油麻菜籽Directed by Wan Jen
Cast: Chen Chiu-yen, Ko I-chen, Su Ming-ming
New 4K restoration by the Taiwan Film and Audiovisual Institute
Hsin-chin is a housewife who lives a despondent and tedious daily life. Her husband (Ko I-Chen) checks all the boxes of an abusive partner: domestically violent, alcoholic, disloyal, and uncaring. When his affair is discovered and threatens the survival of the family, Hsin-chin (Chen Chiu-Yen) uses her entire fortune to get him out of it and moves the family to Taipei. Years later, her daughter Ah Fei (Su Mingming) excels in her schoolwork and foresees a bright future through continuous study. Yet Hsin-chin, jaded by her own experiences as a woman, tells Ah Fei that education is useless. Motherhood unconsciously becomes another misogynistic complex.
Co-written by Liao Hui-ying (adapted from her own novel) and Hou Hsiao-Hsien (A City of Sadness, Millennium Mambo), AH FEI explores motherhood as labor and key to a patriarchal system, told from a moment of cultural transformation around gender and identity in Taiwan. A foundational film of the burgeoning Taiwan New Cinema, AH FEI has many of the movement’s hallmarks: the interaction between nature and people, location shooting, and social critique through the lens of family melodrama. AH FEI borrows the Minnan metaphor of the rapeseed flower for the film’s Mandarin title: the flower adaptable to environmental changes and always striving to survive. AH FEI memorably presents us with two: a mother and daughter, allegorizing the spectrum of femininity across Taiwan’s postwar decades.
– Wentao Ma
Co-Presented by Women’s International Center.