From Cape No. 7, to Seediq Bale, the movies of director Wei Te-sheng all seem to talk about stories long forgotten since the Japanese colonial period. He has fans and detractors, but how does Director Wei himself see them? How do we learn from the  glory, pain, and blood in the past?

His latest movie Kano is about the underdog baseball team from Chiayi Agricultural School becoming the first ever multicultural team from Taiwan to make it to the Japan national championships. How can such a story, which was unknown to most people, help us realize who we are?

As Director Wei travels to the US for a Kano road show, our PR Director Christy Pan had this conversation with him.

Ketagalan Media (KM): Thank you Director Wei for talking with us about your movie, Kano. During an interview with Taiwan’s United Daily News, you said when you discovered the story of Kano you were “surprised and ashamed,” why is that?

Wei Te-sheng (Wei): I first saw this story by accident, in a publication by the alumni association of the Chiayi Agricultural School (Kagi Nōrin Gakkō). In Taiwan the saying goes, “boys like to play baseball and girls know how to play baseball,” but no one knew how the first Taiwanese baseball team came about. We all think it’s the Hongye (紅葉) team [that played at the Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pennsylvania], but no one knew that in the 1930s there was already a multiethnic team that made it to the championship game at Koshien Stadium in Japan. I thought, what a proud story to kick off Taiwan’s baseball history, but I was also ashamed that we didn’t even know about it.

KM: Because it was such a big honor but no one knew about it?

Wei: Exactly. 10 out of 10 people I asked had never heard of it, except for old people from the Chiayi area. None of the young people I asked knew. At the time I was working on storyboards for Seediq Bale, and I went to a bookstore to do some research. Originally I just want to understand the history of the 1930s around the “Wushe Incident” [the story on which Seediq Bale was based], but I really struck gold.

KM: So you thought, “I’m going to make this into a movie someday?”

Wei: Right. That book was really short, mostly pictures. But I thought, how can I not tell such an awesome story? Especially since there was such a contrast between the Seediq Bale story of 1930, and the Kano story of 1931. They were both stories about ethnic conflict, but in Seediq Bale, the “boss” is a Japanese cop, and in Kano it’s a Japanese coach. They were both Japanese, but had completely opposite attitudes. In one case, the prejudice and superiority led to a bloody massacre, and in the other case, the tolerance and empathy led to a glorious moment in Taiwan’s history, where anyone with talent regardless of ethnicity became part of a team. The attitude determined everything.

KM: Speaking of stories on ethnicity, another recent movie Paradise in Service [talking about the KMT soldiers that fled to Taiwan in 1949] also touched on ethnic issues, but different from those of Kano’s. How do you compare the two?

Wei: I have seen Paradise in Service and it’s a great film. The director [Doze Niu] was not ostensibly talking about ethnic issues, but I actually think no matter which part of history we are looking at, we are always looking at people who are disadvantaged. In Paradise in Service, he talked about Mainlander soldiers serving in Kinmen, who also had their own stories that we can relate to. We’ve only paid attention to the privileged Mainlanders, but we haven’t really empathized with the disadvantaged, their choices, and their circumstances. I think that film did a great job portraying those things.

Except, after making our movies, both me and Director Niu became kind of a pariah in a sense. I made a film about Taiwan during the Japanese period, and people called me a Japan sympathizer; he made a movie about Taiwan during the KMT period, and people called him a China sympathizer. That’s just ridiculous. Let me ask them, under their logic, did Taiwan truly ever belong to itself? Why do we have to see them as Japanese history or Chinese history? Can’t we just think of them as “Taiwanese history under Japan” or “Taiwanese history under the KMT” instead? Taiwan is already so small, shouldn’t we work together to create our own history, our own traditions, and not to divide people into groups? History keeps giving us new inspirations, but we have not really learned from them.

KM: When you made Seediq Bale you said that history tells us the place where each person stood within that timeframe, and everyone did his or her best deciding what to do, there wasn’t really right or wrong. Tell us more about that.

