A new documentary by the Taiwan Broadcasting System (TBS) examines the lives of three Vietnamese migrant spouses, following the women in Taiwan and on visits to the relatives they left behind in Vietnam.
Documentaries on migrant spouses are not new, but the TBS production team spent a year following the trio because director Laurence Lo (羅盛達) and production manager Chang Hsiao-ying (張筱瑩) said they have wanted to make a show that was different from what others have done.
“Most of the films on migrant spouses or migrant workers in Taiwan focus on their work or life here, but our documentary shows scenes in these immigrants’ hometowns and their interactions with their families. In addition, family members talked on camera,” Chang said. “One interesting thing we observed is that when these women are in Taiwan, they were reserved, but when they are in Vietnam, surrounded by their families and immersed in a familiar language and culture, they became more talkative, vivid and confident.”
Clips from Homework of Happiness (幸福作業簿) were shown at a press conference in Taipei yesterday to promote the show, which will air for the first time on Saturday on the Public Television Service (PTS).
“Here! Here! We are here!” the brother of Nguyen Thi Nhien shouted as he waved at a minibus carrying his sister, her daughter and the production team as the bus approached the family’s home in Hanoi.
As they get off the bus, Nguyen’s daughter, Chen Hsing-ju (陳星儒) ran toward her grandmother, who had a big smile on her face as she hugged the little girl, but gradually turned tearful.
“What is the matter?” Nguyen asks her mother.
“Nothing, I am just too happy,” the grandmother says.
Another emotional moment in the show occurs when the mother of migrant spouse Nguyen Tuyet Nhung spoke to the camera about how worried she was when she heard that her daughter was going to marry to a Taiwanese and move to Taiwan.
“I was so worried about whether she would lead a good life abroad, and whether her husband is a good man,” Nguyen Tuyet Nhung’s mother said. “On the night before her marriage, I told her that she could still decide not to go through with the marriage.”
Nguyen Tuyet Nhung told the news conference that she had been quite nervous before the wedding, but to be able to move to Taiwan to have a better life and help her family, she told her mother that she was not worried and would not regret it.
“After my father passed away, the family suffered financially, so I secretly sold a jade bracelet that I had bought with money I has saved through years of hard work to sign up for a matchmaking service with Taiwanese men,” she said. “I only told my family after my husband decided to marry me.”
Lo told the news conference that language problems had been a major obstacle for the production crew, as it is for the women to show their true selves in Taiwan.
“Due to the language barrier, it took us longer than normal to establish a trust relationship with their families, and it also prevented us from finding interesting points during their conservations at home [in Vietnam], since we did not understand what they were talking about,” Lo said.
“However, I think it was all worth it, and it makes for an interesting film,” the director said.
Homework of Happiness premieres on PTS’ HD channel at 5pm on Saturday and will be aired on PTS’ channel 13 at 10pm on March 26 and again on April 2.