As I've been digitizing and sifting through all the footage that I've shot of Su Beng through the years, it's made me reflect on how I got started with this project. And how I've been video recording everything from the first moment we met.
The first time I learned about Su Beng was in December 2003 after reading an article that he’d written that was translated into English and published in the Taipei Times. But I didn't actually meet him in person until February of 2004, when he was invited down to Kaohsiung to speak publicly about the significance of the 228 massacre. At the time I was living in Kaohsiung, so I went to the community center where Su Beng was to speak with my Sony Handycam miniDV video camera in hand and recorded the whole thing. I didn’t even have a tripod and held the camera by hand the entire time.
I had talked about this project with my friend Rex Chen who had just made an activist-minded documentary called The Fight to Free David Wong. Initially, I had planned to simply audio record my meetings and interviews with Su Beng. After all, my intention was simply to write something inspired by his life story. My primary medium is not video or film. But Rex felt very strongly that this subject matter would be compelling in video, so he urged me to video record my interviews with Su Beng. Because of this conversation, I was very fortunate to have had the idea of creating video content or a documentary planted in my head very early on. I really had NO idea how I would get that done since I am not a filmmaker, but it wasn't really that much more effort to set up a video camera to record our interviews, and so that became a part of my project.
My very first sit-down meeting and interview with Su Beng wasn’t until August of 2004. My mother and I were already up in Taipei and we had arranged to meet Su Beng at his residence. She had agreed to go with me as my translator and she has been one of my primary translators for this project. Su Beng had arranged for a taxi driver to pick me and my Mother up and take us to his residence. As we conversed with the taxi driver who picked us up, we learned that he had worked at a newspaper and spoke a little English. It was clear to me that Su Beng had specifically asked this particular taxi driver to pick me up. He had taken into consideration the fact that although I can speak Taiwanese, I am more comfortable speaking English.
I also remember how awkward I was at that first meeting with Su Beng, with all of my camera and audio equipment. When I met Su Beng that day, I told thim that I had always wanted to write something about Taiwan and that I was interested in learning more about his life story and experiences. I wanted to interview him to get inspiration to write a story, or possibly a novel. When I asked if I could interview him, he simply said, "Yes, if it’s for the good of Taiwan."
And so began my nearly monthly trips up to Taipei from Kaohsiung to meet with Su Beng.
In the beginning I hadn't even thought about writing Su Beng’s biography, in fact as time went on and others asked if I would consider writing Su Beng's biography, I resisted it for a long time. I thought, I am no historian, or specialist in Taiwan history. But then about six months into things, I was reading the Autobiography of Malcolm X and as I read what Alex Haley wrote about his relationship with Malcolm X in the years that he was researching and working the autobiography, I realized that I had already taken on the responsibility of being Su Beng’s biographer. By then I had also realized that Su Beng's life doesn't even need to be fictionalized, the real story itself is quite fascinating.
There have been so many milestones that I have been able to capture on video as I've been following and documenting Su Beng's life.
In 2005, his Taiwan Independence Action motorcade celebrated its ten year anniversary. That same year, in August of 2005, I went to Tokyo Japan to visit Su Beng at his noodle shop in Ikebukuro.
These are just a few of the moments I've captured on video, and I will be putting together in a rough cut for you to see.
And now ten years later, I have successfully raised funds for a trip back to Taiwan where I witnessed the largest student-led protest in the history of Taiwan and the historic occupation of the Legislative Yuan. Some of that footage will be in the rough cut too.
Stay tuned for the rough cut preview of some of this footage which is going to make it into the MAKING HISTORY documentary of Su Beng.