A new television drama that explores the plight of migrant fishers in Taiwan will be aired weekly starting Sunday, according to Formosa Television.
"The Rootless," follows the life of 25-year-old Lê Văn Thành (黎文誠) who leaves his wife and children behind in Vietnam and arrives in Taiwan to work as a migrant fisher on March 10, 2001.
While working onboard a Taiwanese coastal fishing boat, he faced constant discrimination and abuse from the boat's Taiwanese captain and engineer. One day while being physically attacked by his captain, Lê retaliates and escapes to start a new life as an undocumented migrant worker.
He also started a second family with his Taiwanese partner. The drama unfolds as his son with his Taiwanese partner is born without official paperwork and struggles to find a rightful place in society when he reaches 18 years old. According to the Ministry of the Interior's statistics, there are over 7,000 children born in Taiwan without proper paperwork or identification.
At a premiere of the three-series drama on Tuesday, Huang Chih-hsiang (黃志翔), the drama's producer, said his production team had long been concerned about the welfare and struggles of migrant workers, and after a year of preparation out in the field, the team began filming in March and finished in three weeks.
"We wanted to shoot about the topic of migrant workers and also undocumented migrant workers, the so-called vulnerable groups. So we thought heavily about whether our work will create any exploitation of them, just like the moral challenges faced by documentary makers during the shooting process," Huang said.
The production team later decided to make the topic of migrant workers the central focus of the storyline and allow viewers to experience the plot through the migrant workers instead of through the eyes of a Taiwanese person, Huang pointed out.
"When Lê first appears in the airport after he arrives in Taiwan, the camera focuses on his emotions and his connection with his surroundings, which allows viewers to see things from his perspective," Huang said.
Representatives from migrant worker rights group Taiwan International Workers' Association (TIWA) also praised the drama for its real presentation of the plight of the foreign blue-collar workers.
The drama is the closest work in the last 20 years that most accurately reflects the issues that migrant workers face, TIWA said. Migrant workers in Taiwan have been under the media spotlight in recent years as news reports have surfaced about the harsh conditions they face, such as the Nangfang'ao bridge collapse in October last year, which took the lives of six Indonesian and Filipino fishers because they were trapped in their boats.
There are currently 707,308 migrant workers in Taiwan as of the end of May, according to Ministry of Labor statistics. There are also 50,343 undocumented migrant workers in the country at the end of the same month, according to National Immigration Agency statistics.
"The Rootless" will be aired by Formosa Television weekly on Sundays at 10 p.m. for all three of its series. The first episode starts this Sunday.