My Native Land

World Premiere | Out Of Competition | Restored Classics

 

Chung Li-ho, a wealthy second-generation farmer, falls in love with one of his farm girls, Chung Ping-mei. While their differing social statuses don’t present an obstacle, marrying someone with the same last name is considered a taboo among the Hakka community. Two years later, Chung Li-ho returns to Taiwan and elopes with Pingmei, hoping to seek a fresh start in his homeland of China. Li-ho drives a taxi to make a living, yet he can’t forsake his passion for writing. Ping-mei, despite her pregnancy, shoulders the financial load to support his aspiration. However, the pervasive anti-Japanese sentiments during the war eventually compel their return to Taiwan. Settling in the mountains, Li-ho works as a writer and teacher, but develops pulmonary disease due to years of hard work. Thanks to Ping-mei’s unwavering support and care, Li-ho finds the strength to face every rejection. He stays up many nights to transcribe his dreams onto paper, infusing every word with life’s spirit.

In the 1970s, Taiwan faced diplomatic setbacks, including its withdrawal from the United Nations. The one-party state government saw little prospect of countering Communism and restoring the nation, and in an effort to maintain social stability, it underwent a substantial shift in its propaganda-driven filmmaking approach, utilizing pop music to convey a new patriotic narrative – “the Republic of China is in Taiwan.” Lee Hsing, a pioneer in healthy realism, was acutely aware of this propaganda shift. The film’s choice to have Teresa Teng perform its theme song was a deliberate move to connect with the public, while Chung Li-ho’s yearning to return to his homeland aligns with the narrative of “connection to China.” On the surface, the film pays tribute to local writers, but its underlying propaganda intentions underscore the inseparable relationship between politics and art.

Adapted from the short story and autobiographical experiences of Taiwanese Hakka literary writer Chung Li-ho, My Native Land tells the story of a protagonist who, due to the taboo of marrying someone with the same surname, cannot unite in marriage.

Through Chung Li-ho’s scholarly virtues, we witness the greatness of the homeland, the belief in the power of literature to convey principles, and the sacrifices made for the nation, demonstrating traditional values of kindness, respect, thrift, and humility. The first half of the film explores the pursuit of these native beliefs. Despite the vastness of the path and the insignificance of the self, obstacles never halt progress, just as the prohibition on same-surname marriages never induces fear. “Native land” originally refers to the ancestral homeland in China but later becomes the place where the couple returns to Meinong, Kaohsiung, to start a family. The dual meaning of the homeland transition in the latter half of the film to a place of belonging, echoes the words of Su Dongpo: “Where the heart feels at peace is my homeland,” capturing the essence of what “native land” means. Director Lee Hsing, with his humanistic cinematic language, captures the innocence, simplicity, and tranquility of the land, vividly presenting the diligent creative process of the writer. Even when faced with the grief of losing a son or battling tuberculosis, the focus remains on literary ideals, embodying the significance of “cultivating with a pen” in Taiwan. The Hakka women’s perseverance and sacrifices for their families, coupled with the local customs and rural scenery of Meinong, leave a lasting impression.

Sean Lee
Film director: LEE Hsing
Year: 1979
Running time: 120'
Country: Taiwan
29/04 - 4:05 PM
Visionario, Via Asquini 33
29-04-2024 16:05 29-04-2024 18:05Europe/Rome My Native Land Far East Film Festival Visionario, Via Asquini 33CEC Udine cec@cecudine.org

Photogallery