In Netflix’s murder mystery movie ‘The Abandoned,’ Fan Chang-fu is a serial killer who targets illegal migrant workers who end up in Taiwan from countries like Thailand and Indonesia. Chang-fu targets such workers because a migrant woman betrayed his trust in her in the past. Immensely hurt by her actions, he seeks vengeance by killing women like her, only for several innocent migrant workers to die. As the film progresses, Deputy Captain Wu Chieh unravels the identity of the murderer with the help of Lin Yu-sheng, a broker who deals with illegal migrants. Although Tseng Ying-ting’s film is highly realistic, Chang-fu is not based on a real serial killer!
The Creation of Fan Chang-fu
Tseng Ying-ting conceived the fictional serial killer after imagining a naked female corpse while serving in the military. “I was going through my mandatory service term and I was just daydreaming, trying to kill time. I was sitting there and an image of a naked female corpse in a moonlit river came into my head,” Ying-ting told Dylan Foley for the New York Asian Film Festival. “That image alone from 10 years ago was the impetus for developing the entire thing, but it wasn’t until five years ago that I realized, ‘What if I connect this grisly image with this other story about a female detective who was contemplating killing herself, but through this is suddenly given a reason to live?'” he added.
After making this connection, Ying-ting started to write the movie. While growing up in the Fengyuan district of Taichung, Taiwan, Ying-ting used to see a lot of migrant workers. He started to interact with them while attending a college in the city of Taoyuan in Taiwan, which became the foundation of the film. The director didn’t want his film’s narrative to be limited to a certain person but several illegal migrant workers so that he could address the whole community over an individual. To connect these members of the community, Ying-ting wanted a common factor, which paved the way for the creation of the fictional serial killer.
Through Fan Chang-fu’s victims, Ying-ting portrays the challenges the migrant workers face in Taiwan. The serial killer’s belief that nobody would care about the women he kills shows how such workers are treated not only in Taiwan but all across the world.
Although Fan Chang-fu is a fictional murderer, several serial killers targeted migrant workers in reality. Juan V. Corona was a Mexican serial killer who was convicted of slaughtering twenty-five migrant workers and burying them on farms located around his house in the Sacramento Valley, California. His victims were farmhands who worked in the orchards, groves, and vineyards located in the valley. Since they were “fruit tramps,” who moved from one farm to another looking for employment, their disappearances were not noticed by the locals, which made it possible for Corona to continue with his murders.
The victims of Cyprus-based Nikos Metaxas were migrant workers from Asian countries and Romania who mostly worked as housekeepers. In 2019, he pleaded guilty to the abduction and killing of seven individuals in the country. Between September 2016 and August 2018, he killed three women from the Philippines, one from Nepal, and another one from Romania. He also killed two children aged six and eight. Like in ‘The Abandoned,’ Metaxas’ murders revealed the exploitation of migrant workers in Europe.
“We come here and sacrifice our lives. We have families to give food, children to send our salary to. We do this to support our children. But they are treating us like slaves,” Santie, who arrived in Cyprus from the Philippines in 2011, said after the murders were brought to light, as per BBC.