2023.10.25 [Event Reports]
Exploring Political and Personal Awakenings


©2023 TIFF

Su I-Hsuan’s directorial feature debut Who’ll Stop the Rain received its international premiere in the World Focus/Taiwan Cinema Renaissance 2023 section of the 36th Tokyo International Film Festival on October 24, and advance word had drawn an overflow audience. Following the screening, Su and one of her three stars, Yeh Hsiao-fei, joined TIFF Senior Programmer Ishizaka Kenji to field lively questions at a full-house Q&A session.
The writer-director-editor introduced herself first in Japanese, then commented, “I’m really so happy to be here today and I’m dying to hear your comments about the film. It’s been 30 years since this period in Taiwan, but I tried to connect the past to the present. I look forward to hearing your comments.”
To rather heavy applause, rising actress Yeh expressed her own excitement, saying “I’m ecstatic about being here because I love Japan, I love Tokyo. This time, unexpectedly, we were invited to show this film in which I have the first lead role of my career. I also really look forward to hearing your comments.”
Set after the lifting of 38 years of martial law in Taiwan, and based on the true events surrounding a 34-day student strike in 1994, the film follows Fine Arts freshman Chi-wei (Lilly Lee), who enters college just as a wave of liberalism is sweeping across the country. She rather reluctantly joins the strike when her university is slow to respond to demands that a particularly abusive professor be forced to resign, and that students be allowed more artistic freedom.
“Sometimes you meet someone,” Chi-wei recalls, “and a whole new world opens up to you.” That someone is Ching (Yeh Hsiao-fei), whose boyfriend, Kuang (Roy Chang), is the leader of the strike. But he still retains a rather dated code of behavior toward females, and when Ching begins asserting her own independence, the relationship soon disintegrates. Chi-wei finds herself drawn to the mysterious Ching, whose father is a high-ranking official and hails from the family that founded the university. As the two women explore their feelings for one another against the backdrop of the upheavals, Who’ll Stop the Rain reminds us that political awakenings often lead to decisive self-awakenings for those who take part.
Su was asked to discuss the genesis of the screenplay, and explained, “I was inspired by true events. But since I wasn’t old enough, I didn’t know how the characters actually felt or acted. About 80% is fictional and the other 20% depicts the social atmosphere of the time. In telling the story, I also had to create drama for each character, including the conflicts they had among themselves.”
She added, “Along with the student movement, another element in the film that’s important is the LGBTQ+ movement. That had actually not occurred, yet, but I included it.”
Confirming that she was also alive but not old enough to be cognizant of what was happening, Yeh said, “The generation depicted in the film is my parents’ generation, and I do remember hearing stories during my childhood about how they felt at the time.”
Another audience member said that he’d expected a film that was a protest against male chauvinism, based on the title and poster design. He wondered if that was the director’s attention. Su pointed out that certain elements differed according to language and location: “The Chinese title actually means ‘youth is not a gentle age;’ while the word ‘resist’ in the Japanese title is about the women resisting society’s norms. The poster (at TIFF, a vintage-color image of the two main characters looking at each other) shows that their lives won’t be calm or static, but will constantly change. As for the English title, it comes from a song that was very popular in the ‘60s and ‘70s. It refers to the rainy season in Taiwan, when the rain never stops; and it also refers to what we can do to stop the rain.”
In closing, the director encouraged the audience to make the utmost of Instagram ID and other social media. “I hope you enjoyed the film, and if so, please help us spread the word!” After once again emphasizing that they hoped to hear comments, the women went outside to the plaza that, coincidentally, features Tokyo’s most popular Taiwanese bubble tea shop. There, a large gathering of fans was waiting to congratulate them and take selfies for posting.
World Focus
Taiwan Cinema Renaissance 2023
Co-organized by Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office in Japan, Taiwan Cultural Center

Q&A Session: World Focus
Who’ll Stop the Rain
Guests: Su I-Hsuan (Director/Screenplay/Presenter/Editor), Yeh Hsiao-fei (Actor)

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