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Monday, September 5, 2011

Monkey businesss

The view from my daughter's room this morning. Before you get all gushy about the sight of the egrets in the rice fields, keep in mind that just out of the picture frame to the right there is a factory belonging to a biotechnology company.

Japan Today has noticed that Seedig Bale, the upcoming film about the Wushe Incident 霧社事件, the last major uprising against Japan's colonial rule of Taiwan, has been getting a lot of attention on this island ("Film on uprising against Japan gets rare honor in Taiwan"):

"Taiwanese director Wei Te-sheng 魏德聖 will lead scores of aboriginal actors to attend a gala premiere in T'aipei (Tái​běi) 台北 of his historical epic 'Warriors of the Rainbow: Seediq Bale' 賽德克‧巴萊.

The epic about a 1930 aboriginal uprising against Taiwan’s Japanese rulers is currently up for best feature film at the Venice Film Festival.

The T'aipei  premiere will be held Sunday at a square facing the Presidential Office Building 總統府 in honor of the island’s first epic film production in decades.

Speaking to reporters in Venice, Wei said the film’s nomination shows 'arts and culture can have a greater power than politics.'

The comments are seen as a mild criticism over the Venice festival’s listing of the film as coming from Taiwan, China — a reference that makes the self-governed, democratic island seem like it comes under Beijing’s rule."

"Mild" is the operating word here. There is no logical reason at all for the film festival organizers to insist that Taiwan be identified as "Taiwan, China", or that only flags of nations with which Italy has diplomatic relations can be displayed in Venice. Unless, that is, you accept that caving in to Chinese pressure is a "logical" act. It would be great if Taiwan's stars (musicians, actors, filmmakers and so on) could stand together and speak with one voice in condemning these ridiculous demands from China, but their reactions are rarely strongly-worded, and many meekly compromise rather than risk Beijing's ire. It's understandable, of course, why they do so - Taiwan is a small country, with correspondingly small rewards, while China offers so much more, as the gateway to the Greater China market. Which is perhaps why Wei chose to complete his film about the Wushe Incident following the runaway success of Cape No. 7 海角七號. The latter movie dared to portray World War Two-era Japanese as sympathetic human beings and not imperialistic warmongers, and its release in China was first delayed, and then shown with some scenes censored. It wouldn't be surprising if Seediq Bale is much more warmly received by the Chinese authorities.

Here in Taiwan, the reactionary China Post newspaper 英文中國郵報 has certainly been looking forward to the film's release, and tonight's showing in the square opposite the building where President Ma Ying-jeou 馬英九 of the Kuomintang (Guómíndǎng) 國民黨 works smacks of cynicism. A couple of years ago, when the KMT was the opposition party, a large banner of the Wushe Incident leader Mona Rudao was hung from the party headquarters building in T'aipei. Though it is doubtful that Mona Rudao was fighting to liberate his people from Japanese rule in order to help "reunite" Taiwan with the Chinese "motherland", that hasn't stopped the Chinese Nationalists from trying to co-opt him in order to make themselves appear more "Taiwanese". Perhaps Wei's next film could be about aborigines struggling to preserve their culture in the face of post-1945 KMT Sinicization efforts.

Meanwhile, here in the real world, the Kaminoge family spent the afternoon in T'aichung's (Tái​zhōng) 台中 Tak'eng (Dà​kēng) 大坑 area, first to check out an "alternative" elementary school for Amber (she'll start first grade next year - more on that in future blog posts)...:

Amber on the school grounds

...and then to visit what the Mandarin signs called a "Monkey Area" (Hóuqū) 猴區. There, we saw a lot of Formosan Macaques 台灣獼猴 doing a lot of different things, such as drinking water...:

...checking themselves out in mirrors:



...and swimming:

In short, there were a lot of macaques.

The great thing about the monkey area was that the macaques were not penned in. Instead, they are drawn to the area by free handouts of fruit, and we were fortunate in that we arrived there just in time for their evening feeding. Once they had had their fill, the monkeys returned to the forest. In fact, we were told that there were fewer monkeys than usual today, because many of the others were deep in the mountains gorging themselves on longans (lóng​yǎn) 龍眼, which are currently in season, and which Amber also loves. While it is questionable to bait the macaques with food in order to bring them into close contact with people, the operators of the monkey area do seem to be making a conscientious effort to prevent visitors from attempting to feed the macaques, and to keep the monkeys from getting too close to the tourists. The monkeys are free to roam their Tak'eng homeland, and so far, at least, display little of the aggressiveness that the monkeys on Kaohsiung's (Gāo​xióng) 高雄 Ch'aishan (Cháishān) 柴山 mountain are increasingly becoming infamous for.

My own little monkey certainly enjoyed herself today:

From a trilingual restaurant menu:

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