Hsiao Wenhua, MFA, Graduate Institute of Theater Performance and Playwriting, National Taipei University of the Arts
2011’s Night Market Hero is Ye Tianlun’s first directorial effort. A fun-loving look at Taiwan’s night-market culture, people, and foods, the film is rich in local color and vitality. Fried-chicken 1 is a Taiwanese night-market specialty, popular with locals of all ages; the movie’s “hero” – who operates night-market fried-chicken stand – isn’t the death-defying do-gooder of action movies, but a hard-working, dignified young man. The film faithfully recreates the bustling night-market atmosphere, depicting the industriousness of the people who earn their livings at night markets, bringing new meaning to the concept of “hero.”
The story takes place in the “Ba-Ba-Ba Night Market.” A-Hua (Lan Zhenglong), the folksy protagonist, is the night-market’s manager-director. Ever ready to lend a helping hand, A-Hua is a born leader who gladly shoulders the responsibility of keeping the night-market functioning smoothly. Market vendors have their own stories to tell, and together they work hard, laughing and joking, creating an atmosphere of warmth and amiability. One day Lin Yinan, a female reporter, accidentally stumbles into the Ba-Ba-Ba Night market, where she chances to meet A-Hua. As she and A-Hua grow closer the closer, the audience follows along this “outsider,” entering with her into night-market life. Without warning, however, a construction company purchases the land where the Ba-Ba-Ba Night Market is held, threatening to close the market. The company is in cahoots with city councilman Zhang Jinliang (Ti-ko Liang), who in the past was like a father to A-Hua. In the end, friendship and ethics prevail; through a collective effort, night-market merchants retain the right to use the land, a victory for “local values.”
In the film, the night market is virtually “holy ground.” Featuring delicious foods, entertainments, and amusement from every area of the island, the venue caters to every basic living need. The movie’s night market is in fact a miniature of life; thus, protecting the “night market” is tantamount to taking a stand for local values, beliefs, and attitudes. Filmed on location, “Night Market Hero” introduces a wide variety of traditional Taiwanese snacks, and even features a live “fireworks’ beehive,” reminiscent of the annual Lantern Festival celebration in the Tainan town of Yanshui. The film also takes satirical shots at Taiwan’s ignoble mainstream media. Thus, the director uses the night-market setting to promote local street culture. The movie’s colloquial dialogue, moving emotional exchanges, and portraits of the everyday life of average Taiwanese reveal a deep concern for local values, inviting audiences to reconsider the true significance of native culture.
1“Fried-chicken Hero” is a literal translation of the film’s Chinese title.
Film Night Market Hero Trailer II (Source: Green Film Production)
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