Wei: We like to look at history through a civilized, modern, contemporary perspective. It’s not fair at all. We need to cast off our prior knowledge, and really go back to how people back then saw everything. Leave your global perspective behind, forget about how big the world is, and imagine having to make those decisions, without your modern knowledge. Only then can we begin to empathize, be tolerant, and stop looking at people as good or bad. We need to find those reasons that pushed those people to make their decisions. Human beings are all selfish to a degree, and some made decisions that turned out to be politically correct, while some did not, and that determined their legacies. I don’t think that’s fair, because we are judging them in hindsight.

KM: Do you think the story of Kano is also a story of the Mainlanders, or for more recent immigrants to Taiwan?

Wei: I don’t think so, because the movie is a discrete story. Here you have a table, and it’s for writing, so you put a computer and a cup of tea, that’s a writing desk, and not a dining table. If you put books and then a bowl of food on the table, then its purpose is lost. Similarly, we are telling one story, so we chose one specific angle. We can’t make soap operas and talk about everything. A lot of people ask me, why do you focus on this topic, and not that topic, et cetera. I tell them, I’m just one person, and every movie takes three years to make, how many three year chunks of time do you think I have in life? These movies also take a lot of money to make, I put my money on the line, how can you criticize me and yet refuse to pay for the movies? Did I owe you anything?

KM: So everyone, go buy tickets to see the movies first! Anyway, you have said that Taiwan’s biggest problem is that we have for too long sought recognition from others, that we have forgotten ourselves. You’ve also said: “Taiwan is like an orphan, we have to deny our last foster parents to earn the current foster parents’ love. Remembering the past is for us to find nourishment, to figure out what love, hate, good, evil means to us, so we can build our own family.” What does that mean?

Wei: To explain it plainly, it means you have to have a history in order to exist. Without history, it’s like if you go jogging, you get the benefits from the physical exercise, but there’s more to jogging than just running as if you are on a treadmill. You can enjoy the view, the air, the wind, the people, while you jog, so why limit yourself on the treadmill?

We don’t need to keep thinking, which foster family we need to stick with to protect ourselves. We are grown up, and we need to build and protect our own family now, not act like an orphan trying to find a foster home. That’s something we need to wake up to. Taiwan is a grown person now, so act like it.

KM: So do you think Taiwan has built this family yet?

Wei: Not at all. So I say history is still repeating, our people still haven’t learned, and our leaders and rulers have no new wisdom. They keep doing things they know to be wrong, so why? Because they don’t have the sense of history. 

KM: So how can they build that sense of history?

Wei: I don’t know, and I don’t want to pontificate about this, as if I am better than the leaders. I don’t have the ability to make those calls, but after delving so deep into these stories and writing the scripts, I realized that we still lack historical perspective. I don’t know if they are 100% accurate, and there has to be wiser folks who can explain this better, but my own sense is just that it’s important to understand the past, and to think about the future.

In other words, maybe one day the Taiwanese people will stop “fighting for the economy” or “fighting for votes,” and instead we can care more about fighting for spiritual fulfillment and happiness. Then, we won’t complain over a $NT5 increase on a bowl of luroufan (meat sauce on rice), because there are greater fulfillment for us, like watching a good film, going out to exercise, enjoying playing an instrument when you feel down. We don’t all need to be professionals, but we should all be able to appreciate beauty and sports, to find the spiritual value in everything. Once that happens, we won’t only fight to satisfy basic physical needs.

KM: Meaning, to raise our spiritual awareness?

Wei: I don’t believe someone should starve to death in Taiwan anymore. Sure there are still cases of starvation in Taiwan, but that’s because that person was abandoned—abandoned because our values are warped. If we are set in our values, we will be able to find a balance and not abandon anyone.

KM: For the movies you’ve directed and now produced, although they are all about history, but they all try to look at each individual person’s perspective and how they choose to live within the bigger currents around them. That’s different from the histories of governments, countries, or dynasties. Do you think looking at history of individuals will make us lose a sense of the “family,” or of belonging to a nation?

Wei: I don’t think so. I think it’s better that we are each a unique individual. I think that anything “mainstream” is “conformist,” and “niche” means you have a different mindset, and people who think differently can create original things. Once everyone can think independently, they won’t blindly follow anyone with a slogan. The more people have their own thinking, and can articulate their thoughts, the more people will know how to cooperate.

KM: Finally, what other stories are still being formed in your mind that we might see on a big screen soon? Why those stories? Any stories featuring female leads?

