Taiwanese Movie “Cape No. 7”: Colonial Brainwashing?

I’m not trying to make fun of Chinese probable censorship on “Cape No. 7” (海角七號). Censorship easily turns into real-life satire anyway, and this story looks like one in the making.

China has suspended the screening of the hit Taiwanese film Cape No. 7. The film had passed Chinese censors and was scheduled to premiere in China in late December or early January.

There are rumors that the film has been blocked by the Chinese Central Government because it portrayed the Japanese occupation era in Taiwan in a favorable light. However, this has not been confirmed by the film’s distributors.

The [Taiwanese] Government Information Office is lobbying for the film’s release in China, saying that Chinese filmgoers will be sure to enjoy the film’s portrayal of Taiwan’s people and places.

Radio Taiwan International, Dec. 1 »

According to China, which had initially said it would allow the screening of the movie, Cape No. 7 could cause a “nationalistic backlash” and announced yesterday that the movie would not be available in China — at least not until it has been processed by the censors/cultural butchers. Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Strait Chairman Chen Yunlin, whose visit to Taipei last month resulted in massive demonstrations, called it the result of “colonial brainwashing,” ostensibly because the movie allows for the possibility of love between Taiwanese and Japanese, or perhaps for different ethnic groups to coexist peacefully.

Mike in Taipei »

For sure, the background to this “controversy” isn’t funny. You can of course blame the Japanese war crimes for the situation. And a simple comparison between the way the movie is received in Taiwan (it wasn’t an uncontroversial issue there either) and the way it might be received in mainland China probably doesn’t work. Taiwan had already been a Japanese colony for decades when Japan invaded China – and with the invasion came atrocities like the Nanjing Massacre. That may be one explanation why this is a Taiwanese movie.

But the war crimes are hardly the main reason as to why screening “Cape No. 7” might be a problem in Chinese theaters even today. More immediate roots of the problem lie in what the Chinese government might coin patriotic education. Even that wouldn’t be a real big hurdle, if this kind of “education” wouldn’t be operated by the Chinese Communist Party as a surrogate for free speech and public debate.

Chen Yunlin, a senior Chinese official in charge of relations with Taiwan, said the movie was tainted by its portrayal of Taiwanese who had been subject to “colonial brainwashing,” Taiwan’s United Daily News reported on its Web site Monday.

International Business Times, December 1 »

I’m wondering if Chen Yunlin really said that. If he did, that would be a stone’s throw by a man living in a glass house.

One Comment to “Taiwanese Movie “Cape No. 7”: Colonial Brainwashing?”

  1. JR,

    I’ve just left a reply to your comment over there at my blog. Go and read it.

    More about whether Chen Yunlin did or didn’t say that Cape No. 7 is a “colonial brainwashing”: To be honest, I really have some doubts, particularly given that the source widely quoted may have its origin from the Epoch Times. It’s hardly what you will call a reliable source.

    But of course there are different views. A commenter at the Forumosa, who identifies himself as a Bureaucrat of the Underworld, has this to say about whether or not the Chen Yunlin reversal of attitude on the movie has actually happened:

    “Don’t know if it’s true but why would it surprise you in the least? He’s a pol and pols flip flop all the time, everywhere.”


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