OK, went to see this last night. I know the point of the film was the love story of the two protagonists entwined with the democracy movement and the White Terror, but I found myself not really interested in the personal story, and wanting to hear more about the history. Tien Mama is a courageous, funny, bloody-minded stalwart, and most of the events of the crucial years were only shown as they interacted with her story (rather understandably), but she couldn't really articulate a philosophy. I wanted to hear more from her daughter, and other figures involved (Yeh Chu-lan, Lin Yi-hsiung, Chen Chu). Other interesting characters of the times were excluded by the director's decision to focus on the lives of the Tiens, so for instance there was almost no mention of Lee Teng-hui, Chen Shui-bian, Annette Lu, Lynn Miles, Linda Arrigo, Henry Liu and so on. The decision to use Next Media-style animation for the personal stories also grated with me as it seemed to cheapen the seriousness of the stories being told, and while the music was highly appropriate, the mixing and direction left a lot to be desired.
I'm glad to have seen it. I sound like I'm dissing it above, but I think that's only because I had very high hopes for it. It's flawed, but important. Tien Chiu-chin's account of being first on the scene at the Lin family murders was utterly horrifying, amplified by the matter-of-fact way she tells it. The self-immolation protests of Cheng Nan-jung and Chan I-hua were handled well. At the same time, while there was mention of political prisoners, 228, jail terms, Amnesty International, and torture, I still came away thinking they missed so much, and they could have made it more powerful by building a more coherent narrative out of the struggle for democracy.
Feiren: any suggestions for other documentaries that deal with the period?