Mon, Dec 24, 2018 - Page 3 News List

INTERVIEW: Producers discuss first local political drama

HOUSE OF BRIDGE:The filmmakers said they would not disclose who is working on the series due to its sensitivity, after refusing funding that possibly came from China

By Lan Tsu-wei, Ho Tsung-han, Jonathan Chin and Jake Chung  /  Staff reporters, with staff writers

Executive producer Sylvia Feng, left, and producer Issac Wang of the television drama series International Bridge Club hold photographs related to the story in Taipei on Dec. 7.

Photo: Ho Tsung-han, Taipei Times

Taiwanese TV audiences are ready for a political thriller grounded in the history of the 1990s, producer Issac Wang (汪怡昕) and executive producer Sylvia Feng (馮賢賢) of International Bridge Club (國際橋牌社) said.

The pre-production series would follow the turbulent political history of the era through characters including a presidential guard, a Japanese spy, a pro-independence restaurant owner, a newspaper reporter and a party worker, they said in an interview with the Liberty Times (sister newspaper of the Taipei Times).

Market research showed that potential viewers responded enthusiastically to a show based on Taiwan’s period of democratization, Wang said.

“This is an opening to make serialized political drama in Taiwan,” he said.

That Taiwan has not produced political dramas has less to do with Taiwanese filmmakers’ competence and more with self-imposed notions of what constitutes appropriate material for TV, he said.

“A well-made show that sees commercial success would create an original Taiwanese property,” Wang added.

He said the idea for the show came when he interviewed former president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) for a documentary.

During the course of the interview, which took more than 100 hours, he began to realize that international politics shaped many important domestic political events of the past few decades, Wang said.

The US, China, Japan and South Korea often tried to push Taiwan in opposite directions, which influenced history in tangible ways, he said.

“We were thinking about our own cards, but were also a card in other players’ hands,” he said. “There is high drama to the high-stakes game that was played.”

Wang said he was “born a rebel.”

Growing up, his father would give him books and take him to speeches of the dangwai (黨外, “outside the party”) movement, and he later joined the farmers’ march of 1988 as a high-school student, he said.

“I have long been puzzled by our country’s inability to confront its own history,” he said. “Why would people stop others from telling a story? If everyone else chooses to be cowards about it, then it is on me to do it.”

“The forerunners of democracy paid with their freedom, even their lives. What is the worst that can happen these days? At most, they would slap me with some label and I make less money. So what?” he asked.

US political thrillers are sophisticated, but they still follow a certain stereotypical formula, while Taiwan’s real and “unique democratic experience” does not, Feng said.

“Taiwan achieved rapid democratization after a long history of colonial rule and martial law. There have been three peaceful transitions of power” and the world has something to learn from the nation’s experience with democracy, she said.

“For example, the UN had to send officials to Taiwan to say human rights are not issues appropriate for referendums to decide,” she said. “Our little local elections had a global impact.”

Bruce Knotts, executive director of the Unitarian Universalist Association’s UN office, a non-governmental organization with a presence at the UN in New York, on Dec. 4 in a speech in Taipei said that issues such as same-sex marriage “should never be put to a vote as Taiwan has just done.”

The appeal of a story is in the telling, Wang said when asked about the show’s entertainment value.

“If the viewer sees something called Two Decades in Taiwanese Politics, I guarantee you they are going to switch channels, but if you title it Is Democracy Right for a Chinese Society? then you have their attention,” he said.

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