Question and Answer Session 1 “Apolitical Romance”

Question and Answer Session held during the Focus on Asia
International Film Festival Fukuoka 2014 (September, 2014).
Questions directed at Film Director Chun-yi Hsieh and
Actor Bryan(Shu-hao) Chang
regarding their film “Apolitical Romance” (2013 /Taiwan).


MC: Where did you get the plot of a love story between a strong-willed woman from Mainland China and an indecisive man from Taiwan?

Film Director Hsieh: This was based on my personal experience. When I was studying abroad at a university in New York, I met a woman from Mainland China. I ended up talking to her a lot because she was the only other person I knew who spoke Chinese. Many scenes in the film show the two protagonists kidding around. The nature of these conversations are in fact based on the same conversations I had with this woman. The woman, by the way, is Gu Qiao, the producer of my film.

MC: So, any developments in your relationship with her?

Film Director Hsieh: (Jokingly) Nothing like that happened. I did become good friends with her, though. For my film, I made the relationship into a love story.

Q: A long time ago when my parents went on a trip to Taiwan, they told me about how their camera was taken away from them when they pointed the lens at the statue of Chiang-Kai Shek. In the film, the female protagonist makes a commotion in front of the Office of the President. Is it really safe now to yell “Hurrah for Mao-Tse Tung!” in front of the Office?

Film Director Hsieh: (laughing) Don’t worry. In Taiwan, we have the freedom of speech. It’s perfectly alright to criticize the President of Taiwan.

Q: The male protagonist in the film is engrossed with his figure of “Gundam”. Is the film director and Mr. Chang also very knowledgeable with Japanese animation?

Film Director Hsieh: I love Japanese animation and manga. Of course I like “Gundam”, too. I love “Dragonball” the most though. Recently I’m getting interested in the Japanese manga “Shingeki no Kyojin” (“Attack of Titan”)

Actor Bryan Chang: (jokingly) If you let me speak on Japanese animation and manga, I can go on forever. There’s one Japanese manga that’s really influenced me in my career as well as in my private life. That’s “One Piece”. The character gives me courage. It’s a wonderful piece of work. I think people who haven’t seen this manga really should! When I’m down, reading this manga always gives me the courage to go forward. My brother’s girlfriend happens to be Japanese so whenever she visits Taiwan, I ask her to bring me a ton of “One Piece” merchandise. My dream is to have every piece of merchandise from this manga in my collection so I look forward to every one of her visits (laughing).

MC: You, two, seem to know Japanese animation and manga culture very well. Now I would like to ask for questions on the motion picture.

Q: I’d like to ask the film director this. If you like Japanese animation and manga, do you know the Japanese term “tsundere” (hot and cold personality)? This term seems to fit perfectly to describe the female protagonist in the film. At first she’s cold towards the guy but later, becomes “hot”. It’s a term used in describing a love relationship. What were your feelings on the contrast between men from Taiwan and women from the Mainland? Do these types of men and women exist in real life?

Film Director Hsieh: I don’t know the term “tsundere” but I did give the two protagonists in the film a stereotype character. Generally Taiwanese men have an image of women from the Mainland as being outspoken and strong-willed. Meanwhile women from the Mainland have an image of men from Taiwan as being weak-willed, ambiguous and indecisive. I then thought, what would happen if these two people met? However in the film, things like preconceived images and regions of birth end up as nothing more than something external. That’s because the two protagonists begin communicating their thoughts to each other. I’d like everyone to enjoy this process of the relationship. And it would be nice if the audience gets the message through this film that people can understand one another if they just meet and talk to each other.

Q: The scene in the train, where the female protagonist just stares at the male protagonist without talking to him, was quite impressive. I felt that although there were no words spoken, it was a scene where you could feel the two understood each other. Now after that they have a meal together where he talks about how he comes from the south of Taiwan. He begins by saying, “in the south” but then stops. What did he really want to tell her?

