The San Diego Asian Film Festival (SDAFF), in partnership with the UC San Diego Taiwan Studies Department, brought the Taiwan Film Showcase to the UCSD Price Center Theater November 9-11. This is the seventh year of the Showcase, which is the largest presentation of Taiwanese film outside of Asia.
This year, ten movies were screened, including two virtual reality films. The showcase opened with Dear Ex, a poignant family story that touches on themes of grief, anger, forgiveness, and understanding.
Directed by Mag Hsu and Chih-Yen Hsu, the movie begins with teenager Chengxi Song, whose father has just passed away. Chengxi finds himself in the middle of a legal battle as his mother, Sanlian, discovers that her husband, Zhengyuan, has passed on his fortune to A’jie, his secret gay partner.
As Sanlian blames A’jie for her trauma and ruining her marriage, Chengxi tries to figure out who the “mistress” really was in such a complicated relationship: his mother or A’jie? The triumph in this movie lies not in Chenxi’s ability to answer this question, but on Sanlian’s road to forgiveness.
The most significant point in the movie is when Sanlian asks her therapist if her husband ever loved her, even a little bit. She never receives an answer; instead, she finds it within herself. This scene is a little sample of the film’s ability to create a humanizing picture of love and show both the complex emotions that come with it and complicated ways people come to terms with grief.
Much of the film’s highlights can be attributed to its directors, one of whom was invited to the stage to speak after the credits. Chih-Yen Hsu discussed the success of the movie—winner of Best Narrative Feature at the 2018 Taipei Film Awards—and its importance for LGBTQIA rights in Taiwan. The movie comes before Taiwan became the first country in Asia to legalize same-sex marriage in May 2019.
The San Diego Asian Film Festival provided students at UCSD with a great opportunity to watch a series of representative Taiwanese movies. From year to year, SDAFF and the Taiwan Showcase prove their necessity by allowing students to learn more about varying cultural perspectives and forms of art unacknowledged in American media.
Jiayi Wang is a Staff Writer for the Arts and Culture section of The Triton.