Taipei Film Activity – November, 2016
Taipei Film Activity – November, 2016 - Taipei Film Commission
Death of French Friend of New Taiwanese Cinema Shocks Film Circles, Sparks Same-sex Marriage Debate
(Article/Kevin Chang; translation/Master Translation Service Co., Ltd)
(Cover photo credit/ still photographer Tsai Cheng-tai, Spot Films Co. Ltd.）
On the evening of October 16 in Taipei City, Jacques Picoux, French, fell from his 10th-floor home to his death. The news shocked Taiwan’s film and cultural circles. Within 24 hours of the event, heated debate over same-sex marriage issues were sparked. Picoux was 68 years old. He has been a key figure in Taiwanese cinema since the New Taiwanese Cinema period. His partner Christophe Tseng, who died from cancer one year earlier, was actor Gong Li’s former agent, who helped launch Gong’s career in both Chinese-language and international cinema, and made her the best-known Chinese-speaking actress in the world.
In 1979, Picoux came to Taiwan as an exchange lecturer. He stayed in Taiwan because of his love for Taiwanese culture and became a pioneer in French education and Chinese-French translation, cultivating numerous talents. Because of his connection to cultural circles, he played an essential role during the time when Taiwanese cinema came into international spotlight. After translating subtitles for the films of Hou Hsiao-hsien and Edward Yang, he worked with Tsai Ming-liang, Wang Kar-wai, Zhang Yimou, Yee Chih-yen, Chang Tso-chi, and other filmmakers, becoming a bridge between European film circles and Chinese-language cinema. In Hou Hsiao-hsien’s latest film The Assassin, Picoux left us with his final big-screen performance.
Picoux and Tseng had been partners for 35 years. However, because their relationship is not recognized by Taiwanese law, they were deprived of their rights and the ability to honor the will of each other. LGBT rights activist Lee Yen-jong was asked by Picoux to handle the property in France jointly owned by Picoux and Tseng. Last year, she published the story of Picoux and Tseng’s 35-year relationship, revealing that because of restrictions by Taiwanese law, their relationship - already longer than many heterosexual marriages - does not warrant Picoux’s right to their property. Picoux was unable to inherit the property, and he couldn’t make significant decision that would have alleviated Tseng’s suffering during Tseng’s last days. In the eyes of Taiwanese law, they were strangers despite a 35-year relationship.
After Picoux’s death on October 16, Lee’s story from one year earlier went viral again. In fact, Picoux and Tseng were not an isolated case. Many from the LGBT community face the same pain in similar situations. Supporters of LGBT rights became outraged. They shared and commented on the story to raise awareness of the rights being deprived of LGBT people in many aspects of their lives. Writer Hsu Yu-sheng, who had held non-legally binding public wedding ceremony with his partner, stated that in Taiwan, an LGBT person is in a desolate state of being “half-complete” because “as long as same-sex marriage is not recognized by law, we are incomplete because the rights of our ‘other halves’ are not protected.” Picoux’s death solemnly reminded us that for a large minority, half of their rights as a human being are deprived. As we draw closer to the Taipei LGBT pride parade at the end of October, the rights issues raised in the story of Picoux and Tseng are expected to become one of the central topics of discussion.