Set construction for ‘Taiwan Trilogy’ film kicks off in Kaohsiung

Filmmaker Wei Te-sheng explains his planned set. CNA photo Sept. 1, 2020

TAIPEI (CNA) — Acclaimed Taiwanese filmmaker Wei Te-sheng (魏德聖) appeared excited on Tuesday as he announced the beginning of work to build the set of his newest film project, a three-episode film series telling the early history of Taiwan starting 400 years ago.

“I am happy and nervous at the same time,” Wei said during a ceremony marking the start of the construction in the southern port city of Kaohsiung.

The construction on two hectares of reclaimed land from the sea will allow the filming of “Taiwan Trilogy” to start smoothly in August next year as scheduled, Wei said, with the goal of recreating a tribe of the indigenous Siraya people that lived in Taiwan 400 years ago.

Estimating that the set will cost NT$30 million (US$1 million) to build, more than 30 Sirayan houses will be constructed from bamboo, wood and straw, and will include a church, warehouses and gathering halls, according to Wei.

In addition, many plants that were common on the Jianan Plain in southwestern Taiwan some 400 years ago will be planted to recreate the actual living environment of the Siraya people as closely as they can, Wei said.

Because trees need time to grow, the set building has had to start one year before shooting begins, he said, so that the film can be as close to reality as possible.

The epic movie series “Taiwan Trilogy: Siraya,” “Taiwan Trilogy: Teyouan” and “Taiwan Trilogy: Formosa” are part of Wei’s ambitious “The Taiwan 400 Years Film Series” project, following his two-part historical drama film “Warriors of the Rainbow: Seediq Bale” in 2011.

The film series introduces Taiwan’s early history, featuring indigenous Siraya hunters and gatherers, ethnic Chinese pirates and Dutch missionaries as the protagonists, and tells the stories of the different ethnic groups that lived in Taiwan at various times.

It will also include a separate documentary “Finding Formosa (working title)” and animation “Darami — A Formosan Fantasy (working title),” which are expected to be released in 2024.

“We need to understand our past before we can create our future,” Wei said on the website his team created to raise funds for the big project.

He noted that he finished the script for “Taiwan Trilogy” in 2001. “As a story about all Taiwanese people, it begins with Taiwan’s entry onto the world stage and the world first setting foot on Taiwanese soil, and depicts Taiwan’s cultural pluralism.

“In the Age of Discovery, this little island played an important role and contains many wonderful stories,” he said.

On Tuesday, Wei revealed that he has invited Japanese actor Masatoshi Nagase to play a role in the first episode of “Taiwan Trilogy,” which is expected to be released in 2024.

The 54-year-old Nagase is known in Taiwan for his starring role in the 2014 Taiwanese baseball film “Kano,” directed by Umin Boya and produced by Jimmy Huang and Wei.

The film depicts how the multiracial Kano baseball team from Japanese colonial-era Taiwan overcame extreme odds to represent the island in the 1931 Japanese High School Baseball Championship.