Transnational Chinese Cinemas: Identity, Nationhood, Gender

By Sheldon Hsiao-Peng Lu | Go to book overview
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Chapter 6
The Diaspora in Postmodern Taiwan and Hong Kong Film Framing Stan Lai's The Peach Blossom Land with Allen Fong's Ah Ying

Jon Kowallis

I define postmodern as incredulity toward metanarratives. Jean-François Lyotard, Postmodern Condition

Born in the United States but educated in Taiwan after the age of twelve, Taiwan "mainlander" Chinese director Stan Lai ( Lai Shengchuan) might be better described as an American Asian than an Asian American. Already noticed by Newsweek, Time, the Los Angeles Times, Far Eastern Economic Review, and the Asian Wall Street Journal, he is certainly one of the most prominent theatrical innovators in East Asia today.1 Recently, he turned from stage to cinema to produce his first full-length feature film, The Peach Blossom Land ( Anlian Taohuayuan; lit., "Secret Love: The Peach Blossom Spring").2 The film won first prize in the young filmmaker's division of the Berlin Film Festival and the Silver Medal at the Tokyo Film Festival (where a $100,000 prize enabled him to finance a second film). The Peach Blossom Land later took first place in the Asian Film Festival in Singapore. This was a wholly unexpected response to a film most American critics would probably write off as "an art house hit." Who is Stan Lai and why all this fuss over what might seem, at first glance, an experimental film by a theater director?

After graduating from Furen (Fu-jen) University in Taiwan, Lai earned his Ph.D. at the University of California, Berkeley, in the Department of Dramatic Art, with a dissertation titled "Oriental Crosscurrents in Modern Western Drama" in 1983, a time when the term "Oriental" was still au courant at Berkeley. In 1982 he studied new techniques of actor-training under Shireen Strooker of the Amsterdam Werkteater, who was then visiting at Berkeley. Enthused about the techniques 3 he had learned and armed with the vital qualification of the Ph.D., he returned to Taiwan to serve as artistic director and professor at the newly founded National Institute of the Arts, where he "did everything anew the right way" (according to Dunbar


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