Review: Moving is the Start and End of the Story

Wang Song-Shan

There are numerous reasons for moving and migrating: for work; for marriage; for endless wars; or merely for wandering. Its form is not limited to one-directional or of a constant type. Man’s moving and migrating may be the drastic kind of never looking back; the coming home led by homesickness; or the back and forth due to indecisiveness. The beginnings and ends of life’s many stories are made possible by moving and migrating.

How much can man get when they go out to work? Can they return home sound and safe? In fact, it cannot be foreseen. Taiwan is the ideal working place for people living in Thailand’s poor areas. Till now, up to 150 thousand Thai laborers are here in Taiwan. Even if their dream of coming work in Taiwan can be fulfilled, often that’s not without costs. Daw-Ming Lee’s “Shattered Dreams” recorded the contention process the five job-cut Thai laborers joined with the unemployed, after an electronic factory in Tao Yuan shut down. Because foreign laborers have to pay large sums of brokerage fees to work in Taiwan, further with their unpaid salary and the monthly savings deducted, soon made the laborers into drastic living conditions. Whether or not that justice has been made is not the main issue of the film. Under Thailand’s not wealthy economical society, the three laborers sent back to Thailand still need to work, whether that place is in Japan, Switzerland, or Taiwan.

Intra-island migration in Taiwan, the building of a work and a family talk about different stories. The east coast origin Ameis come to this hopeful Taipei with the simple longing to have their own career and family. They started their new home “Huadong New Village” at the intersection of Hsichih Shin-tai Rt. 5 and N. 2nd highway, the grayish area between cities. No water or electricity is okay. But hoping for a better living is not easy. Wen-Chieh Tsao’s short film “Dreaming of Home-Marginal Tribe of the City” heavily presents as years pass, dreams of the Ameis in “Huadong New Village” are still afar, but again forced to move. Home is drawn out by the young painter; more of a fantasy than of something real. The Ameis on land far from their homes, fathers and sons, sing Taiwanese karaoke with no accents. Bicycles running, one youth saying” …cannot speak our dialect; cannot dance; either can I make those kind of sticky rice…, so our culture can’t be reserved. Anyways, it doesn’t matter!”

Ameis are not the only ones losing their culture and having identification difficulties caused by moving changes. Over a hundred years ago, ancestors of the Tachens followed yellow croakers from the coastal region of Zhejiang County to Tachen Island. Some forty years ago, because of war, tens and thousands of Tachens came to Taiwan and become anti-communist heroes, being called “the Tachen heroic fellows.” And some thirty years ago, in search of better living, some Tachens stole into the US and become chefs. Mayaw Biho’s long film “Coming and Going, Island of Tachen” talks about Tachens’ continual leaving home. When cross-straight tension lowered, a few Tachens went over the straight, upstream, on their journey back home. No more of the moral indignation back then, just some reminiscent pictures in mind. The land can still be told, but everything is different on the island, not even their ancestors’ graves could be found. Their past is fragmented. Tachens in threes places, although they still gather, play MJ, newly-weds still kowtow, the new cross-Atlantic Tachens will ultimately have different identity forms. Tachens endlessly moving to foreign lands are like newly-wed brides, into others’ place, starting their new journey.

Nai-Hui Huang, a cerebral palsy victim, an ambitious individual, a little well-known in Taiwan, married Navy, a Cambodian twenty years younger. Why marry Navy? And why “yes”? Tsung-Lung Tsai’s documentary “My Imported Wife” shows the unusualness of cross-national marriages, and the numerous latent dangers of weak bounding. All Navy wants is to help her family in Cambodia. But the eagerness to protect his own family, it is inevitable that Huang holds enmity toward his mother-in-law. The dramatic tension is structured on the two’ uncovered conflict worsened by the trip to Cambodia and the two-month trip the in-law took to Taiwan. Huang and Navy, a cerebral palsy victim and a foreigner, their arguments are smooth, strong and to the point. What was the no-line mother-in-law thinking, when Navy said in Chinese, “If I’m not poor, why would I marry you?” In this cross-national marriage, we see the earthly truth of many bindings. As for sexuality, age, culture, work, city and country, rich and poor, though not invincible, they are gaps not easily crossed, and the reasons of different types of conflicts.

Chao-Ti Ho’s “County Road 184” is Taiwan’s first music contention documentary about the music band’ recording process in the tobacco building in Meinung, Ping-Dong. The playing of Hakka music and traditional melodies warmly presents the band members living and working in their hometown; receiving awards at home and their cultural achievements in Prague, Belgium and Paris. At the mountain foot of Mienung, east of County Road 184, scenes of real life keep going on: usual like labor exchange for tobacco plantation; fierce like the dam issue, the cry of “leave good water, good mountain for our descendants; fight against the dams if you’re good men, good women;” wandering like the foreign wives learning new words, singing together in hakka “anxious sky, anxious earth, boundless is the Pacific Sea” or “time makes foreign grounds into home,” expressing their marrying-oversea-feeling. Coming home with rewards, the Labor Exchange Band goes along County Road 184, following traditional rituals, and come to worship the earth god. The unmoving Meinung is the index of the youths’ come and go. The flowing of cultural imagination along with the youths’ energy startles life’s new rhythm.

Unmoving land holds men’s endless needs. People come, then go. Like the unseen youth of Meinung, Rong-Shien Chen’s “Mountain Keepers-Song of Chung Giao Keng” start his story with an elder going to town to get letter; and describe the hakka elders spending their whole lives in this beautiful mountain village of centuries of migrating history. The youths already left for the cities. Chung Giao Keng is a deserted place. It used to have over a hundred families, but now left with only some twenty. With the passing away of the elders, the population is still on the decline. For those aging with this un-aging place, 70 is considered young; the sweet-potato 90-year-old mama isn’t old, she still can walk up the hills, nimbly bend and cut the grass, even feed some over a hundred chickens. Those looking after the mountain work diligently, live simply, continue on with seasons’ offerings, visit from door to door, and recollect the past.

The song of Chung Giao Keng, the elders sing about the inescapable tranquility. But they still have their imagination. Mi-Sen Wu, “Experimental Taiwanese” shows how the supposed calm life of foreign-county-origin Mr. Chu has been sparkled through the encountering with “Changjiang No. 1” in Taipei. His life becomes lively and homesickness has a new interpretation. Mr. Chu spent money learning Taiwanese to buy things in the market, and to sing the famous Taiwanese song “A Little Umbrella.” The incognito “Changjiang No. 1” is Chu’ sorcery to his passed life. The controversial “Changjiang No.1” plays an important part in Chu’ life and even is his hope of winning the lottery. Chu takes care of his long-time companion, doing husband’s duty. Inserted with the confusing role-changing, national identity, the life of Kanashima Yoshiko, those things related with espionage, seemingly true, seemingly false, the story is in fact talking about the nature of man’s moving and migrating.