In the most industrialised nations of Asia, divorce rates are soaring, birth rates are plummeting, populations are ageing and fewer people are getting married.
Hellen Chen, one of Taiwan's most successful marriage consultants is tackling the most dysfunctional relationship she has ever known, that of her parents.
Sixty years ago, her parents fell in love but now they can barely speak to one another having separated 50 times. Hellen is determined to bring her parents together in time for their 60th wedding anniversary.
The Chen's poignant story reflects on the state of marriage and family in Taiwan and intimately portrays the profound social changes taking place across Asia’s economic miracle nations.
By Wuna Wu and Maso Chen
At the start of the film, Hellen, a famous matchmaker (or marriage consultant) in Taiwan says she wants to help her parents celebrate their 60th marriage anniversary together. But we know how hard this mission will be because we know just how often they argue and threaten divorce, even though they are in their 80s.
We first met Hellen when we were making another documentary about her matchmaking and marriage counseling service.
Wuna Wu (TaiJen Wu) graduated from the Graduate Institute of Sound and Image in Tainan National University of the Arts. She is a documentary director/producer whose films take on unique feminine sensibilities and keenness. Wuna’s films have been shown at various international film festivals, including Vision du Reel.
Maso Chen (Chih Han Chen) is a documentary cinematographer / director. While working in community building Chen realised the power of documentaries and decided to use documentary filmmaking to change his society. Working in producer/director partnerships, Maso and Wuna began making socially relevant and conscious films in 2008. Their first two films, Let’s Fall in Love and The Dream Never Sets have been theatrically released in Taiwan to high acclaim.
We discovered, while she has a great marriage herself, her parents were having problems. It was challenging for Hellen to deal with her parent's relationship troubles, especially because in Taiwan people are not used to communicating so openly with their parents. We thought it would be very interesting to see how she would handle this problem.
Friends asked us,"Do you think Hellen will succeed? Will this old marriage have a happy ending?"
At first, we thought it would be completely impossible to save their marriage. We thought Hellen's parents did not love each other and were just staying together to avoid the shame of divorce. But Hellen, who has been analysing her parent's relationship for years, said there was hope because, in her eyes, they still loved each other.
After we got to know Hellen's mother and father a little more, we saw something very strange.
Although Hellen’s father says he suffers in the marriage he still smiles whenever he sees his wife. Hellen’s mother stills buys gifts for her husband on every birthday and anniversary. They insist they are only together because of the children but all of their children say they would support them if they wanted a divorce. Interestingly enough, they did once get divorced in their 50s but remarried again soon after.
After getting to know them better, it made us think a lot more about their marriage and whether it could be saved. Now, I think they do love each other but too many bitter memories are still bothering them from the past.
Many children suffer when their parents have bad relationships but usually can not do anything about it. For that, I respect Hellen’s courage. Hellen told us that she always dreamt of having a loving and stable family and, after so many years working as a matchmaker and marriage consultant, she finally found the courage to confront and help her parents. I think we can take inspiration from Hellen and help our parents if they need it.
Through this journey, Hellen learns a lot about her parents. As filmmakers, we have learnt a lot from this documentary.
This episode of Viewfinder can be seen from Monday, August 12, at the following times GMT: Monday: 2230; Tuesday: 0930; Wednesday: 0330; Thursday: 1630.
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