Mon, Jan 27, 2014 - Page 12 News List

On the ball

The baseball movie ‘Kano,’ set to be released at the end of next month, has fueled debate over Japan’s place in Taiwan’s history, culture and identity

By Chris Fuchs  /  Contributing reporter in New York

Legal scholar, historian and National Taiwan University professor Wang Tay-Sheng (王泰升), who has written several books about legal reform under Japanese colonial rule, said he thinks this kind of discussion, while sometimes caustic in tone, is still useful for Taiwan.

“I studied law for seven years in Taiwan and never knew that it was Japan that introduced modern law to Taiwan,” Wang said. “I’ve never met Wei, but what he has done with his films is to get Taiwan talking about the things we’ve never learned. And that’s good.”

Still, some YouTube commenters said they would prefer to watch Kano without delving into the muddy issues of politics and history.

“A movie is a movie,” writes a person in Chinese called Chia Wei Shu. “Must we speak [so seriously about] history from our past?”

None of this surprises Wei who said that since making Cape No. 7, he has grown accustomed to the colorful Web commentary directed toward the subject matter of his films.

“In one respect, it’s good that people are starting to talk about the problems that have bothered us for a long time,” Wei said. “But can we do it rationally?”

Kano, which is currently in postproduction, is scheduled to open in Taiwan at the end of next month, and later in Japan and the US, Wei said. But owing to government censorship, he added, it was unclear whether Kano would make it to theaters in China not only because of the subject matter but also since much of the film’s dialogue is in Japanese.

Wei, who maintains his films do not promote a particular political point of view, added that he hopes they do help Taiwanese resolve some of the inherent “contradictions” present in their history and in their own identity.

“What Taiwan needs most right now is the strength of reconciliation, not a debate about who we should love and who we should hate,” Wei said.

“We’ve already had this kind of conflict for way too long. With three films about Japanese colonial rule that tell stories from three different perspectives, one big objective is not to reconcile with Japan. It is to reconcile our own history with ourselves.”

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