Shi Nian Taiwan

Tagged: Film

["Ten Years Taiwan"] Film (2018 Taiwan). Golden Scene, Joint Studio, Ten Years Pictures. Directed by Lekal Sumi Cilangasan, Rina B. Tsou, Lu Po-shun, Hsieh Pei-ju, Lau Kek-huat. Cast includes Liao Bo-yan, Lu Dong-yang, Karolyn Kieke, Jane Liao, Li Li-rong, Alina Tsai, Wang Tsung-wei, Li Wen-he, Cheng Yu-chieh and Cheng Zheng-jun. Screenplay by the directors. 108 minutes. Colour.

An anthology piece of five Near-Future Dystopian vignettes about life in Taiwan in the year 2028, inspired by the earlier Hong Kong omnibus Sap Nin (2015), and produced in tandem with the similar spin-offs Ten Years Thailand (2018) and Jūnen ["Ten Years Japan"] (2018). Notably, whereas the politics of Mainland contacts and influence were a major element of the original Sap Nin, to the extent that it excited the ire and censure of the Chinese authorities, China is conspicuous by its absence – indeed practically a structuring absence – in this film. Sections in aboriginal languages or the Minnan dialect subtly use Linguistics to make the case for Taiwan as an entity separate from that of the Mandarin-speaking Mainland, although unlike Sap Nin, which generated an entire story out of the disconnection between Cantonese- and Mandarin-speakers in Hong Kong, the enforcement of Mandarin on locals is not presented as one of the genre issues.

One might be forgiven for thinking that the prospect of reunification or invasion from the People's Republic would be one of the chief concerns of Taiwanese futurologists, but the writers and directors of Shi Nian Taiwan cling, perhaps deliberately, to a prosaic, domestic focus. "Eling Guantou" ["A Can of Anido"] pointedly begins the film with the aboriginal director Lekal Sumi Cilangasan, in which an indigenous farmer frets about the damage done by the dumping of nuclear waste on his island. This is, however, not a near-future issue but a political scandal in our own time, suggesting a director with only a passing interest in genre themes (see Mainstream Writers of SF). His rhetoric, however, is not aimed so much at the scandal itself, but at the wavering of political engagement by the people – today's protest banners are shown as decayed and dusty relics, as a silent comment on political apathy, echoing more sustained material in a similar vein in Ten Years Thailand. A similar polemic on the thinning of modern concerns can be determined in Lu Pei-shun's "Lu Ban" ["The Way Home"], in which a youth in the countryside tries and fails with escalating melancholy to find a job that will keep him out of the big city where everyone else has already gone.

A similar use of genre tropes as forceful but somewhat clumsy allegory can be seen in Rina Tsou's "942", which attempts to induce empathy for the plight of migrant workers by inter-cutting the rape of an Indonesian in the present day with a similar crime perpetrated against a Taiwanese girl in near-future Indonesia. "Xia jiao" ["Shrimp Dumplings"; vt "Making of" in onscreen titles] is perhaps the most successful short within the omnibus, drawing as it does on contemporary issues in the Media Landscape: the falsification of authenticity for the camera and the pressures of film-making as a film-crew tries to shoot a traditional Chinese New Year gathering. The genre aspect comes from the crew's inability to rustle up a child to complete the family picture, an issue in an aging population also treated in the Japanese sister-film Jūnen. The film ends with Lau Kek-huat's "Kun Mian" ["Sleep"], a doleful commentary on insomnia, suggesting that the pressures of modern life deprive the populace not only of sleep, but consequently of the ability to dream, a fact which visitors try to remedy at a "sleep centre". [JonC]

see also: Optimism and Pessimism.

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