An Interview with Lee Jong-wang (Director)
What Can Be Seen from a Film of a “History of Failure”
Q: Of all the victims of the earthquake, why did you choose Walis and the people of this village?
LJ: Even within the Tayal people, Walis and his former wife A-wu are quite progressive, and I think their effort to do something for their tribe’s recovery is extremely valuable. They have experienced city life and are able to get things done. I was very interested in their proposal to use the earthquake as an opportunity to “examine our Tayal culture,” because in Taiwan today, the aboriginal culture is quickly disappearing.
However, what is said about Walis’s temporary housing project within its walls differs from what is said beyond them. Their fame and ability to raise funds elicits gossip and jealousy from the other villagers. At first, I sought to reconcile the misunderstandings on both sides, but while I was filming I had no choice but to change my perspective, to film all of the essential parts of human nature, including its rawness.
Q: So in the end, many of the darker aspects of the village emerged?
LJ: The biggest problem was that the village was split between the middle-aged and the older generations. For example, when I visited the village to film the morning after staying at the Walis’s housing project, the first thing that people said to me was, “How were you able to come so early in the morning? You stayed at Walis’s place didn’t you?” They were not happy. Even though I tried to strike a balance between both parties it was very frazzling in the end. As a consequence, I ended up being in the position of having to hear complaints from both sides.
Like the works of other FullShot members, a screening of the finished work in the disaster area was opposed. There was no problem showing the film to individuals, but although the tribe seemed to have healed on the surface, there was fear that displaying images of the destroyed village would have dug up old wounds. For me this was quite unfortunate.
Q: Still, you were able to finish the film. What did you feel was most important when you were editing?
LJ: I was very depressed after I finished the filming, and it took another two years to complete the editing. I wondered whether or not there was any meaning in reconstructing their “history of failure.” However, when I looked closely at the tape, there were many scenes of the villagers all together as a community, holding sports days and having karaoke competitions. It was never simply a history of fighting. I worked to the best of my ability to leave a record of this. The Tayal are basically cheerful people; they don’t really take things too seriously. I tried to capture this cheerfulness using satirical music that asked, “Where are you going,” and using the DJ of the pirate radio station, Radio Mihu. Anyway, I didn’t want to tell just a dark story. Even if it is a history of failure for them, it might become a historical document that the next generation can learn from.
(Compiled by Sato Hiroaki)
Interviewer: Sato Hiroaki / Interpreter: Yoshii Takashi
Photography: Wada Mitsuko / Video: Yamaguchi Yoshihide / 2005-10-06 / in Tokyo