Wed, Nov 13, 2019 - Page 4 News List

French filmmaker is naturalized

Staff writer, with CNA

A naturalization request from French filmmaker Jean-Robert Thomann, who has documented Taiwanese culture over the past two decades, has been approved by the government for his contributions to the promotion of local culture overseas.

Thomann, who won a Taiwan-France Cultural Award last year, thanked the government after receiving notification of the approval on Oct. 30.

The 48-year-old said his first encounter with Taiwan was in March 1996 when he came with his Taiwanese then-girlfriend due to his love of movies.

He was working as a film editor at a Paris TV station at the time, and to him and others in France, Taipei in the 1990s was a “city of movies” because of the Taiwanese directors — such as Hou Hsiao-hsien (侯孝賢), Edward Yang (楊德昌) and Tsai Ming-liang (蔡明亮) — who were beginning to shine on the world stage.

He said he quickly developed an affinity for Taiwan through his then-girlfriend, who introduced him to street food and the tea-drinking culture, while he also started to learn Chinese.

After that first visit, he regularly returned each year and decided to make documentaries about Taiwan to give greater exposure of its beauty to the French.

Twenty-three years after his first visit, he has made 16 documentaries on Taiwanese culture and two feature films.

They cover a broad range of topics, from Taiwanese opera, puppet shows, calligraphy and Aboriginal music, to the presidential and legislative elections in 2004 and 2008.

Most of that time, Thomann worked freelance, as he was unable to get a work visa as a filmmaker and he could only stay for a maximum of three months after receiving visa-free entry.

He settled permanently in Taiwan in 2009 and met his future wife, whom he married in 2014.

However, it was not until earlier this year that he decided to pursue Taiwanese citizenship after the household registration office in Taipei’s Wanhua District (萬華), where he lives, informed him of the opportunity to be naturalized without having to give up his French citizenship, he said.

That was due to amendments to the Nationality Act (國籍法) passed in December 2016 as part of government efforts to recruit and retain top talent from around the world.

The measure allowed foreign professionals or those who have made significant contributions to Taiwan to obtain citizenship without relinquishing their original nationality.

Previously, applicants had to give up their original citizenship to become a Taiwan citizen, making many reluctant to do so.

To date, 111 foreign professionals have taken advantage after meeting the special requirements in the fields of education, economics, medicine, agricultural machinery, culture and the arts, Ministry of the Interior data showed.

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