New movie addresses Taiwan's turbulent past | Connect Asia

New movie addresses Taiwan's turbulent past

New movie addresses Taiwan's turbulent past

Updated 18 January 2012, 19:15 AEDT

A Taiwanese American filmmaker has taken on the challenge of explaining the complicated history of political relations between Taiwan, China and the United States.

Will Tiao, a former US government economist turned actor, is the driving force behind the independent film "Formosa Betrayed".

The film is currently making the festival circuit in North America.

Presenter: Beverley Wang

Speaker: Will Tiao, co-producer and co-writer of "Formosa Betrayed"; Gina Mao, "Formosa Betrayed" investor; Echo Lin, Taiwan-based producer, "Formosa Betrayed

He's also a board member of the Formosa Foundation, a US-based Taiwan democracy group which recently sponsored a screening of "Formosa Betrayed" in Washington for members of Congress.

(Movie dialogue: "The Chinese say we are their brothers. But if we are brothers why do they treat us like this?")

BEVERLEY WANG: "Formosa Betrayed" is a political espionage inspired by true events.

Will Tiao co-produced and co-wrote "Formosa Betrayed." He also co-stars as a Taiwanese political dissident.

WILL TIAO: With this film, we're hoping to bring awareness of Taiwan's struggle for democracy, and so that the world can kind of know what it took for the Taiwanese to get where they are, and particularly America's role in it.

BEVERLEY WANG: The name "Formosa" was first given to Taiwan by the Portuguese and later adopted by democracy activists.

The movie also shares its title with a 1965 book criticising the government in Taiwan. "Formosa Betrayed" - the movie - was shot in Thailand on a budget of less than $US10 million.

It refers to events in Taiwan's political history that for decades had been taboo. That includes violent clashes that broke out on February 28, 1947, between local Taiwanese and Chinese Nationalists who moved to Taiwan after World War II.

(Movie Dialogue: "What's 228?" "February 28, 1947. Chiang Kai-shek's army killed 20,000 Taiwanese in one week. It's illegal to talk about it")

BEVERLEY WANG: The film's mention of events like 228 has raised the passions of many Taiwanese like Gina Mao.

GINA MAO: This movie is so important to us because we feel that our story will be told, and I like people not to forget us. That there are a group of people in Taiwan, they deserve democracy, they like freedom, and for those who died for Taiwan should be remembered.

BEVERLEY WANG: Ms Mao, who lives in California, has invested at least $US50,000 in the film.

She also helped raise thousands more from her local community of Taiwanese Americans.

GINA MAO: I went through the first generation, after first generation I went to the second generation. and after the second generation I came back to the first generation and I asked everybody to double their share.

BEVERLEY WANG: Echo Lin, the film's Taiwan-based producer, says investors like Gina Mao helped raise the bulk of the budget.

ECHO LIN: For those investors in Taiwan, they have been involved in the movement for democratisation in Taiwan.

BEVERLEY WANG: Formosa Betrayed" also addresses the so-called "blacklisting" of pro-independence Taiwanese who lived overseas during martial law, something Will Tiao is personally familiar with.

WILL TIAO: My father was a prof and he was a prof at KSU (Kansas State University) he was a political dissident and when one of the things he insisted that we call ourselves was Taiwanese and not Chinese and that got him into trouble. There were student spies on that campus and my parents were blacklisted and we were not allowed to go back to Taiwan for a number of years.

BEVERLEY WANG: But he says other families had much harsher experiences.

WILL TIAO: We were lucky I mean some of my father's friends were detained and tortured and obviously in a few high-profile cases there were murders. So in that sense yes there are a lot of parallels in terms of what happened with my family but also with thousands and thousands of other families of Taiwanese descent here in the States as well as those of many many more in Taiwan.

BEVERLEY WANG: Before becoming an actor, Will Tiao worked in the US government positions under the administrations of former presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush.

(Movie Dialogue: "Apparently he was a very outspoken critic of the current government in Taiwan.")

BEVERLEY WANG: But despite all this, Will Tiao insists "Formosa Betrayed" does not have a political agenda.

WILL TIAO: In Taiwan there's what's known as the green-blue divide. The green more for independence and the blue more for re-unification. But we always argue the movie's not really a green or a blue movie, it's an American movie, and it's a movie that's a murder mystery about a political era that just hasn't been told".

If producers secure an international distribution deal and Taiwanese Government approval, the movie could be screened in Taiwan next year.

(Movie Dialogue: "What are they saying?" "Independence.")

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