An Interview with Lo Shin-chieh, Wang Hsiu-ling (Directors)
Q: I was moved to see how survivors of the huge catastrophe came to terms with death and the loss of homes, how they overcame difficulties. This is a sequel to your first film A Gift for Father’s Day—The Tragedy of Hsiaolin Village, Part 1. Why did you make the film in two parts?
Wang Hsiu-ling (WH): We did not plan it, but we had massive footage amounting to 640 hours and we weren’t able to fit it all in one film. This is not yet confirmed, but we might for example make a Part 3 by filming them ten years after the tragedy.
Q: In both films your subject is a natural disaster and yet you use the term “Gift”—as if something good was presented to the people. Why?
Lo Shin-chieh (LS): Interpretations are open to the audience, but cynicism was on our minds. Our intention was to spit satire on the personal conflicts, the political clashes, and the bargaining of interests that emerged after the disaster.
Q: Which side were you on, the residents’ or the government’s?
LS: The government used the disaster as an opportunity to expand their interests and seized what belonged to the residents. Ma Ying-jeou was re-elected after his post-disaster antics, but his decision to divide the village into three parts destroyed the community. The villagers were provided with “candy” such as new housing, and accepting this small aid obliterated their common sense.
Q: Does your film try to expose that situation?
LS: That’s right. In all of our films, we consistently try to capture the point where society and politics meet. There are very few people making documentaries critical of the government. We are “eternally critics.”
WH: Many receive subsidies from the government and so choose to self-censor. We call films like that Banana Documentaries. They look pretty on the outside but the inside is soft with no core.
Q: Could the word “Gift” in the title perhaps be a message inviting the villagers to remember how they felt before the disaster?
WH: You’re right, it could.
Q: Is there anything you hope the Japanese audience will learn from your film?
LS: Though the situations in Japan and Taiwan are not the same, there’s one thing we can say: in this film, you can see whether those in power are barbaric or not. In principle, authorities should serve the people. But when that is not happening, there’s a need to keep watch over those in power. The camera is the modest weapon provided to us. We will use this weapon in order to ensure that the huge and powerful state system runs fairly, and that social justice takes its place. Meanwhile, that weapon can be turned around to criticize ourselves as well.
Q: Can the villagers of Hsiaolin village also use this weapon?
LS: The community accommodated us as friends, and we initially didn’t tell them that we were making a documentary. But I’m sure they were inspired in some way when they saw our footage. In the same way people in the Middle East instigated change when videos uploaded to the internet allowed them to realize how power was corrupted, I do hope a large-scale reformation will happen one day.
(Compiled by Matsushita Sho)
Interviewers: Matsushita Sho, Yamada Kotone / Interpreter: Akiyama Tamako / Translator: Fujioka Asako
Photography: Yamazaki Shiori / Video: Yamazaki Shiori / 2013-10-13