The box-office hit Kano has been criticized for “glorifying Japanese colonial rule of Taiwan,” prompting the film’s director to defend his work.
“Let’s leave out the politics. Baseball has universal values. We want to express the idea that ‘Though Taiwan is small, it is strong,’” director Umin Boya (馬志翔) said. “Let’s get reacquainted with ourselves and build up confidence in ourselves.”
The movie has received generally positive reviews, but there have been detractors as well. In recent days, controversy over Kano has boiled over in the media, with some heated discourse.
Earlier this week, the Chinese-language United Daily News and China Times published a letter on the same day, which were signed by one writer surnamed Yen (嚴) and one surnamed Chen (陳), although the contents of the letters were identical. The letters criticized Kano as a distortion of history, sycophantic to the Japanese colonial government and as being made with a Japanese audience in mind.
Over the past two days, a number of netizens have written that the letter was written by Minister of Culture Lung Ying-tai (龍應台) due to the style of writing used and mention of the 1990s civil war in the former Yugoslavia.
When questioned at the Legislature yesterday, Lung denied any involvement with the letter, adding that she was too busy to write to a newspaper.
When asked by lawmakers if she thinks that Kano glorifies Japanese colonial rule, Lung said: “People who write and create their own work must be true to themselves. They should not concern themselves too much with the opinions of the public.”
She added that the ministry handed out NT$75.8 million for Kano’s production because it was made in Taiwan.
Separately yesterday, Boya said that most people thought Taiwanese baseball began in the late 1960s with the rise of the Hongye little league team (紅葉少棒).
Boya told students at a high school in Greater Taichung that Chiayi City’s Kano school team predated the Hongye team.
“They fought against all odds to reach the final of the Japanese high-school Koshien tournament. They did it under very difficult conditions. Unfortunately, the Kano story was not well known... I wanted to direct this movie because it is a heart-warming story,” said Boya, who is from the Sediq Aboriginal community.
The film is based on the true story of a school baseball team from Chiayi City during the 1930s.
“It is all right if you are unsure of your future. Students should always hold on to their sense of curiosity and passion for learning, while following the things they find that are of interest,” Boya said to the students. “When an opportunity arises, you must grasp it and do not let go.”
“It is easy to dream, but to realize your dream can be difficult. You can succeed if you do not give up. Even if the result is not great, you can still be a winner to yourself,” he added.
Kano has earned NT$150 million (US$4.9 million) in Taiwanese theaters since its release two weeks ago.