Monday, August 02, 2010

Interview: Actor-producer brings Taiwan’s history to the big screen

Taiwanese-American Will Tiao, producer and actor in the political thriller ‘Formosa Betrayed,’ sat down with ‘Taipei Times’ staff reporter J. Michael Cole last week to talk about the political and philosophical underpinnings of the film and the threat from China.

Taipei Times: Given your parents’ experience of being blacklisted by the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) during the White Terror era, did they ever worry about your safety after you embarked on this project?

Will Tiao (刁毓能): Ever since I left Washington, my career in politics, to pursue a career in Hollywood, I told them I wanted to do something about this issue, with regards to this idea of there being a series of murders of Taiwanese intellectuals, some of them in the US … that there were student spies on almost every campus. I had always wanted to tell the story for an American audience. I knew it was part of my parents’ story. I made it clear from day one that this was something I wanted to do. My father especially said that if you’re going to do something for Taiwan, then I’ll support you.

Of course we knew that doing this movie was something that would be provoking and controversial. But we were always careful about not pointing fingers. Other than Chiang Kai-shek (蔣介石), no other historical figure is mentioned. Never in the film did we use the terms Kuomintang or waishengren (外省人); we don’t call out any specific person … Of course we were aware that this could cause — and obviously caused — a lot of consternation among certain people, but we were always careful not to keep this in the typical blue-green divide that deals with Taiwan.

My interview with Mr. Tiao continues here.

Interestingly, the interviewee also had a few things to say about our encounter last week:

The final interview of the day is with J. Michael Cole of the Taipei Times. I'm pleasantly surprised to find out that he is French Canadian, and we joke around for a bit in French much to the chagrin of the Chinese/Taiwanese speakers in the room who have no idea what we're saying! It turns out Mr. Cole has a very interesting history. He used to work for the Canadian version of the FBI — but was frustrated by the policies of his government. He met and fell in love with a Taiwanese woman, and they moved to Taiwan. Now, he is the Deputy News Editor for the Taipei Times, which is Taiwan's leading English language daily newspaper.

The Taipei Times has already done some interviews with me about Formosa Betrayed and done some news coverage about the film's release in North America. So Mr. Cole decides he wants to get into some of the more weighty political and philosophical issues that we tackle in the film. It's a fun and wide-ranging interview, different than most of the typical questions I get. We also give him some information that hasn't been made public up to now — about why we decided to film Formosa Betrayed in Thailand instead of Taiwan. You're going to have to read his story to find out why...

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