*In Development / Pre-Production*
Feature Length Film
Genre: Hybrid Narrative/Documentary
Scheduled Production: Fall 2013 - Winter 2014 on location in Taiwan
© 2012-2013 S.K.Y. Productions and Nonetheless Productions
Recipient of a 2012 Creative Capital Grant
PRESERVES is a hybrid film that explores the little-known relationship between traditional Taiwanese pickled mustard greens (suan tsai) and the island’s disappearing agricultural landscape — and how this friction comes to head within a bowl of beef noodle soup.
PRESERVES observes the process of growing and making “suan tsai," as a way to explore the growing conflicts over the scarcity of land on the island between agricultural, industrial, and housing interests. With the trend in Taiwan to repurpose its farmlands for other uses, PRESERVES aims to capture a way of life that is quickly transitioning and draw awareness to changes that Taiwan’s modernization brings to its culture through the viewpoint of food.
Blurring the line between narrative and documentary, characters will emerge from intimate vignettes that detail their routines and everyday lives. These fictionalized sections, based on research, observations and interviews of factual people, will follow those whose lives revolve around the suan tsai industry. Through the course of one crop season, PRESERVES will intercut between the story elements to documentary portions that follow the agricultural/manufacturing process. Together, these characters and the investigation of producing and consuming food, explore the effects of modernization in Taiwan on the everyday individual.
PRESERVES approaches food as a way to discuss universal topics. Each country has their own distinct cuisine, yet the rituals of cooking and eating are cross-cultural. Currently, western cultures are developing awareness and attention to what they eat and to where it’s coming from, with organic farming and movements such as slow foods. By focusing on the meticulous depiction of suan tsai manufacturing, PRESERVES aims beyond its specificity, to question how the foods that identify our cultures are produced and used.
Food is a carrier of traditions and reflects the social/political issues throughout history. As a second generation Taiwanese American, the cuisine brought by immigrants to the United States was key to connecting to my own ancestry.
Upon revisiting their rural hometowns, my parents, whom have been expatriates from Taiwan for almost thirty years, remarked of how much things have transformed. Through their experiences, I felt connected to a culture that’s familiar yet distant. I saw the changing landscape through their eyes – how the country had transitioned from agricultural to industrial over the course of decades.
Having grown in the United States, I find myself in a position that allows me to have strong cultural and emotional connections to Taiwan, yet at the same time preserve the objectivity of an outsider. Inspired by how altered the environment was for my parents and how the tradition of suan tsai manufacturing was vanishing, I felt the urgency to portray this way of living.
PRESERVES is a document of the disappearing landscape of rural Taiwan, a testimony of the farmers and laborers work, a record of the long process of preserving mustard greens that is not being passed onto the next generation, and an archive of those traditions in Taiwanese cuisine that could soon become lost and forgotten.