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"Dust in the Wind" (1986) Taiwan Hou Ssiao-Hsien







“Dust in the Wind” is a 1986 Taiwanese film directed and produced by Hou Hsiao-Hsien. During the 1980s, Taiwan’s economy slowly became stronger and stronger each year, but in the rural areas, many citizens continued to struggle to survive as illustrated with the two main characters in this movie. Some families need their children to work at a very young age to earn money for food, electric and all other essentials, but sometimes working in their hometown may not be enough.


The two main characters, Huen and Wan faced a life and death situation within their family because they needed to decide if they were going to work in Taipei, going to senior high school or doing both. In this case, they chose both because their families needed more money to survive everyday life and for them to eventually receive higher paying jobs. In this case, the two families were struggling with hunger, thirst and health issues. In fact, some of the kids were eating toothpaste and MSG in the rural town where Huen and Wan were from. Additionally, their families also lived-in poverty, so Huen and Wan had to figure themselves out alone before helping their own families.


Shortly after they met, Huen left her hometown to go to Taipei for work, she was discussing with Yuan the struggles and issues about finding ways to survive. Once Huen left, Wan stayed back to work at a printing press factory, so he can continue to take care of his family. On Wan’s first day on the job, viewers learned that he had not eaten in a while, and his boss asked him if he was okay. Another instance was when Huen had some potatoes stolen from her by an old man at their local train station. Wan revenged and got them back from the old man. A few days later, Wan chose to leave his job with $1200 to work with Huen in Taipei. Additionally, he continued attending night school for a future success, but later dropped out. On the other hand, Huen continued to attend night school.


While Huen and Wan were working in Taipei together, their relationship began to gain strength while Huen and Wan worked together at an art studio. They were able to eat, drink and be comfortable until their situations became too complicated where they decided to return home. Following that, the story transitions of Wan’s family story about how he had a brother and friend that were sick, and that his family struggled a lot from the point from when he was born to his present. In his present, Wan was drafted into the army, so he can have a proper sense of living for a man. Later on, it was stated that Huen married another man and Wan became very angry and upset. It was unclear if the two of them ever dated in a true relationship.


The intention of “Dust in the Wind” was to share the social and economic inequality Taiwan prior to the ending of the Martial Law, which ended a year after this movie was released in 1987. The transition between two different governments of Japan and China allowed director Hou Hsiao-Hsien to demonstrating the social inequality in Taiwan under Martial Law compared to a democracy. However, the citizens in the rural parts of areas as illustrated in this movie continued to struggle as to where the city had more successful economic opportunities.

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