Film Director Hsieh: It wasn’t that he wanted to tell her that. In fact, he didn’t want to tell her that. The reason he stopped is because he really wasn’t from the south of Taiwan. He didn’t want to tell her about his private life, so he ended up lying. So in the end, he shuts up.

Q: The male protagonist A-Zheng in the film is presented as an otaku or geek who plays a comic role. But Mr. Chang, you are very good looking. How did you prepare for the role?

Actor Bryan Chang:  You can show your true acting charm by taking the role of someone who’s quite opposite yourself. On this occasion, I prepared for A-Zheng’s role by examining an otaku friend of mine. Whenever I prepare for a role, I begin by talking, to my family, my friends and people of a different generation.

Q: The scene where A-Zheng meets his father again…It was quite uneventful. I was rather surprised because I was expecting it to be a scene that could get tears from the audience. Also A-Zheng’s occupation of working as a civil servant. The film depicts this civil servant job as being an uninteresting profession, doesn’t it? Now how is this profession really regarded in Taiwan?

Film Director Hsieh: Very often the relationship between a father and son becomes quite delicate after the father and mother divorce. In the film, the son can’t be straight forward about how he feels when he speaks to his father. Besides, he isn’t in a situation that allows him to speak frankly. Also there’s little child-rearing physical contact between the father and the son. So here, I depicted this scene of a father and son reuniting, quite uneventfully. Now, civil service is regarded as a rather conservative profession with a stable income. The reason I made A-Zheng a civil servant is because I wanted to show that A-Zheng probably would have awakened to the realization in the end that he has to stand up and fight to do what he really wants to do.

MC: The man who played A-Zheng’s father also played the role of a father in “No Puedo Vivir Sin Ti” that was exhibited at our film festival 5 years ago. His acting was very impressive then as well. I’m sure some in the audience remember that film.

Q: About the scene where the heroine of the film, Chin Lang, plays mah-jongg with her grandmother. Her grandmother repeatedly tries to win by cheating. Now what was the real reason she sent her granddaughter to Taiwan?

Film Director Hsieh: At the time Chin Lang was going through a heart-broken affair and tried to get over it by drinking and shutting herself off from people. The grandmother wanted to change her granddaughter’s negative environment even if it meant coming up with a reason on purpose. Her grandmother wanted to change the painful environment in her granddaughter’s life. And her way of doing this was to ask her granddaughter to find the first man she ever loved. Ching Lang knew that looking for her grandmother’s first lover was only a superficial pretext to allow herself to go out and change herself. And she, herself, wanted to change.

Q: How was your impression of Huang Lu who co-starred with you in the role of Ching Lang?

Actor Bryan Chang: Huang Lu is much like the character she played in the film. She wasn’t that scary in real life, though. She was straight forward with me, just like a typical woman from the Mainland. I don’t think she likes indecisive men. I felt she had a manly character (chuckle), though, and this allowed me to talk with her in a relaxed atmosphere. I really enjoyed the process we took of making the film while we (Huang Lu, myself and the film director) discussed the issue of what would happen if a Mainland woman and a man from Taiwan got together.

MC: We were planning on having Huang Lu attend our festival but she couldn’t come because of her busy schedule. It’s really a shame that we can’t have her tell us her stories on the film.

Q: Can I speak in Chinese? I’m an exchange student from Mainland China. This was the first time I saw a film from Taiwan. It was really interesting and besides, the depiction of women from the Mainland was so realistic (laughter)! As I plan to see more films from Taiwan, I would like to know if you can give me any suggestions as to what films to see.

Film Director Hsieh: Thank you very much. I’m really happy to hear how you feel because women from the Mainland always tell me that at every film festival I visit. This film festival is showing many films from Taiwan so please go see them. Personally, I think the film “KANO” is the best. It’s a great film so please go see it.

Q: In the film, we see many rare figures of “Gundam”, but are they all yours?

Film Director Hsieh: I only wish they were. Actually they belong to the art director.

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