Fri, Jul 04, 2003 - Page 18 News List

Shooting English teachers in Taiwan

By Jules Quartly  /  STAFF REPORTER

Stills and photographs from the film Made in Taiwan, a look at the lot of the teacher in this country.

PHOTO COUTESY OF FILMMAKERS

Sammy is the kind of English teacher in Taiwan who goes to Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall every morning, even when it's pouring, to practice tai chi and gets stared at by locals who wonder why he's trying so hard to be more Asian than they are.

He's also a film director and he's making a documentary, primarily about his flatmate, an English teacher who's a sex maniac and falls in love with a well-known local singer.

Sammy's story is the focus of a full-length feature film about the making of the documentary, and it's called Made in Taiwan.

Part truth, a lot of fiction and a deconstruction of stereotypes, is how the makers of the film describe their work, which is currently being edited in Canada and will be doing the rounds of the international independent film circuit next year. It will also be subtitled in Chinese for the local market.

It's Jaymie Hansen's second feature film (after Shot in the Face, released last year) and the first produced by his high school friend Garrett Schreiner. Shooting ended last month on a high at Citizen Cain, a Taipei pub, where a well-known local singer (playing herself) performed in one of the final scenes.

Digitally filmed, it was brought in under budget [NT$500,000], took a year to make, 10 days to shoot and was filmed entirely in Taipei.

"We didn't want people looking at this and saying, `Oh that was filmed in, like, Toronto.' So, we shot in typical places in Taipei, which is one of the main characters in the film," Hansen says.

"It's based on my experiences last year. ? [One of the main characters] is an English teacher who has come back to Taiwan. Then, a crew approaches him to make a film about English teachers in Taiwan, and he doesn't really know what he's doing, but he makes the film and they [a documentary crew from Canada] start following him around."

More than a movie about the making of a movie, Made in Taiwan takes a look at stereotypical English teachers through the classic East-meets-West love story, Hansen says.

"I am writing from the perspective of how I perceive people, and I think from the perspective of this person who is having sex with lots of girls. I judge him, but do I know him? Do I know his life? This movie is about me mocking myself and saying I don't know nothing."

It's also about Western impressions of Asia in general and Taiwan in particular, especially the supposed mysticism of the East, Hansen says.

"It's about deconstructing the exotic in Asia. I don't think Asian women have been portrayed in this light, usually they're in kung fu roles or the inscrutable thing. Our girl is a well-rounded character, very smart."

Schreiner says he was concerned about the movie's appeal. "It's got to play out in America. I think people there are interested in hearing about life in Asia because its mysterious to them. But I think people here will want to see the film too because they think foreigners are mysterious."

Arguably the oddest thing about Made in Taiwan, however, is the way life follows art. Hansen and Schreiner were characters in a "real" documentary, called Teachers in Taiwan, an eight-part series that aired on national network Canadian TV in Spring last year and was so popular the director, Jaymie's brother, David Hansen, was asked to do another series.

He returned to Taiwan in February this year and completed filming in 10 weeks. Part of what he shot was the making of his brother's film. At one point there is a scene in a teahouse where three camera crews are recording each other.

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