2009 120 min
Director/writer/production designer: Yonfan 楊凡, born 1947 in Wuhan, China
Yonfan moved to Taiwan from Hong Kong when he was five years old. He grew up in a military village in Taichung, then in 1964 left Taiwan for Hong Kong. After traveling world-wide, he settled in Hong Kong in 1973. His first film, a romantic love story, appeared in 1984. In the 1990s he turned from mainstream filmmaking to focus on marginalized and LGBT groups. His own childhood memories are documented in „Prince of Tears“.
The setting is in a 1950s military dependents’ village in Taiwan, one of the now famous and preserved juancun 眷村. Of these, 879 were built all over the island, and 170 of them are preserved today.
Two elementary school-age sisters come home from school to discover that their parents have been arrested by military police. This was during the so-called ‘White terror’, an anti-Communist inquisition. Their father, as with most white terror victims in the 1950s and 1960s, were mainlanders who came to Taiwan after losing the civil war against the Chinese communists in 1949.
Furthermore, the girls experience the white terror at school, when their beloved teacher one day disappears and is sentenced and executed -- as is their father, who had used his position as an air force pilot to return to China for his elder daughter, and is now accused of being a communist.
The father's best friend, the scarred face Ding, does not testify in his defense, but uses the opportunity of his death to marry his widow.
The film has other personalities from the era of white terror, including a glamourous wife of a general, whose daughter is friends with the younger sister and who secretly takes the girls to witness the execution.
The film is detailed and meticulous in its presentation of the surroundings and clothes of the 1950s – including gatherings of expensive qipao-wearers. It has been criticised for the spotless settings and dreamlike romantic landscapes as imagined by the girls. However, the beautiful background scenery only highlights the threatening atmosphere and deadly outcome. The film's fairytale name „Prince of Tears“ is the title of a children's fantasy book that is one of the girls’ favorite. Such a book does not exist, much like romance and family happiness. The happy family life of the beginning – the housewife a well-known cook and passionate housewife, and the pilot father playing the accordion – is soon destroyed by white terror political suspicions and friends who are actually spies.
Some documentary materials — recordings, film and photos - play at the opening of the film and accompany the closing credits. The story that Yonfan - a director and writer of some 13 films - authored, is based on a real event, and in an interview, Yonfan remembers his moving visit with the adult daughter to her father's grave.
Prince of Tears [ filmstarts.de ]
Prince of Tears [ Hollywood Reporter ]
FILM REVIEW: History repeats itself as farce [Taipei Times; 2009 Oct 30 ]
Prince of Tears [ outnow.ch ]
Yonfan Studio [ Hong Kong ]
Text source and photocredit: Vienna Center for Taiwan Studies