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Touring film festival commemorates end of martial law era

2017/10/14 22:31:18

Taipei, Oct. 14 (CNA) The Taiwan International Human Rights Film Festival kicked off Saturday in Taipei to mark the 30th anniversary of the lifting of Martial Law in Taiwan and to encourage reflection on human rights issues.

During the seven-week festival, which was organized by the Preparatory Office of the National Human Rights Museum, two Taiwanese films and nine foreign films will be screened at 18 locations around the country.

"There was a time when Taiwan believed in collectivism and believed that economic prosperity would bring happiness," Deputy Culture Minister Ting Hsiao-ching (丁曉菁) said at the opening of the festival. "The fact is, authoritarian rule allowed the state machinery to cause a lot of collective harm at certain periods of time."

She said some people are still unwilling to face the past and may think that it had nothing to do with them.

"But if we cannot bravely face the real reasons that caused these tragedies, it will be hard for us to begin our transitional justice process," Ting said.

She said her ministry worked with the festival organizers to help select the films, in the hope that the audiences would be inspired to think about how to prevent such tragedies in the future.

The festival opened Saturday at the in89 Cinemax movie theater with the documentary "The Gatekeepers," by Israeli director Dror Moreh, which tells the story of Israel's internal security service, the Shin Bet, from the perspective of six of its former leaders.

In the film, the former Shin Bet leaders reflect on their past decisions and take a new look at their enemies at the time, said Angelika Wang (王耿瑜), director of the Taiwan Original Filmmakers Union and curator of the film festival.

"The film is about how people should open their hearts and hold conversations with each other, so that there can be peace and prosperity, because hate only invites more hate, Wang told CNA.

Two of the other films that will be screened, "Art War" and "Don't Think I've Forgotten: Cambodia's Lost Rock & Roll," both tell the story of artists in a troubled nation, Wang said.

"Art War" is about young Egyptian artists using their graffiti, music and art to keep the revolution of the Arab Spring alive.

"Don't Think I've Forgotten: Cambodia's Lost Rock & Roll" features the vibrant rock music scene in Cambodia in the 1960s and 1970s, before the rise of the brutal Khmer Rouge regime and Cambodian genocide.

The two Taiwanese films that will be screened at the festival are "The Last Insurrection" and "The White Prince."

"The Last Insurrection" is about the Taiwan Independent Association Incident in 1991, when four individuals, including a student, were arrested and accused of organizing pro-independence activities.

"The White Prince" portrays the life of former political prisoner Tsai Kun-lin (蔡焜霖), who was imprisoned in the 1950s during Taiwan's White Terror period for joining a book club.

Tsai, who attended the festival on Saturday, said Taiwan has made huge progress since the 1950s, when doctors, professors and even innocent children were brutally suppressed, imprisoned or killed.

Now former political prisoners, government officials and scholars can sit down together to watch a human rights film and think about transitional justice, Tsai said.

"I cherish this moment very much," he said.

Martial law was imposed in Taiwan on May 19, 1949 and lifted by President Chiang Ching-kuo (蔣經國) on July 15, 1987.

During the martial law era, people were not allowed to form political parties, and there was no right of assembly, free speech or publication in Taiwan.

The White Terror period lasted until martial law was lifted in Taiwan in 1987. During that period, many people were killed and an estimated 140,000 to 200,000 people -- many of them intellectuals and Taiwan's social elite -- were imprisoned.

The touring film festival, which commemorates the end of that era, will run until Nov. 29.

(By Christie Chen)