Mon, Jan 07, 2019 - Page 3 News List

INTERVIEW: Director wants to revive 1600s at theme park

With his plans to build ‘Formosa Wonderland,’ a 100 hectare theme park in Tainan about local 17th-century history, film director Wei Te-sheng wants to highlight the great diversity of cultures in Taiwan when it first began to play a role in world history, he told staff reporter Lan Tsu-wei from the Chinese-language ‘Liberty Times’ (sister newspaper of the ‘Taipei Times’)

Film director Wei Te-sheng shows a scale model of his proposal for a theme park in Tainan called “Formosa Wonderland” during an interview on Dec. 6 last year.

Photo: Liu Hsin-de, Taipei Times

Liberty Times (LT): Your plan for Formosa Wonderland (豐盛之城) is reminiscent of reports that you were heartbroken after a historically accurate village that you painstakingly built as the set for your film “Seediq Bale” was torn down after filming ended.

Wei Te-sheng (魏德聖): It did not just happen after that film. For Kano, I also built a historical set. It broke me up to see this thing I had poured so much effort into torn down after filming ended, so I started exploring ways to preserve sets.

One of the unexpected lessons directing has taught me is that cinematic production can help create and sustain local tourism. That Cape No. 7 (海角七號) promoted tourism in Kenting was an unintended side-effect of that film. By the time I shot Kano, Chiayi County businesses fully supported my efforts.

I have this fantasy of having a theater that plays my movies all year long. Filmmakers hate not being able to find theaters to screen a movie, or getting the two-weeks-or-less theatrical release. That means a lot of people would not be able to see the movie in the theater and would have to wait for the TV or DVD release.

I want to build a theater that plays my movies every day, for all eternity, where people could see my films whenever they want.

LT: The Formosa Wonderland project is to include a theater, a studio and an amusement park rolled into one. Are you not worried that it might be too ambitious?

Wei: Formosa Wonderland is an outgrowth of my Taiwan Trilogy (臺灣三部曲) project, which has been in the offing for years. I was done with the script in 2001, but I just was not ready to shoot it. Now that I have chalked up more than a decade of experience, I know that the time has come.

However, by now, the concept has evolved from creating sets for a film project to establishing a theme park. This reflects a problem that I have been wrestling with. Can movie sets have a life beyond the movie? Is there anything else that I can offer visitors after they have watched a film at the park? Would it not be nice if children could use the sets to experience history for educational purposes?

There are many farms in the park’s neighborhood. How would we approach them about forming collaborative relationships? How do we change the national paradigm of one-day tours?

To start with, I thought about organizing more recreational activities for visitors. That led to lodging arrangements with local hotels and hostels, dining arrangements with farms and places that sell local produce, and the whole thing just kept getting bigger. At its current scale, I would not be able to run it on my own, so I am relying on my management team and colleagues.

LT: One of the castles in Formosa Wonderland is a recreation of the Dutch colonial political and economic center of Fort Zeelandia, also known as Anping Fort (安平古堡). It is evident that you are trying to recreate the Taiwan of 400 years ago. What is the allure of that period?

Wei: In the 17th century, Taiwan was first mentioned in world history. Just the thought of being able to shoot a movie set in that era is exciting. I did not try anything of this scale with Seediq Bale and Kano, but Taiwan in the Age of Exploration is undoubtedly worthy of such a venture.

To understand Taiwanese history, it is important to understand how the variety of cultures on Taiwan started during this period. Compared with the Japanese colonial era from the late 19th century to the early 20th century, the interaction between cultures in Taiwan in the 17th century was much greater.

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