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The heavy metal MP

INTERVIEW: In "Metal Politics Taiwan" Marco Wilms charts a year in the life of metal musician turned politician Freddy Lim as he campaigns for an independent Taiwan. Catch an exclusive preview screening at Hackesche Höfe on Jul 21 at 20:00.

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In Metal Politics Taiwan Berlin director Marco Wilms charts a year in the life of metal musician turned politician Freddy Lim as he campaigns for an independent Taiwan.

Politics and music collide in Metal Politics Taiwan, which charts the transition of the country’s most popular death metal star into a member of the Taiwanese government. Having found success as the lead singer of Chthonic, Metal Politics Taiwan sees superstar Freddy Lim trying to leverage his heavy metal fame into creating a new national identity for his country.

Berlin-based director Marco Wilms followed Lim in his first year of office as a founding member of the New Power Party, the centre-left party vying for formal independence of Taiwan from China and official recognition by the UN. The result is both an intriguing character study and a useful primer on Taiwanese history and its complicated present status. Catch an exclusive preview screening on July 21, 8pm at Hackesche Höfe with both Wilms and Lim on-hand for a Q&A afterwards.

How did the film even come about?

I read some articles about him in Spiegel and Stern. Then I was in Taiwan with my other film [2014’s] Art War. So, I went to the parliament to see him, approached him on his break and asked if I could do a documentary on him. He was a little surprised but he agreed. Then actually he let me follow him around the same day. After that it was quite difficult. I tried to set up some shootings but I didn’t get any response, because he was always so busy. But he’s a Facebook friend with my friend, and after he saw a post of me and her in a bar on Facebook, he messaged her and said, “Marco can come to my office tomorrow morning, we can do some filming.”

What interested you about Lim?

I was thinking that it must be pretty boring for a heavy metal musician to have all these speeches and talks every day and always have to negotiate with people. Because if you are a heavy metal rock star, you’re just a rock star, you don’t care. You’re breaking the rules of society. As a politician you’re quite [the] opposite. How he deals with it as an artist – that’s what interested me.

Where does a heavy metal musician get his politics?

He was chair of Amnesty International before [becoming a politician]. And he was always a political activist. He hosted Free Tibet concerts with the Beastie Boys. He always was the guy who wanted to change something.  

At times, it seemed hard to get straight answers out of Lim…

Yes. This is my first film I did about a successful politician. Normally I’m doing movies about political outsiders. If you are an outsider you really want to push your message through. When the press or media come at you, you really want to express yourself. But if you are already in power, its a completely different attitude. You want control and you want things to go your way, and that was really a big obstacle. I told him often that I didn’t want these typical official politician interviews. And they are actually quite rare in the film. I think two thirds are off-the-record or backstage scenes. But I don’t like questions and answer sessions so much. In my opinion, its too official. He thinks too much to give very proper answers and that’s not we are looking for as a documentary filmmaker. We are looking for a very personal point of view. We are not news.

How was the reaction to the film in his native Taiwan?

I was not expecting people to be so afraid. I was talking to the TV station in Taiwan, for one year, and they wouldn’t take the film. I couldn’t get a distributor there. We had a work-in-progress screening in Taipei. All the big newspapers were writing about us, we got sold out cinemas, we got an audience award. We could feel that this is a very good film for a distributor, especially in Taiwan. But nobody was brave enough to pick up the film. Its really really weird.

Metal Politics Taiwan preview at Hackeshe Höfe on Jul 21, 20:00. Check out the Facebook event for more details.