Running Time: 114 mins / Production Year: 2008~2009 / Broadcast: PTS Taiwan, 16 Jun 2009
Director Tang Shiang-chu first read about the Taiwanese veterans twenty years ago in the Ren-Jian Magazine, realizing that there were other people suffering the same fate as his father which a war took them away from their homes; and it wasn’t after the cross-strait opened up forty years later that the remaining soldier were giving a chance to return home.
In the Dulan tribe of Taitung where the sea and the mountains meet, the director met an Amis youth, Siki Sufin, a wood sculptor. He learned that there were a group of youngsters that vanished when KMT took over Taiwan; they were brought far away to China to fight in a war that had no purpose. The director began his search from Dulan with Siki interviewing the remaining Taiwanese veterans, focused mainly on the Amis aborigines.
During the search in Dulan tribe of the remaining Taiwanese veterans at south of Taitung, Siki petitioned the elders to erect a sculpture at the coast of Dulan to remember the fathers and uncles that were killed on the battlefield and unable to return home.
Director and Siki then arrived in China to search for the Amis veterans that stayed behind in China; these veterans chose to stay behind due to political changes back home and living habits.
Naking of Jiangsu Province is the first stop in the search of Taiwanese veterans, then to Xuzhou, an important strategic location during the war; then moving on to Beijing. Citamih can be seen in the Ren-Jian Magazine that the director kept for twenty years, unlike the other old Amis veterans that stayed in China for the last forty years, Citamih is still fluent in his aboriginal language. He used the techniques of Pinyin to record the stories of Amis aborigines in writing and completed “Reference of the Amis Language in Taiwan”. Citmaih smiled and expressed that himself is a tribe, and will not forget that he’s born an Amis.
The last stop of the journey, director and Siki arrived at Chenguanzhuang in Henan Province; this is also where Huaihai Campaign, one of the three main battle grounds, took place; this is also where 70th corp, which consisted the most Taiwanese soldiers, were annihilated. Siki brought rice wines and beetle nuts to respects those who were killed on the battlefields. “We’re here today, so others can know about the paths you have walked on, the tears and blood you have shed.” Siki said.
The “Song of the elders of the Dulan tribe” resonated sorrowfully by Siki, echoed through out the farmlands of Chenguanzhuang and drifted across the ocean and back to Dulan, Taitung. The wooden sculpture to remember the Taiwanese veterans is completed, erect at the coast of Dulan, looking out to the horizon as the sun rises.
Executive Producer: MARTIN KU
Producer: YEH JUFENG
Co-Producers: CHERELLE ZHENG, CHO LI
Project Planning: YVONNE LEE
Director: TANG SHIANG-CHU
Cinematographer: YAO HUNG-YI
Sound: WU SHU-YAO
Editors: LIAO CHING-SUNG, KU SHIAO-YUN
Music: CHEN CHIEN-NIEN (aka PUR-DUR)
April 21st, 2008, “HOW LONG IS THE ROAD” production team finally arrived at Chenguanzhuang, Henan Province.Chenguanzhuang, the third stage of Huaihai Campaign (Battle of Hsupeng), 70th Corp of the KMT army with majority of Taiwanese soldiers was defeated by the Communist army. I only have one wish regarding this subject: to put the Taiwanese soldiers’ souls to peace on the old battle ground. I have no faith, let bygones be bygones.
The cemetery of revolutionary martyrs of Huaihai Battle in Chenguanzhuang is located in a remote area, unlike other official places with memorable landmarks; there were no vanity, the tombs were organized, plants were planted strategically; peaceful yet solemn. The atmosphere that day was particularly strange, inside the cemetery, the trees stood still, frozen in time unlike outside of the cemetery where the tree sway along with the wind, and sun shining through the leaves as if reflected by the ocean water.
The caretaker said, “inside the big tomb were the unidentifiable remains of both KMT and Communist soldiers; ones with headstones were the KMT soldiers that were captured.” That was a period of absurdity, most of the soldiers had no power over their own future except to take off or put on the insignia on their caps.
From Taiwan crossing the Taiwan Strait, the young lives lost in battlefields, their ties with home were like a kite with broken string, drifting away. Those who survived, every time they escape, every time they see their friends fall down…the sleepless cold nights, the sound of ocean waves and tree shadows, was like the tidal waves of the Pacific Ocean, waves of waves of grieving sorrow.
People of the next generation such as me, could not possibly imagine therefore could not express my emotions.
The caretaker didn’t understand the existence of the Mountain Dwelling tribe of Taiwan, therefore could not permit us to set up rituals to honor the dead. We ended up on a bank by the nearby wheat farm.
Siki of the Amis aborigine set up a bonfire and said “Dear uncles, I am your child; I have brought you beetle nuts, beetle leaves, and rice wines from our home Dulan. Our purpose is to let people know of the path you took, the tears and bloods you shed. We want to let our people know, this is why we are here today. Please help us accomplish our task. Please help us…” Siki then started singing the songs of elders from the Dulan Tribe, the echoes of the song rose up to the clear open sky slowly with the smoke caressing the ocean of wheat plants.
“HOW DEEP IS THE OCEAN”, “HOW HIGH IS THE MOUNTAIN”, and “HOW LONG IS THE ROAD” and all of the sudden, ten years had passed. The main characters of my first two documentaries, my good friend and father have since passed away. Faced by the unknown trepidation, I was so little under the infinity of the open sky, and I was unable to express my emotions.
Siki’s speech expressed the meanings behind these documentaries. Siki’s ritual also the best way to summed up my work of the last ten years, and the love of the family and friends that stuck by me.
After returned home to Taiwan, I went to my son’s school event, and noticed a poem by Liu Changqing taped on the washroom wall; god knows if these elementary students really understand its meaning, but it’s the best footnote on our journey to Chenguanzhuang:
These desolated waters, these taciturn mountains
Why have you come so far away?
The place of desolation, where solemn mountains and waters stood still and where the trees and leaves fall, I sympathize you for coming to this far away place.
To the deceased and also to the living.
Tang Shiang-chu 3 / 16 / 2009
*Official selection at the Taipei Film Festival, 2009.
*Selected for DMZ (Demilitarized Zone) Korean International Documentary Festival, 2009.
*Official selection at the Asian TV Awards, 2009.