May 31, 2021

烏 なぜ啼くの // 恐怖分子

烏 なぜ啼くの (Karasu naze nakuno)

my grandfather texted me a couple weeks ago to ask if I remembered a Japanese nursery song he taught me when I was a kid:
Text from GG.png
I can't read or understand Japanese, so this is a completely Google Translate-assisted convo: he asks if I remember the song, and I reply of course, and with a video I found on YouTube

This is the song:
Karasu Naze Nakuno Video.png

I'm terrified there will be a day where I don't remember/can't find this song; and I don't speak Japanese, so I feel it will become even harder and harder to track down. So I'm saving it here as a *note to self*.

These grandparents (on my mom's side) are 
  • racially Han Chinese
  • ethnically Taiwanese (via ancestral immigration)
but also somewhat
  • culturally Japanese (via occupation)

Even if China, Taiwan, and Japan are hard to differentiate for the West, these are incredibly different cultures, and this is my best attempt at describing my grandparents' complex histories with crude, imperfect labels. It's always hard to explain to people in the US that my grandparents are Taiwanese immigrants to the US, yet speak Japanese most comfortably (and my grandfather did not in fact learn Mandarin until he was in his late teens/early 20s). And how even with my elementary school-level grasp of Mandarin, we still struggle to communicate fully with each other. So a majority of their history is still not totally within my comprehension/awareness, and I could have the basics wrong too.

And so this song has always meant a lot to me, as the most fool-proof way I could communicate joy, love, and memory to my grandparents. I only know the first two lines: 烏 なぜ啼くの (karasu naze nakuno), 烏は山に (karasu wa yama ni)

Lyrics to Karasu Naze Nakuno.JPG

恐怖分子 (Kǒngbù Fènzǐ), or The Terrorizers

Considering the polyglot nature of my grandparents' history and how it's a history I may never fully understand, I'm grateful for a movie that attempts to depict, contain, illustrate, the deeply entangled and complicated cultural intersections in Taiwan called 
恐怖分子 (Kǒngbù Fènzǐ), or The Terrorizers.

The movie unfolds with a kaleidoscope of characters, including a Eurasian woman, a group of indigenous Taiwanese people, ancestral Taiwanese (Han Chinese, but migrated many generations ago), and crucially, a 外省人 (wàishěngrén) man. My mom's side is ancestral Taiwanese, my father's side is 外省人 (wàishěngrén), meaning Mainland Chinese people who fled to Taiwan when the Communist Party took power in the Mainland. For a country that is often viewed as homogenous and uniform to the West, these identities can chafe quite explosively, as is explored in the film.

In addition to examining the varying experiences of the micro-ethnicities within a country like Taiwan, the film also looks at the nature of image, film-making, the male gaze, the filmic gaze in general. There's an extended sequence in the movie where a photographer makes his entire apartment a darkroom so that he can create a huge enlarged print:
The Terrorizers.jpg
The Terrorizers is currently available to rent or buy on Amazon Prime, which is incredible to me given how rare this movie once was. 

Here's the trailer:

Anyhow, I'm writing about this because it looks like I'm going to see my grandparents in a couple weeks, for the first time in a pandemic-enforced while. My heart aches to be with them—I'll be holding and grasping as much as I can of the extraordinary histories and culture that live within them.

gong gong po po.jpg