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Filmmaker | Wan Jen

  • Date:2015-11-20
Filmmaker | Wan Jen

  • Chinese Name: 萬仁
  • Born: 1950
  • Birthplace: Taipei City
  • Did You Know That … ?
  • Before the three-part anthology film "The Sandwich Man (兒子的大玩偶, 1983)” was released, the third episode of the anthology by Wan Jen titled "The Taste of Apples (蘋果的滋味,1983)” exasperated conservative critics for its negative depiction of Taiwan. Some major scenes were almost deleted but Wan saved the film from censorship by publicizing the fact with help from a United Daily News journalist, and the original cut was released.

As a leading filmmaker in Taiwan, Wan Jen has only produced 9 films since 1983, and each film has gone to become a classic. His works "Super Citizen (超級市民, 1985),” "Super Citizen Ko (超級大國民, 1995),” and "Connection by Fate (超級公民, 1999)” are widely seen as a trilogy reflecting the social and political movement of Taiwan in different eras.

After receiving a master's degree in Film from Columbia College, Wan returned to Taiwan and officially entered the film industry in 1983 by directing the omnibus film "The Sandwich Man” with directors Hou Hsiao-hsien (侯孝賢) and Zeng Chuang-hsiang (曾壯祥).

Wan soon became one of the emerging directors during Taiwan's New Wave Cinema (台灣新浪潮電影) movement in the 1980s and 1990s. In contrast to the dominant kung-fu films and the romantic melodrama of that era, New Wave films are known for their emphasis on realism and modernist aesthetics.

Instead of making commercial films, Wan focuses on addressing the main issues faced by Taiwan at different time periods. For example, "The Taste of Apples (1983)” is a satire on Taiwan's fascination with the U.S. in the 1960s that vividly depicts the contrast between undeveloped Taiwan and the wealthy U.S. at that time.

The political drama "Super Citizen Ko (1995)” presents Taiwan's White Terror era (1949-1992) of martial rule, whereas "Ah Fei (油麻菜籽, 1984)” illustrates a story that reflects women's fate and lack of choices in the conservative society of Taiwan.

Wan's latest release, "It Takes Two to Tango (車拼, 2014),” examines the complex relationship between Taiwan and mainland China. He tackles the sensitive issue deftly with comedy, through a story of the marriage between two families - one from Taiwan, and the other from China - using matrimony as a metaphor for the thorny political standoff between the two sides of the Taiwan Strait.

Three decades after the New Wave Cinema in Taiwan, Wan continues to capture the nation's new and existing problems and struggles through his critical perspective in filmmaking. Wan's films therefore also serve to document the history of Taiwan.