Lauren Rabaino

I knew it was going to be an interesting event when it began with a presenter saying, “A speech should be like a lady’s miniskirt . the shorter the better.”

The event was a film exhibit hosted by Cal Poly in which two Taiwanese films were screened: “Chocolate Rap” and “The Last Rice Farmer.” It was hosted by the history department, the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Los Angeles and the Council for Cultural Affairs, Taiwan.

“Chocolate Rap” tells the story of two breakdancers living in Taipei. The two men, Chocolate and Pachinko, begin as rivals but soon work together to form a group of competing breakdancers. Chocolate struggles to earn the respect of his father and find his own breakdancing style. Pachinko pushes Chocolate to follow the breakdancing dream, but fails to live up to it himself. A car accident causes the friends to drift apart, but of course the movie comes back full circle.

This 2006 film shows the culture of today’s Taiwanese urban youth. Although this film is full of cliché themes, including the oh-so-complicated love triangle, the bumpy road to self-discovery and disapproving father angle, “Chocolate Rap” is rather entertaining. How can you not love character names like Chocolate, King Kong and Icecube Pop? The hip-hop songs in the film are over-the-top and at times quite ridiculous, but in the end it helps keep the mood light while Chocolate and Pachinko continually have their breakdancing dreams broken.

The second film, “The Last Rice Farmer,” is a documentary that chronicles the daily lives of rice farmers in Southern Taiwan in 2005. The rice farmers are all in their 60s or 70s and are trying to avoid industrialization by sticking to tradition, the “old ways.” They live in an area without factories and rely solely on the profit made from farming. The farmers pray to the gods for good weather and a strong crop. A main segment of the film showed an older couple farming for five months with a profit of only $2,200.

The documentary also touches on the negative effects of the World Trade Organization (WTO) on the farmers. Taiwan’s ascension to the WTO in 2002 caused a huge increase of imported rice, which hurt the local farmers because they were unable to compete. In 2004, the rice farmers were asked not to cultivate their fields and were given about $1500 in compensation. The documentary went as far as to say “WTO entry is killing farmers.”

This film has a completely different feel from “Chocolate Rap.” “The Last Rice Farmer” is more educational and controversial. The documentary is carried by a hilarious feuding couple. The husband’s favorite form of entertainment is “talking trash” and pestering his wife. Without this couple, the documentary would have fallen flat. However, the lively characters bring the dire situation of Taiwanese rice farmers to life. It’s easy to make an emotional connection to the couple and feel the struggle they go through every year to survive. This documentary should be watched by anyone interested in the ripple effect caused by the WTO.

Although the event claimed to not be political in nature, there were souvenir bookmarks asking, “Is Taiwan’s Exclusion from the U.N. FAIR?” But the intention of this event is not what is important. An event is successful based on the discussion it stimulates on campus. Bringing up topics that are controversial, such as Taiwan’s nonexistence in the United Nations, tensions with China and the United States not recognizing Taiwan as an independent nation, help students form opinions about current events happening across the world.

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