12/04/2008, 00.00
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Censoring Cape No 7 becomes a political affair

A romantic love story between a Taiwanese man and a Japanese woman is raising concern in Beijing that it might offend the sensibilities of those who suffered under Japanese “colonial” rule, which is why it wants to ban the movie. This in turn could lead to mutual resentment on both sides.
Taipei (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Cape No 7 (pictured), Taiwan's most successful film in years, is having negative ripples in China where it could fall by the wayside under the censor’s axe. In Taiwan the reported ban has triggered an outcry from Taiwanese political leaders as well as ordinary citizens, whilst on the mainland the movie itself has led to increasing criticism of its content and of Taiwanese culture.

At the heart of the movie there is a love story between a Taiwanese rock star and a Japanese woman with flashbacks to 1945 and a Japanese teacher's love for a Taiwanese woman at a time when he is forced to return home after the Second World War.

In Taiwan the movie has already netted NT0 million (US$ 15 million) and has become the highest grossing Taiwanese film.

Fake DVDs and an online version of the film are already widely available in many mainland cities. Its soundtrack appeals to young people.

But the movie deals with issues that are very sensitive to mainland China like Japan’s occupation and Taiwan secession.

For many Chinese the movie is like brain-washing, sweeping under the carpet the violence perpetrated by the Japanese invaders, describing relations with the Taiwanese population as peaceful and beneficial.

Instead both countries suffered under Japanese rule which lasted 50 years for Taiwan (1895-1945). But Taipei was quicker off the mark to re-establish good relations with Tokyo.

Beijing now seems poised to reverse its earlier decision to import the movie to avoid offending “national sentiments”.

Across the Taiwan Strait the case has led to an outcry among Taiwanese lawmakers, from both ruling and opposition parties, who have lashed out at Beijing.

This could generate mutual resentment.

Even Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou got involved in the matter.

“I highly recommend that the mainland compatriots go and watch the movie, which can serve as a first step for the mainland to understand Taiwan," Mr Ma said in the interview with Radio Taiwan International (RTI), which is available online to mainland internet users.

In his take on the controversy, the movie’s director Wei Te-sheng stressed that his film was a love story without any political statement.

More matter-of-factly, a mainland netizen described the movie as talking “about how a failed Taiwanese rock musician, who returns to his small coastal hometown, lets go of his sadness and rebuilds his confidence by loving a Japanese girl and setting up a band,” adding that “just because it won the Taiwanese people's hearts and broke Taiwan's box-office record, it doesn't make it one of history's great movies.”

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