Taiwanese film director Ang Lee’s (李安) award of best director at the Oscars on Sunday night for Life of Pi was a source of tremendous pride for Taiwan, especially after he thanked Taiwanese for their help in making the movie.
The Oscar is a new benchmark in Lee’s illustrious career and one that he made little secret he coveted. However, the evidence of his greatness as a filmmaker manifested itself well before the 58-year-old native of Pingtung County stepped onto the podium to receive his Oscar.
Over the years, Lee has transcended his identity as an Asian and tackled with great precision a surprisingly versatile list of genres, from Victorian Britain in Sense and Sensibility — a feat of civilizational displacement perhaps only equaled by Japanese novelist Kazuo Ishiguro in his book The Remains of the Day — to the American West and male homosexuality in Brokeback Mountain.
From less ambitious and more local efforts like his Father Knows Best trilogy (家庭三部曲) to the martial arts extravaganza Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (臥虎藏龍), Lee has constantly pushed the envelope of storytelling and proven himself as one of the greatest filmmakers of our time.
However, there was nothing preordained in Lee’s rise to the top. In fact, his success occurred against all odds, with constant reminders from family and the society he grew up in that filmmaking — especially filmmaking by an Asian in the West — was not a realistic or respectable job. Among those who opposed his artistic ambitions was his father, who for years refused to speak to the young Lee as he struggled to make it in Hollywood. Relatives offered him money so he would open a Chinese restaurant, and in his struggling years, Lee even began studying informatics, thinking he might find a job working with computers.
That we are able to enjoy Lee’s artistic vision today is largely thanks to his wife, Jane Lin (林惠嘉), who never stopped believing in her husband’s dreams and, when the fledgling filmmaker was on the brink of giving up, gave him that extra push (it was she who returned the money given Lee to open the restaurant).
There is a lesson in this. While Taiwanese on Monday were eager to celebrate the “pride of Taiwan” for his achievement, the great majority of them, along with their government, looked the other way when Lee was struggling as an assistant on movie sets, on the brink of giving up and taking up a “real job.”
Far too often, Taiwanese denigrate the arts and sports, discouraging their children from pursuing their dreams and forcing them to choose career paths that are unsuited to them. As with basketball player Jeremy Lin (林書豪), Taiwan is happy to claim successes, but rarely provides the support necessary to achieve such goals.
Lee, like many others who have shone on the international scene, succeeded not because of Taiwan, but despite it.
As Taiwan struggles to break through the wall of silence that surrounds its existence, it is high time that dreamers be cultivated and encouraged to press ahead, even if, in the short term, such endeavors do not translate into dollar figures. A nation is not built on lawyers, doctors and businesspeople alone. It needs thinkers, writers, philosophers, filmmakers, painters, architects and professional athletes.
Only through proper support, both financial and moral, will tomorrow’s “prides of Taiwan” emerge to help put the nation on the map. They are out there today, and they need all the encouragement they can get.
Speaking at the Asia-Pacific Forward Forum in Taipei, former Singaporean minister for foreign affairs George Yeo (楊榮文) proposed a “Chinese commonwealth” as a potential framework for political integration between Taiwan and China. Yeo said the “status quo” in the Taiwan Strait is unsustainable and that Taiwan should not be “a piece on the chessboard” in a geopolitical game between China and the US. Yeo’s remark is nothing but an ill-intentioned political maneuver that is made by all pro-China politicians in Singapore. Since when does a Southeast Asian nation have the right to stick its nose in where it is not wanted
The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has released a plan to economically integrate China’s Fujian Province with Taiwan’s Kinmen County, outlining a cross-strait development project based on six major themes and 21 measures. This official document by the CCP is directed toward Taiwan’s three outlying island counties: Penghu County, Lienchiang County (Matsu) and Kinmen County. The plan sets out to construct a cohabiting sphere between Kinmen and the nearby Chinese city of Xiamen, as well as between Matsu and Fuzhou. It also aims to bring together Minnanese cultural areas including Taiwan’s Penghu and China’s cities of Quanzhou and Zhangzhou for further integrated
During a recent visit to Taiwan, I encountered repeated questions about “America skepticism” among the body politic. The basic premise of the “America skepticism” theory is that Taiwan people should view the United States as an unreliable, self-interested actor who is using Taiwan for its own purposes. According to this theory, America will abandon Taiwan when its interests are advanced by doing so. At one level, such skepticism is a sign of a healthy, well-functioning democratic society that protects the right for vigorous political debate. Indeed, around the world, the people of Taiwan are far from alone in debating America’s reliability
As China’s economy was meant to drive global economic growth this year, its dramatic slowdown is sounding alarm bells across the world, with economists and experts criticizing Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) for his unwillingness or inability to respond to the nation’s myriad mounting crises. The Wall Street Journal reported that investors have been calling on Beijing to take bolder steps to boost output — especially by promoting consumer spending — but Xi has deep-rooted philosophical objections to Western-style consumption-driven growth, seeing it as wasteful and at odds with his goal of making China a world-leading industrial and technological powerhouse, and