the social level there are many issues of transitional justice that need to be faced. These involve human nature and the problems in relations between people. As a result they are more complex. At the same time this is something that the government or the power of the state can’t manage. It requires the citizens and society itself to manage.

Freddy Lim has an article about the film on his blog:

像老郭一樣的老警察、老法官、老檢調們,台灣市面上不知道還有多少,他們可能像老郭一樣進行著一個人的贖罪,也可能毫無愧疚地過著自由自在的生活;威權政 府下的受害者,成千上萬像小雯一樣的底層人民,每天都在掙扎著。這是民主國家「轉型正義」工程要處理的課題,然而,台灣政府的轉型正義工作還沒開始,就已 經結束。所幸,電影工作者用一部好電影,提醒著台灣,我們還有一件事情沒有解決。

No one knows how many old policeman like Guo and old judges and prosecutors there are in Taiwan. Like Guo they might be experiencing judgment for their crimes or they might be living their lives feeling not the least bit guilty about what they have done wrong. Countless people like Xiao Wen [the betel nut beauty in the movie] make up the society and face struggles every day. This is the problem of transitional justice that a democratic country needs to deal with. However, the work of transitional justice by the Taiwan government still hasn’t started, it’s already over. Fortunately a filmmaker’s work reminds Taiwan that it still has some matters that haven’t been resolved.

For those who can understand Mandarin check out this video on YouTube with Freddy Lim, T.C. Chang (張鐵志), former DPP legislator Lin Cho-shui (林濁水) and executive director of the Judicial Reform Foundation Lin Feng-jeng (林峰正) talking about the movie.