Page last updated at 15:21 GMT, Saturday, 5 September 2009 16:21 UK

Taiwan terror turned into love story

By Keily Oakes
BBC News entertainment reporter

Yonfan both wrote and directed Prince of Tears

Taiwanese director Yonfan has relied on his childhood memories to recreate a terrible time in his country's history where thousands were killed for suspected revolutionary acts.

Prince of Tears, which is showing in competition at the Venice Film Festival, tells the story of a family torn apart when one brother betrays another, leading to his execution, and leaving behind a wife and two young daughters.

"The story is my childhood. I grew up in Taiwan during that period and it is all the people I know and all the people I see - it is my remembrance," says Yonfan.

"The sets remain faithful to my memory but whether they are faithful to the history I cannot say.

"Making that movie seems very easy for me as I just pick up impressions from here and there and combine them with my true feelings."


Choosing to dwell on such a brutal and unsettled period in Taiwan's history, starting in 1949, was something of a something of a sensitive subject to broach.

"For a very long time this subject is a taboo in Taiwan. Everything in Taiwan has become much more democratic, but a subject like this is very risky for the investors and the people who want to touch it because it has a political background," he explains.

The reason they let me tell their story was to recognise their devotion to their beloved father

"It is especially risky on a sizable movie like this so it took me five years to plan it and to do it."

Although it has a political plot running through it, Prince of Tears is also a love story between a husband and wife, and their relationship with their children.

Yonfan says: "I think that although this film has a political background it is about human relationship, human existence and human frailty.

"The situation of the politics, it exists in any period, in any country, in any industry, even in film industry, in cosmetics industry, you have politics.

"What I want to say the most is not about the politics but about the existence."

Happy vibes

Based on a true story of a friend of Yonfan's, much of the film centres on the two young girls and it is their infectious joy that gives it, at times, an upbeat feeling despite the traumatic events that take place.

Yonfan believes the happy vibe running through it stems from his own love of life.

Prince of Tears cast
The cast of Prince of Tears attend the screening in Venice

"It reflects my point of view of life and my style of being in love with a film. I have lived an exciting life - I have travelled and I have seen things. I have always tried to have a rewarding life so that is why it was upbeat a little."

For Prince of Tears to be in competition is another rewarding experience for the director, and he has enjoyed bringing his adult cast to Venice to experience the festival.

"I think art cannot really compete in competition but at film festivals they do have a competition section and you really are among the selected ones.

"It means you mounted something that is superior and for the film-makers or the artists, you want to have a highlight in life."

The daughters whose life the film was based on, now of course grown up, have seen the film and approve of Yonfan's depiction of their lives.

"The reason they let me tell their story was to recognise their devotion to their beloved father. And it is through that they gave me their encouragement to do the story."

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