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Taiwan Research Programme
London School of Economics and Political Science
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London, WC2A 2AE


Professor Stephan Feuchtwang

Dr Fang-Long Shih

Cinema, Identity and Resistance: a comparative perspective on A City of Sadness and The Wind that Shakes the Barley

With Dr Ming-Yeh T. Rawnsley (Institute of Communications Studies, University of Leeds)

Series:  Regional Comparison: Taiwan and Ireland in Comparative Perspective

Date: Thursday 9 December 2010, 6pm-8pm

Venue: Room S75, St Clement's Building, London School of Economics (LSE)

Chair: Dr Fang-Long Shih (Taiwan Research Programme)


When researching cinema, the questions of both film as language and languages used in films must be considered carefully. First, film itself is a special symbolic language which has made it an effective medium of communicating and representing identities on many levels. Second, the issues of languages in cinema can be significant because the use of language(s) may be laden of political meanings consciously or non-consciously. This talk offers a tentative comparison between two films dealing with resistance and identities - Hou Hsiao-Hsien's A City of Sadness (Beiqing Chengshi, 1989) and Ken Loach's The Wind that Shakes the Barley (2006). The former is set against the historical backdrop of the February 28th Incident of 1947, when a random accident on the street turned into a near-revolution resulting in the killing of 10,000 citizens in Taiwan by the Nationalist army. The trauma of this tragedy has haunted Taiwan's politics and society for several decades and the Incident itself was a taboo until 1987 when the government finally lifted martial law. The latter gives an account of how the modern IRA was formed. The film opens in 1920 when the protagonist, Damien, witnesses a series of events which prompts him to join the IRA. When a ceasefire is called based on the terms of the Anglo-Irish Treaty, the IRA divides over whether or not to accept it as it only grants Ireland Dominion status. While Damien's brother, Teddy, argues for accepting the Treaty, Damien proposes to continue the war until complete full independence can be obtained. As the new Irish Free State replaces British rule, Teddy and his allies begin patrolling in Irish Army uniforms. Meanwhile Damien and his comrades feel betrayed and join the Anti-Treaty IRA. After the Irish Civil War breaks out, the Anti-Treaty IRA begins a guerrilla war against the new Irish Army. Eventually Damien is captured by Teddy. Sentenced to death, Damien declares his love for his sweetheart in a letter saying that he knows what he stands for and is not afraid. At dawn, Damien is marched before a firing squad. Both brothers fight back tears. Teddy gives the order, the squad fires, and Damien crumples to the ground... This talk will examine (1) how both films employ the language of film to deliver a representation of resistance and history, and (2) how a variety of languages are used in the films to express different cultural identities and political convictions.

About the Speaker

Dr Ming-yeh T. Rawnsley is Research Fellow at the Institute of Communications Studies, University of Leeds where she lectures and researches on East Asian cinema. Previously she was a research fellow at the University of Nottingham for seven years and was appointed Head of Chinese Studies and the Head of the Institute of Asia-Pacific Studies, University of Nottingham Ningbo, China (UNNC) between 2005 and 2007. Dr Rawnsley has published widely in English and in Chinese on television and democratization in Taiwan, as well as the media and publishing industries in Britain. Her most recent publications include (co-edited with Gary D. Rawnsley) Global Chinese Cinema: The Culture and Politics of Hero (London: Routledge, 2010) and Small Study, Big Universe (Xiao Shufang, Da Tiandi, Taipei: Li Xu, 2010, in Complex Chinese). She is currently working on three projects: (1) a monograph, Cultural Democratization in Taiwan: society, cinema and theatre, to be published by Routledge in 2011; (2) a study on Taiwanese short films and documentaries; and (3) a comparative study on science communications in Taiwan and in the UK.