Taipei Film Activity – August, 2016
Taipei Film Activity – August, 2016 - Taipei Film Commission
Accused of Separatism, the Replacement of Leon Dai Induces Fear Among Filmmakers
(Article/Kevin Chang; translation/Master Translation Service Co., Ltd)
Leon Dai, a Taiwanese actor who starred in many Chinese films in recent years, was originally casted to play in Zhao Wei's new film - No Other Love this year following Zhao's success with So Young. However, this casting decision had aroused dispute as Chinese Internet users accused Dai as a separatist. On July 15, the production company issued a public announcement claiming to put state interests above all else, followed by a decision to remove Leon Dai from the cast because of his ambiguous pro-Taiwan-independence stance. This decision is undoubtedly the most critical event in the history of collaborative filmmaking between China and Taiwan, and the extent of impact remains unknown at this point.
Leon Dai was recently accused of having been involved in Taiwan separatist movements, to which Zhao Wei responded for the first time on June 29 that she did not welcome comments that were taken out of context. However, Zhao's response was withdrawn quickly after it was posted. On the following day, Leon Dai posted a statement on his blog declaring that he had never been associated with any political party, and saying that he "...refuses to be tagged as a separatist." In the meantime, the production company also released a statement complimenting Leon Dai as a dedicated, professional filmmaker, and will defend his reputation against false accusations from the Internet.
Unfortunately, these statements did little to calm the rage of Internet users. The table was turned just two weeks after. On July 15, the production company made another announcement on its official blog, adopting a completely different position this time round. The production company said that they never investigated into Dai's political background when he was first casted. The director and the production team remain loyal to China and are proud of their country; however, because of Dai's ambiguity in this regard, the production company had no choice but to remove Leon Dai from his lead actor role.
Soon after the decision, Leon Dai posted a 3-thousand word statement on his blog trying to explain his family background, how he has identified with state and people, his ideals in social movements, and how they may be mistaken as "separatist movements." Lastly he added: "I apologize that my personal history has stirred up so much dispute and jeopardized the hard work of those around me. I am deeply sorry to the investors and the production team, and I support the producer's decision to replace my role."
Zhao Wei had actually finished filming No Other Love at this point, and replacing Leon Dai would require most of the scenes to be re-shot from scratch. At Cafe 6 and other upcoming Chinese-language films featuring Dai's appearance are also impacted by this turn of event, and the producers may be forced to make additional cuts, re-shoot or forgo the Chinese market completely.
The Mainland Affairs Council, Executive Yuan later issued a statement reminding everyone to be rational towards cross-strait filmmaking, and refrain from tainting artistic productions with political factors. After all, cultural and artistic creations can improve only through respect and tolerance.
Leon Dai's encounter quickly became a heated discussion among Chinese and Taiwanese Internet users. Although many have supported Dai and pitied him for having to explain his background in such great length, there were even more who criticized Dai's response to the event. The Chinese people mostly despised Dai's ambiguity in acknowledging himself either as a Chinese or a separatist, while many Taiwanese people blamed Dai for not daring to admit his previous involvements in social movements. Dai is not the only one to suffer from blames, as Dai's girlfriend - Gwei Lun-mei is also being tagged as a "separatist lover" on her own blog.
Meanwhile, some Taiwanese netizens took the chance to mock at the Chinese people by organizing an "Apology Contest." This incident has more profound impacts on cross-border filmmaking on a practical level, because filmmakers will inevitably begin to withhold their ideas and creations for fear of being misinterpreted. In addition, any Taiwanese performer or filmmaker previously involved in social movements may well become the next target. Ironically, Leon Dai once starred in a Taiwanese film titled "Chilling Effect" (a.k.a Sex Appeal, the official name in English), and now he is the star of a much bigger chilling effect in real life.