Asian filmmaker in process of creating documentary

Filmmaker Tiffany Hsiung is making a documentary called “Within Every Woman.”  She has spent the last three years traveling around Asia and speaking to women who were victims of sex slavery in World War II.   These women are known as “comfort women.”

October is dedicated to sexual and domestic violence awareness, so it was fitting that a speaker came to the Reed Union Building to talk about this issue.

In 1932, right before WWII had started, the only women that “worked” in these “comfort stations” were prostitutes.  But as the world sank deeper into the war, that category broadened to young girls from Asian countries because they were considered cleaner and didn’t have as much risk for STDs.

It was thought that if the soldiers were having sex they would fight better and become more focused. This dehumanization was only a form of sexual relief.

Although this is a hard topic to speak about for these women, after decades of silence they found the strength to talk about their experiences.

In most cases, the women who fell victim to this war crime had never spoken out about their experiences for fear that, even 70 years later, it would ruin their family’s reputation.  Many women wouldn’t even tell their own children or husbands for fear they might see them differently.

Because this topic is so personal, Hsiung worked with a small crew and always connected with the women on a certain level before asking them any questions about their experiences to avoid being invasive.

Hsiung described these women’s stories as “quite unbelievable” and felt that they were very powerful because sexual violence is still a problem today.

She feels her documentary is “not a historical document” because these issues are as real today as they were during WWII.

The documentary is a “journey of women fighting against shame, their family, their government, and themselves.”

After Hsiung had interviewed these victims, she shared their stories with young women from today’s generation and recorded their reactions to show the stories’ impact.  The reaction was as expected; it “blew them away,” Hsiung said.

They were inspired and “admired their strength, bravery, and courage,” while feeling “sympathetic and empathetic,” Hsiung said.

But most important, the girls felt that these comfort women should “have no shame.” Their stories were life-changing and very relatable to many struggles that women face today.

Hsiung said she never planned on making a documentary but after spending two weeks in Shanghai in 2009 and meeting these women, she made a short teaser in Canada.  Her audience and viewers encouraged her to turn it into a film.

She confessed to feeling guilty that she’s put off finishing the film, but feels it is necessary to perfect the film for these women that became her “grandmothers.”

She is still very close with them today.  Hsiung hopes to have her film completed this time next year after making “people feel what I felt.”



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