Wang Liru, PhD Student, Department of Taiwan Culture, Languages and Literature, National Taiwan Normal University
How does a love story unfold into a historical narrative? At first glance, Hand in Hand is the story of how doctor Tian Chaoming and his wife, known as Mama Tian, sixteen years his junior, become close and grow old together. But behind this private love story is a part of our common Taiwanese history that has long been forgotten.
The two lovers eloped and supported each other despite all the hardships they faced, all the while waging a difficult struggle for freedom of speech and political participation in Taiwan. This story of the Taiwanese people’s courageous and fearless struggle to achieve freedom and self-representation was echoed by the filming process itself. In 2006, directors Zhuang Yizeng and Yan Lanquan began preparations to film Hand in Hand with public funding, collecting material to give the film historical depth. In the end, however, Zhuang and Yan decided to terminate their contract with Taiwan Public Television, and in 2011 Hand in Hand opened in theaters. The film did well at the box office, a posthumous salute to the memory of Dr. Tian Chaoming.
In Hand in Hand, the camera silently follows those whose lives it records, all the while the directors’ narration, asking questions and giving answers, leads the viewer through the story of remembered love and unfolds the path of Taiwan’s uphill struggle towards democracy. The astute viewer will realize not long into the film that what this love story lacks is a male protagonist. In fact, when Zhuang and Yan first started filming in 2006, Dr. Tian had undergone a tracheotomy and could no longer speak, so they switched to the story of the female protagonist—Mama Tian.
Naturally, Mama Tian’s political views came out during filming, because she and Dr. Tian had fought for fundamental human rights and democracy in Taiwan. It is precisely because of their struggle that this documentary about democracy in modern Taiwan came to be. Their marriage and their family were closely bound up in Taiwan’s perilous path to democracy—in the 228 Incident and the saving of political prisoners from the White Terror, the six “tang-wai” of the Taiwan Provincial Assembly, 1 Lei Chen’s attempt to set up the opposition Chinese Democratic Party, Zheng Nanrong’s self-immolation, the Lin family massacre, the Kaohsiung Incident, and the 520 Farmers Movement.
The hands of Hand in Hand belong not only to lovers, but also to comrades, united in solidarity: leader of Taiwan Shin Sheng Daily News Li Wanju, Councilor Guo Yuxin, Zheng Nanrong and Zhan Yihua, who fought for absolute freedom of speech, Ye Julan, and Lin Yixiong and his wife. Because the film does not limit itself to the private love story between a husband and wife but looks further afield, it shows how the great stirrings of history can be seen even in the small doings of individuals.
In addition to Mama Tian’s oral history, the filmmakers also consult many precious newspaper cuttings and images from the time. On the one hand, these historical materials serve to corroborate Mama Tian’s recollections; on the other, they complement the directors’ narration to provide a commentary on the present generation’s collective historical amnesia. By evoking Mama Tian’s recollections of love, Hand in Hand restores to the viewer the lost democratic history of Taiwan.
Documentary Film Hand in Hand Poster (Source: Wu Mi Le studio)
1Tang-wai, i.e. non-KMT councillors.
|Related Literary Themes：||Histories and Historical Fiction|