Facing Up To Harsh Realities

Filmmaker Chiang Wei Liang (CS’ 13) explores the plight of migrant workers in Taiwan in his award-winning short film.

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Southeast Asian migrant workers from countries like Vietnam, Indonesia and the Philippines do not have it easy in Taiwan. Many of them work long hours at factories that make mobile phone chips, screens and often at below-standard wages. 

This observation of the harsh realities of migrants in Taiwan inspired Chiang Wei Liang, to document their lives in “Anchorage Prohibited” —  a 17-minute film that recently won the Audi Best Short Film Award at the 2016 Berlin International Film Festival.

A budding filmmaker, Chiang was the first recipient of the film category introduced under the Media Education Scheme in 2013, presented by the Media Development Authority of Singapore.

After graduating from the Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and Information three years ago, Chiang headed to Taiwan to pursue a Master in Arts (Filmmaking) at the Taipei National University of the Arts.

“Anchorage Prohibited” was made as part of his graduate school class project.

“I saw an opportunity to highlight the issue on migrant workers for my course module when I chanced upon an article that yet another female migrant worker abandoned her newborn,” he said.

The film’s narrative centres around an unplanned pregnancy of a Vietnamese couple, portraying a poignant story of how the immigrant couple faced mortgage issues, and the burden of their agency fees and loans. Amid these difficulties, they sold their child.

VIDEO COURTESY OF CHIANG WEI LIANG

“There are a lot of emotions running in the film, so we hope the audience can think about the lives of the migrant workers in Taiwan. Most of these workers just want to make a stable living in their host country, but there are too many restrictions,” said Chen Tang Liang, one of Chiang’s classmates and producer of “Anchorage Prohibited.” “It’s the same problem all around the world.”

Chiang revealed that the film was actually conceived in a very short period of time.

The entire production took only three weeks from script to screen. One of the biggest challenges that he faced was finding the right people to act in it.

“I saw an opportunity to highlight the issue on migrant workers for my course module when I chanced upon an article that yet another female migrant worker abandoned her newborn.”

Chiang Wei Liang

“There was no way I was going to have Taiwanese people portray migrant workers — that isn’t realistic,” he said. “So while still writing and refining the script, I took to street casting with my classmates till our producer managed to find them through her means.”

But other than that, Chiang had a clear vision of what he wanted in “Anchorage Prohibited.” The entire film took approximately a day and a half to shoot.

Meanwhile, when asked if he had any plans of making longer films or movies, Chiang said he does not have any intention to do that at the moment, as he wants to master the craft of short filmmaking.

“The short film is a very different medium than say, a movie. It does not need to obey any narrative laws or logic, and you’re free to run wild with it and mould it into any fashion you like. It’s both prose and poetry, ephemeral and leaves you in thought, sometimes, longing for more,” he said.

Chiang’s earliest training in filmmaking came from WKWSCI, under the guidance of his lecturer Kym Campbell. He particularly appreciated the fact that Mr Campbell engaged him in broadcast modules that allowed him do hands-on projects, allowing him to try and experiment all that he can.

“I think most of us responded to his tutelage and we tried to do more with each assignment. And through that, we explored in our own ways, what our ‘cinema’ was,” he said.

“Filmmaking isn’t the easiest path to take and the lure to give up is immense, but I’m emboldened and comforted in the knowledge that many across the world are doing their best despite the little they have.”  

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