Pic takes stab at Taiwan ex-pres

"Ballistic" recounts 2004 shooting of Chen Shui-Bian

TAIPEI -- A film about the election-eve gun attack on Taiwan's recently indicted ex-president Chen Shui-bian will debut on the island this week, where it is expected to reignite debate about the controversial 2004 shooting.

The Hong Kong action movie "Ballistic" uses a fictional plot to revisit the March 19 attack, when incumbent Chen and his running mate Annette Lu were shot and slightly injured during a campaign rally in southern Taiwan. They won the race a day later.

Although a dead man was named the only suspect, closing the shooting case in 2005, many in Taiwan believe that Chen's campaign set up the shooting to draw sympathy votes for the razor-tight election.

"The director thought this incident was really one of a kind, with a very dramatic element," said film producer Lin Shun-kuo. "But it's only an approximation of the incident, not totally consistent with what happened."

Chen, also controversial for his anti-China rhetoric while president from 2000 to 2008, was indicted last month for graft, money laundering and misuse of public funds. A court this week denied his request to leave jail ahead of a January 19 hearing.

The film, which hits Taiwan cinemas on Friday, is likely to rekindle public discussion about the shooting, tarnishing the image of Taiwan's main opposition Democratic Progressive Party, which backed Chen in office, ahead of tough local elections at the end of the year. Chen left the party in August.

"The movie's plot doesn't necessarily reflect the actual situation," said party spokesman Cheng Wen-tsang. "It's entertainment, not politics, and people are clear on that."

Chen and the party seek Taiwan's formal independence from China, which has claimed sovereignty over the self-ruled island since 1949. That year, Mao Zedong's Communists won the Chinese civil war and Chiang Kai-shek's Nationalists fled to Taiwan.

Beijing has vowed to bring Taiwan under its rule, by force if necessary.

The 95-minute film, directed by Lawrence Lau and filmed largely in Hong Kong, premieres on Thursday before opening for audiences around Taiwan a day later. It has shown for about two months in Hong Kong.