Wei: Our next project involves Taiwan from 400 years ago, about the Dutch rule in Taiwan. That part of history is very exciting as well. Just like Seediq Bale and Kano talked about three ethnic groups (Japanese, Han Taiwanese, Aborigines), so does this new project (Dutch, Han migrants, Plains indigenous peoples). We want to go back to the time when indigenous peoples were the vast majority of Taiwan’s population, and look at the first clash of East meets West. It’s like going back to Taiwan’s infancy, when Taiwan was first born. As for female leads, we’re still working on that; people say I don’t understand women but I actually do, but yeah.

KM: We’ll be looking forward to it. Thank you so much for your time today, and giving us a lot of wisdom and things to think about.

Wei: I’m not sure about the wisdom, but it was a pleasure.

從海角七號,到賽德克巴萊,魏德聖導演的電影似乎都是講到台灣歷史上,特別是日本殖民時代,被遺忘的故事。一路走來,也有他的粉絲,也有人質疑他的立場,但是他本人又是如何看待這些紛紛擾擾?回憶過去,看到有榮耀,也有辛酸,還有血淚,這應該讓處於現代的我們有什麼樣的啟發呢?

他的團隊的最近一部電影 Kano,講的是嘉義農林學校的棒球隊,在 1931 年以第一隻有原住民,日人,漢人的球隊,打入日本全國高中棒球冠軍賽的歷史。連魏導本人都沒聽過的歷史,又如何幫助我們找到自我呢?

魏德聖監製上週在美國跟著 Kano 巡迴上映會的時候,我們的公關總監潘奕如 Christy 與魏導有了這麼一段對話。

Ketagalan Media (以下 KM) :魏德聖導演感謝你今天可以跟我們談一下你監製的「Kano」這部電影,您在聯合報接受訪問的時候有說過發現「Kano」這個故事之後感到驚豔又羞愧,為什麼會有這樣的形容詞呢?

魏德聖監製(以下「魏」):因為那時是無意間翻到這一本在講嘉義農林棒球隊的校友會刊物,那個時候我翻了一下覺得,在台灣許多男生都愛打棒球,所有女生都知道棒球怎麼打,卻不知道台灣第一支棒球隊什麼時候成立的,大家只知道紅葉棒球隊,卻不知道原來在1930年就已經有一個混合各種不同民族而且遠征甲子園的球隊,並且在甲子園的球場上打到冠軍賽,這是非常難得的事情,我就覺得原來台灣棒球史的第一頁就已經這麼風光,所以覺得有點羞愧,台灣的大家都不知道這樣的一個棒球隊的故事。

KM: 因為這麼大的榮耀卻沒有人曉得故事背景?

魏 :沒錯,我們那個時候去問十個人有十個人都不知道這樣的故事,只有嘉義出身的老人家才知道這樣的歷史,年輕人通通都沒有聽說過。那個時候我正在弄「賽德克巴萊」的分鏡表,我去書局裡面翻書,本來只是為了瞭解「霧社事件」發生的1930年的附近的歷史,卻沒想到一翻就挖到寶了。

KM: 那時心裡就想未來可以拍這樣的電影故事嗎?

魏:對,其實那本書故事很短,書中主要都是照片,但我心裡想著這樣的故事怎麼可以不被大家知道呢?這麼熱血的故事,特別是那時有1930年的「霧社事件」與1931年的「Kano」,一樣都是族群問題,可是「霧社事件」的管理者是個日本警察,「Kano」的管理者是個日本教練,一樣是日本人,卻是完全不同的心胸與格局,在面對族群問題時,一個帶著歧視與不平等造成台灣歷史上這麼大的仇殺事件,另一個帶著寬容包容,抱著只要是人才就可以參加團隊的訓練,結果創造的台灣一段光榮的歷史;一樣是族群問題,不一樣的人卻是不一樣的心胸。

KM: 魏導提到遇到種族,不同的事件裡面,不同的種族觀念就造就了不一樣的未來的發展,那現在台灣另一部電影「軍中樂園」也處理了一些種族問題,跟「Kano」包含的是不一樣的族群,您在這兩部電影間的比較,有什麼看法?

