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BUSAN: ‘Paradise’ Director Defends Opening Film

BUSAN — Why was Taiwanese director Doze Niu Chen-zer’s period drama “Paradise in Service” selected as the opening film of this year’s Busan festival? Asked this unanswerable question at the film’s Thursday press conference, Niu came up with a sincere reply, if not quite to the point: “I think Chinese and Korean people are the best to share this film with.”

The reason: Both have a history of civil conflict that has led to family separations, a key theme of the film, set in an era of Cold War tension on Quemoy (now commonly known as Kinmen), an island group that was a flash point between China and Taiwan. The story, which revolves around a military brothel the 19-year-old hero (Ethan Juan) is assigned to manage, takes a view of its soldiers and prostitutes that one questioner characterized as “romantic,” but Niu insisted was the researched truth. The sex workers, he added “were good people — they gave comfort to those who were suffering.”

The film also gave a good feeling to the nominators for this year’s Golden Horse awards — Taiwan’s Oscar equivalent for Chinese-language films. “Paradise In Service” scored five nods, including supporting actor (Chen Jian Bin) and supporting actress (Chen Yi Han). Both thesps, as well as stars Ethan Juan and Wan Qian, were on hand to express their appreciation to Niu. Chen Jian Bin, who played a homesick soldier, mentioned an additional inspiration. “My grandfather had a similar experience,” he said. “He really wanted to go back to his hometown (on the mainland), but never could. Playing this role helped me better understand what he went through.”

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