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Ann Heylen - Taiwanese Identity and the Film Formosa Betrayed

A Multilayered Interpretation of Taiwan History

In July 2009, the thriller Formosa Betrayed was first screened at the Asian American International Film Festival, later being released in movie theaters in both the United States and Taiwan. Although the film’s title is taken from George Kerr's 1965 book of the same name, which narrates Taiwan society in the aftermath of the 2-28 Incident in 1947, these events are not the focus of the film. Rather, the plot follows the later events of the 1980s during Taiwan’s White Terror period. In this respect, precisely because of its title, the film lends itself to a multilayered discussion of Taiwan history, culture and society, allowing the lecture content to move beyond a pure cinematographic discussion. Additionally then, the following two aspects will be dealt with in the lecture. First, we will explore its media interpretation in society at large and look into motivations for expressing discontent or pinpointing sensitivities that may have political implications. Second, the lecture will extend its scope to the recent interest in witness reports and autobiographical writings, as well as fiction, by foreigners and discuss through these works their perceptions of the time period.

The relation to the annual topic 2015-2016 “Perceiving Taiwan: Literature, Media and Film,” will be underscored by introducing the 2009 film production and the 1965 book Formosa Betrayed and recent fictional literature narrating similar topics. Reference is made to the novel Jade Phoenix by Syd Goldsmyth. This will be complemented with media coverage about the film, the translation into Chinese of Kerr’s 1965 work and related socio-cultural events.

ANN HEYLEN is Associate Professor in the Department of Taiwan Culture, Languages and Literature and the Director of the International Taiwan Studies Center, National Taiwan Normal University. She is one of the founding board members of the European Association of Taiwan Studies (EATS), and associate research fellow at The European Research Center of Contemporary Taiwan (ERCCT), University of Tubingen, Germany. Her editorial duties include associate editor of the e-journal International Journal of Asia-Pacific Studies (IJAPS) published by Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM), Penang, Malaysia and of the editors-in-chief of the newly established East Asian Journal of Popular Culture (EAJPC) published by Intellect, United Kingdom. She has written Becoming Taiwan: from Colonialism to Democracy (Harrassowitz, 2010, co-edited with Scott Sommers) and Japanese Models, Chinese Culture and the Dilemma of Taiwanese Language Reform (Harrassowitz 2012). Forthcoming publications focus on the disclosure of 17th century Dutch manuscript writings pertaining to Taiwan.

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Vienna Center for Taiwan Studies

Department of East Asian Studies
University of Vienna
AAKH-Campus, Hof 2, Entrance 2.3
Spitalgasse 2
1090 Vienna Austria

Contact: Astrid Lipinsky
T: +43-1-4277-43844
University of Vienna | Universitätsring 1 | 1010 Vienna | T +43-1-4277-0
Lastupdate: 21.03.2015 - 00:36