Official Selection, 2019 Visions du Reel
One man does not a city make, but Kuo Wan-chih came close as the hard-drinking, ballad-writing “street vendor legislator” of Yancheng during the 1950s, 60s, and 70s. Taiwan’s bustling port hub experienced an economic post-war boom during those decades that was in many ways defined by Kuo’s charismatic persona, and by extension the scandalous but popular song entitled “The Chief of Yancheng District” he supposedly penned while boozing it up at the local bar scene.
But for all the salacious stories that cumulatively make up the legend of Kuo, he remains an enigmatic personal figure in the eyes of local residents and historians alike. Adion Lu’s nimble new documentary embraces that fact rather than trying to place its subject within a clearly defined and linear non-fiction portrait.
Elliptical talking head interviews (sometimes in the very businesses Kuo used to frequent) are complemented by archival photos of the area’s red light district (typically populated by American soldiers), and epic drone shots that are, in their own ways, examples of the city’s visual identity both past and present. As Lu peels back these complex layers of pop culture, government corruption, and public lore, the film becomes a fascinatingly incomplete and personal oral history about an unknowable man.
–Glenn Heath Jr.
Admission includes a special post-screening reception.