When the documentary Searching for the Silent Mother of the 228 Incident -- Lin Chiang-mai (尋找二二八的沈默母親林江邁) was released in December, Juan Mei-shu (阮美姝) -- a relative of one of the incident's victims -- was dumbfounded.
The documentary, sponsored by Taipei City Government's Department of Cultural Affairs during former Taipei mayor Ma Ying-jeou's (
Textbooks largely agree that the 228 Incident was sparked by a conflict between anti-contraband officers and locals as the officers tried to confiscate Lin Chiang-mai's black-market cigarettes.
In the documentary, Lin Ming-chu, who claims she was present when the conflict took place, says it was the result of a simple misunderstanding. She says the locals, most of whom spoke Hoklo (also known as Taiwanese), thought one of the Mandarin-speaking officers was refusing to pay for his tobacco.
Juan, however, who lost her father in in the incident, feels that Lin Ming-chu's account is an attempt to rewrite history.
"The content of the documentary and the brochure that accompanies it is completely contrary to what Lin Ming-chu and [her uncle] Lin Pao-lo (
This was the second press conference Juan has held to criticize the documentary since she declared her "retirement" from 228 Incident research in June.
The first press conference was held at the legislature last month, but did not attract too much media attention. This time, Juan decided to take members of the media on a trip down memory lane.
Although the Tien Ma Tea Room (
Seventy-five-year-old Wang, who flew back from the US for the press conference, said he was selling cigarettes next to Lin when the conflict took place.
Wang said that he saw an anti-contraband police officer hit Lin Chiang-mai on the head with his gun after struggling to take some cigarettes from her.
Wang added that he had not seen Lin Ming-chu at the scene and doubted that she knew what had actually happened.
Huang Shou-li (
Wang Yi-chun (
"People have different interpretations of history. Our documentary chronicles Lin and her daughters' involvement in the 228 Incident and how it affected their lives," Wang Yi-chun said.
Hsieh Ying-tseng (
The department had made the documentary so as to preserve the historical record, he said, adding that whether the narrative matches the historical facts should be left to historians to verify.
However, this explanation did not satisfy Juan or her supporters.
"In terms of historical research, memories of the people who were at the scene should be regarded as primary materials. [Making a documentary based on] indirect report from others [who were not present] may contribute to unnecessary misunderstanding [about the event]," said Hsueh Hua-yuan (薛化元), a professor of Taiwanese history at National Chengchi University.
Juan said the documentary glossed over pre-existing public dissatisfaction with the then Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) government before the incident occurred.
"A discourse without context cannot serve as evidence to explain a historical event. We cannot avoid talking about the real reason why the incident happened if we would like to portray the real story behind Lin Chiang-mai," Juan said.
"If we lack the courage to face history, we will only blur the face of the real Lin Chiang-mai. This in turn makes the documentary a fabrication," she said.
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