The film has now been named by Taiwan as its contender for the best international feature film section at the Academy Awards. “A Sun” focuses on the pressures that a family of four place on the younger son, a black-sheep being sent to juvenile detention.
Mong-Hong discusses the making of the film and exclusively debuts the trailer below.
What was the inspiration behind you telling this story?
I heard this story when I met up with a high-school friend after 40 years. He didn’t do well at school and didn’t graduate, if I remember correctly. He left the school in the last semester before graduation. I met him at a cafe in the countryside in southern Taiwan. He had an ordinary life. I was happy that he had a good life. When we were chatting, he mentioned he felt lost in life for a while.
For reasons unknown, he and a friend had slashed someone’s hand off. I was shocked by this story, but it wasn’t enough to make a film. Not so long after, I was having dinner with friends and family, and there was a hot pot, and the image of the slashed hand came to mind — in the hot pot, and that just became really powerful.
I think films are more than stories or topics. Many directors spend a lot of time searching for topics. I am attracted to topics when clear images pop out in my mind. The “hand in a hot pot” image was very impressive to me. I started thinking about what might happen afterward, so I started writing the script, starting with the slashed hand. It triggered family chaos.
Some tragedies are quite common in Taiwan, such as suicide. Some young people are jailed for their mistakes. These incidents lead to family issues and social issues. What does society think about these incidents? What do parents think about these incidents? I find all those questions fascinating, but they all came from that hand in a hot pot.
How did you approach casting the film?
I tried to use a very traditional family profile to tell this story. The main character is about my age, and it’s a family of four.
I cast Chen Yi-wen quite early in the film. We last worked together on “Godspeed” and he was ideal to play the father. He wasn’t highly educated or well-paid at work, and he was a useless father. His only achievement being the breadwinner at home. Chen could play that perfectly.
I spent more time choosing Greg Hsu. I met him twice before making the decision, but he could play the older brother perfectly. He could be shy — which is what that character is.
What are you hoping viewers take from the film?
“A Sun” is not really a joyful film. It’s not a film that offers hopes or optimism. I hope viewers will think about society or family afterward. I hope viewers will think of life and its frustrations. Parents may blame their kids, and vice versa. There are no definite answers.
However, when we look up to the sun, people see hope. And, I’m hoping that people look at their lives around them seeing friends and family and understand people better because that understanding is a precious thing.