魏:「軍中樂園」我看過,是部很棒的電影,他並不是刻意在處理族群問題,其實我覺得不管我們面對的是哪一段的歷史,像「軍中樂園」他是一個外省軍人的族群到台灣來,最後在金門當兵所面臨到的問題,其實歷史很有趣,我們只要回到當下去就會發現,時代下的當事人都是弱勢,那些悲傷的故事都很令人感同身受,過去我們都只注意到強勢的外省族群,卻不曾理解到這些弱勢人群的不得以跟他們所面對的困境是什麼,我覺得那部片把這個東西詮釋得很好;

只是,我跟紐導的立場拍這樣的電影都被弄得有點裡外不是人,因為我拍的一個是日本時代下的台灣,會被說成媚日,他拍的是國民黨時代下的台灣,所以就被批評成媚中,其實這是一個很無聊的事情,我問一個問題,那台灣什麼時候是自己的?為什麼我們就不能把他認為是日本時代下的台灣史,國民黨時代下的台灣史,一定要把他認為是日本史、是中國史?我說台灣很小,這就跟我說的面對族群問題,我們的態度應該要是什麼?合作,創造自己的歷史,自己的新傳統,不要再用族群的方式來分化每一個人,歷史不斷的給我們新的刺激,但我們卻沒有長智慧。

KM: 魏導在拍攝「賽德克巴萊」的時候有下了一段註解,其實歷史就是幫每個人在過去的那段時間空間找到一個定位,每個人都是在當下做出最好的決定,沒有絕對的對錯。

魏:我們很喜歡站在現代文明人的角度來看待歷史,這其實非常不公平,我們該把自己的知識水平先拿掉回到當下的思考,國際觀拿掉不知道世界有多大,在什麼都不知道的狀態下面對困境會怎麼做出選擇,這樣我們的心才會懂的憐憫,心胸才會寬廣,才不會再用好跟壞來判斷人,我們會試著找出不得以如此的原因,人沒有不自私的,有些人因為自私作出來的選擇政治正確,有些人不正確,最後的結果影響了後代對他的批判,這樣的批判是不對的,因為我們沒有站在體諒他們的立場去看待時代下的人。

KM: 另外有一個問題想請問,有一些人看過電影後質疑這是日治時代的故事,除了這樣的背景外其實排除了戰後來台的新移民的故事,那您覺得這部電影有敘述到他們的故事嗎?

魏:其實沒有,因為電影就是講故事,比如來說一張桌子是寫作業用的,所以擺台電腦擺一杯茶這就是一張書桌,他就不會是飯桌或是其他用途,如果擺了書又擺了碗盤那他到底是什麼桌子?就不是了一個單純的用途了;我們今天要講的是這件事情,所以角度就在這件事情的角度詮釋他,沒有辦法像拍連續劇一樣一直講下去,應該要固定在一個題材上面,因為要詮釋的事情就是這個樣子,所以彼此要有個諒解。常常有人會說:你為什麼都拍這個都不拍那個?我回答我就只有一個人,作一件事情就要花兩三年,人有幾個兩三年?大家都知道拍片也是要花錢的,錢也都是我在承擔,不來看電影又一直罵我不拍特定題材,難道是我欠你的嗎?

KM: 所以還是先買票來看電影再說啦!上次您有說過台灣最大的問題是在追求別人的認同而忘了自己,也說過:「台灣像孤兒一樣,必須要靠否認上一個寄養家庭來獲得現在寄養家庭的肯定。回憶過去是幫我們找到養份,釐清愛、恨、好壞,現實面對才能創造自己的家庭。」

魏:其實這個說法,說一句大家比較聽得懂的,就是「人要有歷史觀,才會有存在感」,沒有歷史觀就像運動跑步的時候,可以達到運動的效果,但跑步的目的不是只有運動,就像在家裡跑跑步機跟在戶外跑步是步一樣的心情,除了運動以外能不能增加一些視野、感受、空氣、風、人物、景觀,跑步的時候還可以得到這些東西,為什麼一定要限制自己在跑步機上?

我們不該一直思考要往那個寄養家庭靠攏才不會被傷害,我們長大了應該要保護家庭,而不是再去當一個尋找寄養家庭的孤兒,這是我覺得台灣最需要醒過來的地方,已經是個幾十歲的成年人了,不是一個兩三歲的孤兒。

KM: 所以您覺得現在這個家庭建立起來了嗎?

