The Hollywood Reporter calls it “a bit of legend and magic into history,” 1 the Variety wishes it were “less kitschy and more coherent” but says “the film-making has a raw physicality and crazy conviction it’s hard not to admire,” 2 while the China-friendly media criticize that the Festival “bowed to diplomatic pressure from Taiwan.” 3
Seediq Bale is based on a historical event in Taiwan, but why does this film mean so much to the Taiwanese? And why did the Taiwan-educated director make the film this way?
The Taiwanese film Seediq Bale receives high attention, mixed reviews and even became a political battlefield at the Venice Film Festival 2011. At home in Taiwan, it is highly praised. Both President Ma and Chairwoman Tsai of the largest opposition party saw the movie on Sept. 04.
Ms. Tsai wrote an article on her blog (in Mandarin) the next day, which received 11K Facebook users’ Likes – that is 0.05% of the Taiwan population – in 5 days. Tsai wrote about a short conversation with Director Wei Te-Sheng. She wrote, “I know he cares much more about how the Taiwanese see this film than winning any award. … It is not easy for a Taiwanese to make such a film.” 4
“What is exactly so difficult?” is the question that many international viewers and critics are asking.
To reconstruct the entire wiped-out village under the Japanese colonial rule and to show the almost-lost Seediq culture according to historic pictures and records available, Director Wei hired Production Designer Yohei Taneda’s team from Japan and many other experts. The Hollywood Reporter describes it as “authentic to a fault” and further writes, “No martial arts here, but skillfully realistic fighting.” The Variety agreed, “There’s an impressive degree of variation and anthropological detail.” For the Taiwanese, nothing is more exciting than the opening of the “village” to the public next week. It is expected to be the hottest attractions this fall.
What do the Seediq people think about this film then? Tsai asked a Seediq young lady at the open movie theater. While her father was very proud of being a distant family member of the protagonist Mouna Rudo, the young lady answered, “It’s hard for me to say. My feelings are too complicated…” Many aboriginals of Taiwan believe that Taiwan is dominated by the Han culture and resent the idea of performing their arts at events organized by the Government. 5
Seediq Bale is the 2nd film finished by Wei (but the 1st one he started to work on) and also the 2nd one with aboriginal music, musicians and non-professional actors for leading roles. Few films have done that and yet more surprisingly, Wei is a Han Taiwanese.
Tsai wrote, “Since ancient times, our aboriginals have been fighting for the same thing: respect.” In her last paragraph, she wrote, “I am not a Seediq but we (the Taiwanese) all have the responsibility to let the Seediq feel forever respected.”
Journalists have asked Wei for a response to the international criticism that the film is too bloody and inhumane. Wei responded that history is bloody and inhumane – what’s important is the lesson we learned from it. In the making-of interview, he described his approach to the story, “A folk who believed in the rainbow, [and] a folk who believed in the sun met in the mountains of Taiwan. They fought against each other for religion but they forgot that what they believed lay in the same sky.” 6
1 Young, Deborach. “Warriors of the Rainbow: Seediq Bale: Venice Film Review.” The Hollywood Reporter, USA. 2011-09-01. http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/review/warriors-rainbow-seediq-bale-venice-230239
2 Chang, Justin. “Warriors of the Rainbow: Seediq Bale.” Variety, USA. 2011-09-01. http://www.variety.com/review/VE1117945935
3 Fracter, Patrick. “Venice bends in nationality row.” Film Business Asia, HK. 2011-08-31. http://www.filmbiz.asia/news/venice-bends-in-nationality-row
4 Tsai, Ing-Wen. “【小英觀點】除了震撼感動外，還需要一份責任：我看賽德克巴萊” 2011-09-05. http://www.iing.tw/news_content.aspx?id=1109050002
5 “原民怒吼：不要找我們去唱歌跳舞娛樂你們” Yam News, Taiwan. 2011-09-05. http://n.yam.com/yam/life/201109/20110905618317.html
6 “” The ARS Film. 2011-08-22. http://www.seediqbalethemovie.com/eng/video.php?page=2&u_id=19
Seediq Bale official website http://www.seediqbalethemovie.com/eng/index.php
Official Youtube Channel http://www.youtube.com/user/TheARSFilm