Tue, Sep 17, 2013 - Page 12 News List

The trouble with making films about Taiwanese history

By Ho Yi  /  Staff reporter

In Attabu, Khan Lee tries to depict the era faithfully. Using historically accurate props and costumes, Khan Lee and his team are able to craft meticulous reconstructions of bygone events, allowing viewers to “actually see what Taiwan looked like and then fill in the blanks.”

Early in this process, Khan Lee was saddened to find that Taiwan’s film industry — after two decades of decline — had largely lost the knowledge, skills and talent required to make a convincing historical film. Khan Lee turned to veteran art director Lee Pao-lin (李寶琳), who has mostly worked in China and whose portfolio includes Lust, Caution (色,戒) by Khan Lee’s older brother, Ang Lee (李安). Lee Pao-lin helped decide how the buildings, people and the surroundings should look in the Taiwan of over a century ago. Every prop was made by a team in Beijing and shipped back to the Taiwanese crew as a loan.

“It is truly tragic when a place can’t even tell its own story,” Khan Lee laments. “Wei Te-sheng (魏德聖) certainly wouldn’t have had to spend NT$700 million to make Seediq Bale if we still had the knowledge and skills.”

With the release of Attabu, Khan Lee wishes to attract enough funding to complete the second part of the project, which tells the story of the Lins under Japanese rule and after the arrival of the KMT.

“I was 51 years old when I first started the project. Now I am 56,” Khan Lee says, “I feel an anxious need to speed up and tell our own stories. Otherwise, they may be lost forever or told by others who will interpret our history differently.”

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