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.

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Supreme Court repeals verdict in Smangus case

The Supreme Court last month ruled on the Smangus Beech Tree case sending the case back to the High Court for a reexamination. The news seems to have been almost ignored by Taiwan’s media, but Taiwan Indigenous Television provided some good reporting. In addition to embedding a video of the English news report from TITV Weekly, I have also translated a report (中文) from Taiwan Indigenous Television which provides more details.

On 7 December the Supreme Court repealed the verdict of the second hearing in the Smangus Beech Tree Case. The original verdict in the second hearing found the three Atayal men who moved a wind fallen beech tree back to their village were guilty. In addition the Supreme Court emphasised that there should be respect for indigenous peoples’ traditional customs. It was the first time since the beginning of the Smangus beech tree case that the judge’s verdict had included the wording of “indigenous peoples’ traditional territory”. It affirmed indigenous peoples’ right to use their traditional territory. It also raised the spirits of the Smangus community. Continue reading

Saturday in Ximending

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On Saturday afternoon I headed to Ximending (西門町) to meet a friend and see what was happening. The place was abuzz with activity. One of the first things I spotted was this concert going on in the plaza beside the Red Theatre (紅樓). The plaza also has a lively market where young designers and artists tout their wares.

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Standing outside the MRT Station two young college students approached me. Their teacher had asked them to speak to some foreigners to practice their English. I patiently and politely obliged their request (while silently cursing their English teacher). Continue reading

ChthoniC takes it to the extreme


Taiwanese extreme metal group ChthoniC’s  (閃靈) new album Mirror of Retribution (十殿) was scheduled for release in Taiwan on 8 August. However, as Typhoon Morakot hit at the same time, the release was delayed for a few days and the autograph signing activities in Taipei, Taichung, Tainan and Kaohsiung were cancelled. ChthoniC have responded to the disaster by donating several large boxes of long-sleeved t-shirts to people in the disaster areas in the south of Taiwan.

I finally picked up my copy of the Taiwanese edition in Taipei today. Mirror of Retribution was released in the UK on 10 August and is set for release in the US on 1 September. The album was recorded in the US last year and produced by Anthrax guitarist Rob Caggiano. Continue reading

Clare Wang is a winner!

Clare Wang (王秀毓) from Taiwan has won the wild card vote in The Best Job in the World, a tourism promotion activity by Tourism Queensland. She received a total of 151,676 votes, almost three times more than the second place getter.

Entrants in the contest had to produce a 60-second video explaining why they should get the job. Clare’s slickly produced video can be seen above. In it she emphasizes her communication skills and ability to reach a large audience through her knowledge of both English and Chinese. She finishes by saying she will be “super curious”.

Clare will now fly to Australia to compete with ten others for “the best job in the world”. The final winner gets to spend six months exploring the islands of the Great Barrier Reef and write a blog about their adventures. For that they will get paid a cool AU$150,000.

The voting process was not without controversy. Some people suggested getting on the shortlist was about more than having good communication skills. One woman who missed out on selection accused Tourism Queensland of choosing people who looked good in a bikini. Queenslander Hailey Turner, vying for the job, stripped off to her bikini in Times Square in an attempt to garner more votes. If you watch Clare’s video carefully you might also catch sight of her in a bikini, however I am sure it is her other talents which got her the job.

Learning to fly

They are Flying (飛行少年) is a documentary directed by Huang Chia-chun (黃嘉俊) about a group of 30 boys from the Faith Hope Love Youth Academy (信望愛少年學園) in Hualian who ride around Taiwan on unicycles. 

Like Island Etude it highlights some of Taiwan's beautiful scenery in the journey around the island. However, the real story here is that of the boys and the two men, Reverend Huang (黃明鎮牧師) and  Lu Su-wei (盧蘇偉), who inspire and lead them on the ride.

The boys come from troubled backgrounds. Many of them have been victims of domestic violence; some have run away from home and others have been in trouble with the police. The director Huang Chia-chun said that the background of each of the boys could be a documentary in itself, however he could only include the background stories of a few of the boys in the two hour documentary.  Continue reading

Puppet museum

Puppets on sale at the Lin Liu-hsin Puppet Theatre Museum

Today I visited the Lin Liu-Hsin Puppet Theatre Museum (林柳新紀念偶戲博物館). It is located in the Dadaocheng area, which was once the heart of Taipei, but is now somewhat neglected. Nearby is Dihua Street (迪華街) which is famous for selling cloth and Chinese medicine and also contains the Xiahai City God Temple (霞海城隍廟). A stone's throw away in the other direction is the Dadaocheng Wharf (大稻埕碼頭). 

The museum is in a fairly small building with exhibitions on four floors. Everything is very neatly presented with good commentary in Chinese and English (and a little Japanese). The collection is well chosen and introduces many interesting aspects of puppetry.  

While the museum focuses on puppets in Taiwan, other parts of Asia are well represented. There are puppets from Guangdong and Fujian in China, marionettes from India and Burma and a special exhibition of Cambodian shadow puppets. 

The exhibition of Vietnamese Water Puppets on the fourth floor is visually stunning. Water puppets are a form of puppetry unique to Vietnam. Although catch the exhibition while you can, it ends on 31 December.

The museum highlights that puppetry is a very rich and diverse art form in Asia. It is well worth a visit.

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While on the subject of puppets I thought I would take the chance to post a few more photos of puppet shows that I have seen in Taiwan and Thailand. 

Shadow puppets in Nakorn Si Thammarat, Thailand

In Southeast Asia shadow puppets are the most common form of puppetry. The photo above was taken at the Shadow Puppet museum and workshop in Nakhon Si Thammarat, Thailand. I also have some more photos and a short video of a shadow puppet play in Surat Thani here

Puppet show in Tucheng, Taipei County, Taiwan

The photo above was taken at a puppet play in front of a temple in Tucheng. There was an audience of about three people. The photo below gives some more context. 

Truck with puppet show performance in Tucheng, Taipei County

Also Shi-ru informed me that there will be a free puppet show at …

12/31 (PM7:30)

If you can't read Chinese it says that there will be a puppet show beside the Living Mall in Taipei at 7:30 PM on Sunday 31 December. It is at the Puppetry Art Centre (台北偶戲館) which is Taipei's other puppet museum. There is definitely no shortage of museums here in Taiwan.