魏:還沒啊,就是我說過的歷史一直在重複,人民還沒有長智慧,甚至不要說人民,領導者、控制整個政權的也沒有新的智慧產生,明明知道某些做法的結果會錯,為什麼還要這樣子做?就是我常說的歷史觀不夠,世界觀不夠。

KM: 那魏導建議要如何建立起來這樣的智慧?

魏:我真的不知道,不敢講,因為我講這個東西就好像把自己當成領導者了,我還沒有那個能力可以這樣決定,只能說現在講的這些感想都是我在看這些歷史書籍與寫歷史劇本時,所得到的體會,但我也不敢說這些是百分之百的正確,應該有更有智慧的人他們可以提出更好的說法;我自己比較個人的想法總是覺得,了解過去很重要,思考未來也很重要。

這麼說好了,希望哪一天台灣人可以不要再拼經濟拼選舉,大家想著怎麼拼心理上的滿足感與幸福感就夠了,到時大家就不會為了滷肉飯一碗漲了五塊錢而忿忿不平,我們應該追求更大的幸福感是什麼,比如說某部電影很好看我們一起去看電影,會因此得到一點點的感受與滿足,我們缺乏這樣的東西;一個人工作很累想要去運動想要去流汗,一個人懂一種樂器在心悶的時候可以玩玩,他不需要是一個專業者,可是每一個人都可以是一個欣賞者,培養欣賞美、欣賞體育的這些人口,然後開發這種心理上的價值,大家就不會為了只追求滿足生理價值而奮鬥,路稍微往下滑了一點就受不了了,滷肉飯多五塊就天崩地裂了,有這麼慘嗎?不要吃外面賣的滷肉飯就好啦!

KM: 所以是提升心靈上的層次?

魏:我覺得台灣社會已經不會有人餓死了,雖然有人會舉例子說某個地方有人餓死,是因為被拋棄,但我們仔細去看被拋棄的原因,是價值觀出了問題,那是有人心裡的價值觀出了問題才會有被拋棄的人,價值觀沒問題的話就會取得一個平衡點,就不會有人被拋棄。

KM: 導演您在親自導演還有監製這幾部電影裡面,雖然都是在講歷史,但是都是以每個人個人的觀點去活在那個歷史的潮流裡面,這跟我們所念的政府的、國家的、朝代的歷史是不一樣的觀點,那這樣會不會造成每個人都是一個個體而沒有一個「家庭」的概念?

魏:不會,我覺得這樣子反而好,因為「主流」就是「盲從」,「小眾」就是有想法,想法可以集合出新的事情,每個人都有想法以後,就不會一被吆喝就跟著走,人民有想法,大家有自己的感受,越能有想法越能說出自己的角度的人,越懂得什麼叫做合作,這是我的看法。

KM: 最後一個問題,目前腦海裡面有什麼故事還在醞釀,以後會很想說的嗎?為什麼會想要講這些故事?還有這些故事有沒有以女性為主角的故事?

魏:下一個要做的是四百年前的台灣,講的是荷蘭統治台灣的歷史,其實那段歷史也很精彩,一樣是三個族群:漢族、荷蘭人、平埔原住民,就像「賽德克巴萊」也是三個族群,「Kano」也是三個族群:日本人、台灣人、高山原住民,因為平埔族已經幾乎被同化了,所以我們回到那個平埔族還是一個很大族群的時代,面對東西方衝擊下的台灣,帶觀眾回到台灣的嬰兒期,剛出生的那個時刻;那女性那個問題就比較尷尬一點,每個人都說我不懂女生,其實我很懂。

KM: 很期待下一部電影,那今天就謝謝魏導演的時間,讓我們學到了很多,又有很多值得我們去好好思考的問題。

魏:謝謝。

 

 

(Feature photo of Kano movie poster, with permission.)

 

About The Ketagalan Project

History and culture are the frames that prescribe how we understand the world around us. Our co-hosts present in-depth interviews on how art, culture, history and politics intertwine throughout time and space to connect us. Find out about the cosmopolitan modern Taipei downtown in the 1920s, regional trade, the future of aboriginal culture and more.