Li-An Ko: Beyond Sadness: Historical Films in the Post-Martial Law Period of Taiwan (1987-2017)

Li-An Ko | Utrecht University, Department of Media and Culture Studies, Institute for Cultural Inquiry (ICON) | Supervisor: Prof. dr Frank Kessler  Co-supervisor: Dr Judith Keilbach | 1 September 2014 – 31 August 2018 | l.a.ko[at]

The development of cinema in Taiwan was heavily influenced by political powers (the colonial government of Japan and then the Chinese Koumintang), which controlled and restrained language, themes and historical representations on the screen. After the end of the Martial Law period in 1987, a number of films, in addition to the most famous one, Hou Hsiao-Hsien’s A City of Sadness (1989), engaged in the complicated historical issues of Taiwan, trying to represent Taiwanese history with viewpoints that had been suppressed by those in power. Thus, these historical films became part of the movement of reflecting on the identity of Taiwanese.

This research looks into the changes of historical discourse in Taiwanese cinema and the practice of local filmmakers on the historical representation during the past thirty years. At the same time, three case studies are used to explore the relationship between cinema and history and to respond to the issues of historical film with an analytical perspective of film narratology. The goal of the research is to foster our understanding of the role of cinema in the process of the historical reconstruction of this young democratic country, and of what/how the historical films contribute to the understanding of history.