At a time when the sound of teen film spells overuse and cliche, Yee Chih-yen’s (易智言) Meeting Dr. Sun (行動代號：孫中山) comes as a refreshing surprise. The comedy, about a group of teenage boys and their whimsical plans to address their poverty, casts a lyrical and vigorous look into Taiwan’s social inequality through the eyes of the young. Alternating between farcical humor and emotional acuteness, Yee’s latest work can be seen as an ode to the waves of youthful civil disobedience against the system, which climaxed in the Sunflower movement.
Lefty (Zhan Huai-yun, 詹懷雲), one of the central characters, lives with his grandmother who earns NT$15 for every plastic flower she makes at home. Lefty believes he is the poorest kid in his high school and is unable to pay the “class fee” extorted by a classmate. While hiding from the bully in the school storeroom one day, he discovers a bronze statue of Sun Yat-sen (孫逸仙). For Lefty, however, the statue doesn’t signify the ROC’s founding father, but a financial windfall in the form of scrap metal worth a big chunk of money. The slab, he thinks, will be his ticket out of poverty.
And so he immediately devises a plan to steal and sell the valuable statue, calling on his equally impecunious friends to help. However, he soon finds out that Sky (Wei Han-ting, 魏漢鼎), a boy who goes to the same school, is also plotting to turn the discard into quick cash.
Photo courtesy of Activator Marketing Company
The two hold a match to decide who is poorer and thus needs the money more. Using food tastings at supermarkets as the source of his daily diet and sleeping on the streets to avoid his drunken father’s violent outburst, Sky wins. Readily accepting his defeat, Lefty offers to collaborate with Sky, whom he thinks a new comrade.
Watching the enthusiastic Lefty sharing the details of his plan, Sky has something else in mind.
When the big night comes, two groups of masked thieves appear on campus. The battle over the statute of Sun Yat-sen ends up with Sky and Lefty lying on the empty street in Ximending (西門町), exhausted. As the wailing of police sirens comes near, they recognize the problem of poverty and fight it together.
Photo courtesy of Activator Marketing Company
In Meeting Dr. Sun, director Yee does a superb job in translating the anger against the unjust, corrupt system into an expressive comedy. The most noticeable example is the use of pantomime in the sequence in which the young burglars try to carry out their operation. What’s more striking is how the story finds its most resonant strength in juxtaposing the light with the unbearable. In the sequence in which the group of teenagers bicker over who comes from the most disadvantaged family, what starts out as fun raillery ends up with an indignant cry from Sky: “the children of our children are doomed to be poor.”
More fable than drama, the film approaches the complex social problems with lucid simplicity.
Equally essential to the narrative is the soundtrack composed by Chris Hou (侯志堅). Hou’s music is playful, delicate and vivacious at the same time, almost like a waltz of the humiliated and the insulted.
Towards the end of the film, we follow the bronze statue as it’s transported on a truck through the streets of Taipei. Suddenly, the camera pans up to show the gang of teenage boys, who raise their hands in solidarity, the Taipei World Trade Center towering in the background. It is a poignant moment, filled with poetry, and like the film itself, resonates long after the closing credits.
Yee Chih-yen (易智言)
Zhan Huai-yun (詹懷雲) as Lefty,
Wei Han-ting (魏漢鼎) as Sky
In Mandarin with Chinese
and English subtitles
Chen Wang-shi (陳罔市) doesn’t know where to go if she is forced to move. The 78-year-old Chen is an active “sea woman” (海女) in Taiwan’s easternmost fishing village of Makang (馬崗) in New Taipei City’s Gongliao District (貢寮). When the waves are calm, she ventures out to forage for algae, oysters and other edible marine morsels. She lives alone in the village, as her children have moved to the cities for work, returning for weekends and festivals. “I cannot get used to living in Taipei, and I feel very uncomfortable if I don’t go out to the ocean to forage. I
Aug. 10 to Aug. 16 They called him the “No Problem Doctor” (沒關係醫生) because that’s what he always told his patients when they couldn’t pay up. Operating the only clinic in Changhua County’s Pusin Township (埔心) during the 1950s, Hsu Tsai-chih (許再枝) knew that life was difficult in his remote hometown. “They barely had enough to survive, so it was pointless to chase after them for the money,” an 81-year-old Hsu told the United Daily News in 2002. “I just went with the flow, some offered to pay me back years later but I had already forgotten
A widely criticized peer-reviewed study that measured the attractiveness of women with endometriosis has been retracted from the medical journal Fertility and Sterility. The study, “Attractiveness of women with rectovaginal endometriosis: a case-control study,” was first published in 2013 and has been defended by the authors and the journal in the intervening years despite heavy criticism from doctors, other researchers and people with endometriosis for its ethical concerns and dubious justifications, with one advocate calling the study “heartbreaking” and “disgusting.” The study’s conclusion was: “Women with rectovaginal endometriosis were judged to be more attractive than those in the two control groups.
Back in the 1950s, the lifeguards of Bondi Beach, Sydney, were not only charged with rescuing surfers and scanning for sharks. In their role as “beach inspectors” they were also responsible for ensuring that swimsuits conformed to New South Wales state regulations. At least 7.6cm of fabric was required over the thigh, no navels were to be exposed and shoulder straps had to be “sturdy.” One of the best-known beach inspectors was Aubrey Laidlaw, who had already laid down the law when the first bikini debuted on the beach in 1946. By the turn of the 1960s, the “Bikini Wars” were