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More on our May Film Study

by Francile Albright

Just a little more from our instructor, Will Tiao, on his film Formosa Betrayed, and how he sees film playing a role in our current social climate. (The class is filling up and space is limited, so be sure to register soon — class begins May 6th.)

What motivated you to write/act/produce Formosa Betrayed

Formosa Betrayed is inspired by true events that happened in the Taiwanese American community in the 1970s-80s. I first heard these stories from my parents who came from Taiwan to Kansas in the late 60s. 

My father was a graduate student and professor at Kansas State University in Manhattan, Kansas. While there, he helped to create a Taiwanese Student Association on campus. Because he was part of the “Taiwanese” student group — and not the “Chinese” student group — he was branded a “troublemaker” and blacklisted from going back to Taiwan. His family in Taiwan was harassed there for his “activities.”  This happened thousands of times over to other Taiwanese and eventually led to a couple of high profile murders which inspired us to make the film. 

The idea that there were student spies on an American college campus, which led to harassment and eventually murder, and affected the international relations between 3 different countries, was a story I thought was facinating and needed to be told to a wider audience. 

What role do you think film can play in addressing our current social climate? And, what are you most excited/curious about as the instructor leading our May Film Study class at The Picture House? 

I’m excited to be a part of the discussion on the role Asian Americans play in the American narrative through film.  Asian American immigrants — like all American immigrants — bring with them a history from where they came, which informs their worldview. Once they arrive, they are forced to reconcile this worldview with the larger American narrative. That American narrative is then changed by these immigrants and their children (and children’s children). 

Films allow us to see how all these narratives intersect. Each of the films in this class spotlights a different aspect of how Asian Americans have been affected and how they affect the broader narrative. A lot of these films deal with difficult subjects, ones that we may want to shy away from because of the pain that’s been caused.

Today, after the entire world has gone through the collective trauma of a global pandemic, it is understandable to want to punish those whom we believe are responsible for our suffering. The hope is by bringing these issues to light through film and discussion, we can achieve a greater understanding of the costs to individuals and society as a whole when entire groups of people are scapegoated. 

The beauty of film is that we can experience the story through the characters and, through their journey, come out the other side with a greater understanding of their humanity and reflect on what it means for our own lives and those we know and love.