Tue, Dec 01, 2009 - Page 2 News List

New film stirs Web controversy

BANGKA BROUHAHAA trailer for the unreleased Taipei City Government-sponsored movie set in Wanhua District contains mostly gangster fights and scenes set in brothels

By Loa Iok-sin  /  STAFF REPORTER

Although Taiwanese movie Monga (艋舺), sponsored by Taipei City’s Department of Cultural Affairs, will not be in theaters until next year, content from trailers for the movie has already raised controversy.

A trailer and a behind-the-scenes special on the movie’s official Web site contains mostly gangster fights and brothel scenes, raising concerns that the movie would leave a negative impression of the area in the minds of moviegoers.

The movie takes its name from Bangka, the Hoklo (Taiwanese) name for a part of Wanhua District (萬華) in Taipei. Taipei City’s Department of Cultural Affairs sponsored the film, hoping to use it to promote tourism in the area.

Bangka was the place where Han Chinese immigrants established their first trading post in Taipei, and it was from Bangka that the whole city developed.

The name “Bangka” actually came from the local Aboriginal word for “canoe,” as the Aborigines at the time carried goods in canoes to trade with the Han Chinese based there.

Wanhua District has many historic landmarks, such as Longshan Temple (龍山寺) and several well-known night markets.

Qingshan Borough (青山里) chief Lee Chao-cheng (李昭成) criticized the movie, saying organized crime was only a small part of Bangka’s history.

“It took us many years of hard work to get rid of the bad impression that people used to have of the area, but now [the movie] is restoring that image,” Lee said.

“All residents — young and old alike — are opposed to it,” he said.

Fuyin Borough (福音里) chief Wan Wen-tu (王文塗), however, said the movie would help the tourism industry in the area since the movie crew helped restore some of the historic streets.

“Bangka is an eye-catching historic town,” an Internet user with the pseudonym “Upup,” who claimed to be a native of Bangka who has worked as a volunteer guide in the area, wrote in a blog post titled: “Why am I opposed to the movie Monga.”

“Bangka has a rich history and so many wonderful stories that can be made into movies, why do [movie makers] not see that? Why do they have to make a movie about crime in the area?” he wrote.

While a movie maker has the freedom to make a movie on whatever topic he or she chooses, he questioned why the city’s culture department agreed to sponsor such a movie.

“In the name of culture, the Department of Cultural Affairs is sponsoring a movie about prostitutes, violence and gangster fights,” the blogger said. “I wonder what kind of culture they are trying to promote?”

The post attracted more than 60 replies, with many supporting the blogger’s view, while others argued that it was not a big issue or that crime and prostitution were part of Bangka’s history.

Doze Niu (鈕承澤), director of the movie, defended Monga.

“We had no intention whatsoever of giving Bangka a bad name, rather we wanted to promote the city,” he said.

Meanwhile, vice mayor and Department of Cultural Affairs commissioner Lee Yung-ping (李永萍) said that any judgment of the movie should be made only after watching it.

“We fully respect freedom of expression, therefore we do not preview the content of sponsored movies in advance,” she said.

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