How did you get to know Azhe’s family? How did you decide to film them?
I wasn’t targeting at new immigrants from the outset. I was introduced by social workers to get in touch with some singe fathers and thus began my field research. Sometime later I came to realize that many single fathers were from new immigrant families. That’s when I decided to shift my target.
During my field research, I have visited many families, but it took me only two months to decide that I should focus on Azhe’s family alone. It was, let’s say, a hunch; I felt the two subjects (Azhe and her husband, A-long) have created much tension. At that time, I was still considering which family to work with, but later I found Azhe’s family interest me the most, so I stopped filming others.
What are the challenges you’ve encountered during filming?
The biggest challenge is that I’ve missed out on a lot of things, because I worked mostly in the U.S., if anything happened, I couldn’t be around immediately. Consequently, there were a lot of moments that I failed to capture which could have been used. For one thing, the relationship between A-long and his mother. I wanted to say more about it, but I didn’t have enough material.
The other challenge is that not every villager allowed me to film them, which is a pity, because some of them treated Azhe pretty nicely. Still, I respected their decision. If they didn’t want to be filmed, I didn’t film them.
How did you know it’s time to stop filming and start editing?
It took me about two years before I started to edit. But when the editing began, I didn’t know when to stop. The reason why making documentaries takes forever is because you have to wait for things to unfold. You have to be able to capture those changes, however small they may be. The audience will think about the message you try to convey. It’s all about those changes.
I had suspected that Azhe might leave, but later on I realized that no matter what happened, she would never leave. However, I also found that their relationship has changed overtime. In the beginning, they could still chit-chat and joke and laugh, but gradually their being together seemed quite forced, to the point of hopeless. I felt this transformation deeply something I wanted to capture.
You have added to the ending quite a few scenes, such as Azhe being with her daughters, Azhe’s niece meeting up with the matchmaker in Vietnam, and A-long sitting in the garlic field. How did you arrange the order of scenes?
It was basically in accordance with the order of shooting. The scene in which Azhe talked to her daughters at the shore came rather late. At first, I didn’t intend to let her daughters do the talking, but as they grew, I found that they started to express their feelings and ask questions. That’s when I decided to include their conversation in the film.
The scene of Azhe’s niece meeting the matchmaker was filmed earlier when I was in Vietnam, but at that time I was pretty sure that this scene would only be shown at the end of the film. Because whether or not her niece marries a foreigner, she is following into Azhe’s footsteps. This was how Azhe got married and moved to Taiwan.
A-long’s scene is added to the film at the last moment. I had intended to end the film with the matchmaker, but many people who have watched the film said they wanted to see A-long again, because this film shouldn’t only be about foreign brides.
Have your main characters watched the film? How did they think of it?
Yes. A-long was a little emotional after watching it. He kept silent for a long time, and then said that he needed to think about how to react. I was a little nervous hearing him said so. A few moments later, he muttered in Taiwanese, “lin-xin hai-hai1, and added, “We had gone through more tough times, but you didn’t manage to capture them. That’s life.” The way he put it seemed to acknowledge that I had, after all, captured something real about their life, which I see it as a recognition. During the 56th Golden Horse Awards ceremony, he waited around the whole time. He was very supportive, and I’m grateful for that.
Azhe didn’t finish the film. One reason is because she couldn’t understand all the Chinese subtitles, and the other is that she was not interested in it. But she had the idea of what this documentary is about, what footages were included, and what kind of person I am. There were a lot more scenes which were not allowed to be used, so I made sure they were left out. She was thus rest assured and trusted me with the material.
How do you see the phenomenon of foreign brides in Taiwan? Have you changed your ideas about it after making this film?
Since I’m not a policymaker, I didn’t know how the government is going to solve this problem. I felt that some Taiwanese people are self-centered and are used to seeing new immigrants as an inferior social class. They tend to think that because they have paid to buy these foreign brides, they should listen to them. This is something that needs to be changed. I hope the audience can understand that it is not “an issue,” but a life experience “people” have to undergo. To see them as our equals helps us see better and clearer where the problem lies.
1It basically means that life is capricious and complex and full of the unknown, but eventually one has to get up the nerve to confront it.
More information about The Good Daughter.