Beginning with an archival photograph, Theatre Exile encapsulates a female Jewish documentary filmmaker exiled in Shanghai during World War II, who became the center of a multifaceted political and cultural struggle during the Solitude Period (孤島時期).
In my research and creative process, I have repeatedly asked myself, when looking back at this history of identity transition, how the issue of Jewish refugees in WWII has often been discussed in terms of “statelessness” and the restoration of its nation-state, both of which in fact conventional media and historical narratives project the Jewish refugees of the time as if they were one and the same, Zionism was misinterpreted as the only quest of the Jewish majority, in this overly simplified historical codification in fact flattens humanity, and the influences of many conflicted yet co-existing powers, KMT, the Japanese, Kwantung Army, Nanking government, Chungking government…and are perhaps what the project aims to address – ‘diaspora’ – apart from depicting the displacement of a community and its process of internalization in the historical context, was/is the community’s public image being shaped for a certain purpose? Have we reduced the interwoven layers of history and reality to dramatic effect? “The passive exile of ‘the people’ in the gaps between national systems, from the specific time and space of the war to present-day China, is in fact not only an ideological dichotomy, but also a deep involvement in the exchange between Europe and Asia. Thus, through this partial, faint, and ephemeral history, Theatre Exile unfolds the diasporic details of the complex entanglement of human nature, where good and evil are not obvious. This work is like swimming towards the surface in an undercurrent, obscure and yet to be seen.