Lan Shibo, MA, Graduate Institute of Taiwanese Literature, National Chengchi University
Su Beng, the Revolutionist is the first documentary on Taiwanese left-wing independence activist Su Beng (born Shi Zhaohui). Directed by Chen Lih-kuei and produced by Yao Wen-chi, the film came to screens in February 2015. It starts with a scene from the 1991 Taiwan Independence case. Historical footage is woven together to show us Su Beng’s life and his own self-introduction, portraying the life of a modern Taiwanese historical figure.
Su Beng, the Revolutionist can be seen as an important consequence of the recent revival of interest in Su Beng; it also records his passage from obscurity to discovery. Since 2011, a series of books on Su Beng have been published: Challenge and Conflict: A Life of Su Beng (2011), Practical Philosophy: Young People Reading Su Beng (2012), An Oral History by Su Beng (2013), Leftism/Nation (2013), and Taiwan’s 400 Year History (revised edition, 2014). The documentary also draws on the string of special events relating to Su Beng (e.g. the Tsai Jui-yueh Culture Forum’s “Uncle Su Beng: A Lifetime of Revolution”). The film has disseminated Su Beng’s image and thought to an even wider audience.
In addition to interviews with people close to Su Beng, such as Chen Fangming, Ye Zhiping, and Xu Xiongbiao, the film includes interviews with scholars and experts such as Zhang Yanxian, Chen Yishen, and Wu Ruiren. The latter analyze Su Beng’s contribution to the Taiwan independence movement from the 1960s onward, discussing his historical importance and possible collaboration with the post-war Japanese leftist and student movements.
There have already been a number of accounts of Su Beng’s life, with many of the different versions referencing each other. The significance of Su Beng, the Revolutionist is that it does not seek to lionize the man. On the contrary, by means of an interview with his ex-girlfriend, Hiraga Kyoko, and a scene showing Su Beng staggering around a swimming pool, the director faithfully depicts the revolutionary’s frailty and regret in his declining years. So how should the viewer approach the discrepancies between the various accounts? In general, there is often, for a variety of reasons, a gap between the content of interviews and actual historical truth: interviewees misremember events, the interviewer deliberately leads them astray, the events were unclear at the time, or interviewees simply refuse to open up. What is wonderful about Su Beng, the Revolutionist is that director Chen Lih-kuei uses different voices to construct, not merely Su Beng’s story, but a complex, multilayered portrait of Su Beng and his environment. By the film’s end, amidst the light and the gloom, the glories and the failures, Su Beng emerges as a real, living, whole human being.
|Related Literary Themes：||Histories and Historical Fiction|