2002, Taiwan, 56 minutes
Directed by: 曾文珍, TSENG Wen-Chen (female)
In the 1950s, many Taiwanese intellectuals, workers and farmers were suspected by the dictatorial authority of being communist spies. During the so-called White Terror many were either jailed or killed. Only a very small number of these were women; Hsu Chin-yu was one.
Hsu was born during the period of Japanese colonial rule over Taiwan, and received a Japanese education. She was an adopted child, became a worker when she was 14, and when she was 24 went to work in the Taipei post office. Like most Taiwanese, Hsu spoke Japanese and had to attend mandatory Mandarin Chinese classes. Her teacher was both a modern woman and a communist. Inspired by her example, Hsu organized a protest demanding equal pay for equal work between mainlanders and Taiwanese, and joined the workers' movement.
As a result, she was jailed for 15 years during the White Terror. The long prison experience changed her life forever: her youth was gone when she left prison in her mid-forties.
Now, when filmed, Hsu is in her 80s and her beautiful black hair has turned white. She has led a rich and vigorous life spanning almost a full century, but still sticks to her communist ideals. She gives lectures and has been active in demonstratíons against the US anti-terror policies following 9/11.
Documentaries about political white terror victims have featured women as those left-behind and widowed, while the main protagonists are men. Therefore, this documentary by a female director about a female political victim provides a new, women’s perspective on the White Terror not seen before. Besides having Hsu Chin-yu directly address the camera, the director uses various techniques to describe her past, from animated cartoons to theatrical stage enactments. Furthermore, Tseng's camera follows Hsu when she revisits her life's locations, mostly in and around Taipei, but also Green Island prison.
Thus the film provides both a new look at contemporary history of Taiwan, linked with its repressive past, and a rare feminist presentation of the period.
Text source and photocredit: Vienna Center for Taiwan Studies