Finish year

Interview with WU Tzu-an, director of “This Shore: A Family Story”

The origin of the film, This Shore: A Family Story can be traced back to a painting made by the filmmaker’s generations past that was found in a foreign land. Here, the filmmaker roams through space and time - much like The Flying Dutchman - between Taiwan and the world, and into the past and present; and traces the fragmented pieces of memories. WU Tzu-an, the filmmaker, stitches together old photos, 8mm video, Super 8, 16mm, and digital HD video to create a collaged and mirrored effect to rethink the individual and the family; and how generations have shaped cross-national fluidity and immigration.


Why did you choose The Flying Dutchman” instead of other histories of human movement?

The Flying Dutchman is a maritime legend from the Age of Exploration of the 17th century. As the Dutch came to colonize multiple parts of the world, they became the embodiment of capitalism and globalism, and also the subject of envy. Rumor began to spread that ghosts inhabited their ships. This theory can’t be proven - and is perhaps just one of the many origins to the legend of the Flying Dutchman. I learned about the “Flying Dutchman Syndrome” in a psychoanalysis class in college. There’s not a clear definition for this term, nor is it an actual name for a medical syndrome, but its implications have stuck with me since: That one day, we could all easily drop everything and restart our lives somewhere new. Because of this, I asked every actor who played the Dutchman: “Would you like to do so as well?”

As to why I chose the “Flying Dutchman”? When I moved to the United States, it wasn’t because I had wanted to go; it was because of family. Similarly, it’s possible my grandmother hadn’t wanted to move to Taiwan; perhaps it was the only logical choice based on global affairs at the time. Personal choices, global movements - and everything in between - in the Age of Exploration changed history and affected the way the world developed. I’m not trying to prove anything in the film, but that conception is interesting to me. Perhaps the world today isn’t all that different from that of the 17th century. Perhaps, the reasons why people move simply haven’t changed much.


Why is the younger sister the only actor whose identity is revealed? Are the two masked Chinese ghosts played by the same actors?

Every character was played by several actors. This was mainly a budgeting and production issue. It depended on the scheduling of the actors. This was also a big reason why they wore masks. We revealed my younger’s sister’s identity because, on one hand, she’s my sister, and on the other, I wanted the character to be an image, a “projection,” of our grandparents.

To me, the female ghost suggests that Taiwan is a haunted house. There are ghosts from China, also blood-relatives with memories; they are ghosts from history. We used some extremely in-authentic Chinese elements in the film because - to me - Taiwan is a massive Chinatown. There’s no judgement of values here. In my eyes, the opening and closing of masks worn by the Chinese ghosts represent the disenchantment and re-enchantment of the world. I don’t think this needs to be eliminated. On some level, it’s a kind of haunting. At the same time, the audience knows that she is my sister. This makes it interesting. 


In the film, we see ghosts, the afterlife, as well as symbols from many religions. Whats your view on superstitions?

I’m very superstitious! Ever since I was young, I’ve found the rituals and formalism in religion to be very interesting. In terms of philosophical thinking, I’m intrigued by the question, “How does the world outside of humans exist?” Imagery experiments with stars, the sun, and the moon fall under this as well. I’m not trying to tackle the existence of the extraterrestrial, but I’m curious about the biggest picture: what would this world look like if humans didn’t exist? In other words, how do we not think about Earth from a human’s perspective. It’s a paradox. As humans, it’s impossible for us to not look at it from a person’s point of view.


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