A FILM that depicts Taiwan’s half-century of Japanese colonial rule from the point of view of a fierce tribe of indigenous headhunters is generating a surge of national pride on the island. “Warriors of the Rainbow: Seediq Bale” was surrounded by buzz at this year’s Venice Film Festival. But that was nothing compared with its reception in Taiwan since opening on September 9th.
Made by an acclaimed Taiwanese director, Wei Te-sheng, with John Woo, a Hollywood force, as producer, the film has already broken records. At a cost of $25m, it is the most expensive Taiwanese film ever made. The opening-day takings of NT$23m ($790,000), for the first of what will be two instalments, were the highest ever for a Taiwanese film. More box-office records are bound to follow.
Quite probably “Warriors of the Rainbow” also has the highest number of graphic beheadings of any film anywhere. But they are faithful historical depictions. In 1930 hundreds of Taiwan’s Seediq people living in the central uplands, oppressed and exploited by the Japanese and believing their culture was being destroyed, revolted against their overlords with scant hope of success. They first attacked a school athletics gathering, slaughtering over 100 Japanese, and then raided police outposts. The uprising, known as the Wushe incident, triggered a brutal Japanese response, including poison gas dropped from aircraft. The rebellion’s leader, Mouna Rudao, is still seen as a folk hero by many Taiwanese.
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