The legend of the "Wùshè Incident" (霧社事件) and the spirit of Seediq (賽德克族) comes alive in Director Wei Te-Sheng (魏德聖)'s epic two-part feature film, Seediq Bale (賽德克‧巴萊).

Officially selected as one of the films in competition at the 68th Venice International Film Festival, Seediq Bale (賽德克‧巴萊), also known as Seediq Bale: The Rainbow Warriors, is an epic retelling of the "Wùshè Incident" (霧社事件) in Taiwan, circa 1930.

Apart from being the single largest and final rebellion against the Japanese colonial forces in Taiwan, the uprising by the Seediq tribespeople led by Seediq Chief and legendary hero Mona Rudao is significant for its tremendous death tolls on both sides of the battle, and more importantly, the eventual massacre followed by the mass suicides of the tribe. It was recorded that a total 827 Seediq were slain or committed suicide while 162 members of Japanese Imperial Army was killed in action.

The subject of "Wùshè Incident" has long been a point of contention for both the Japanese and the surviving Seediq. Both side have accused each other of instigating the violence which included the brutal massacre of both children and women. However, with the Japanese Imperial Army having the advantage of utilizing poison gas canisters via air strikes, and the support of rival tribes in suppressing the unrest, it is evident that the Seediq was severely outnumbered and outmatched with their primitive weapons. And with the added emotional turmoil by many Seediq people who have already been converted into Japanese before the incident, the Seediq were fighting a battle with no chance of winning.

The truth behind "Wùshè Incident" have since been clouded by mysteries, and with those involved mostly killed, the lack of communication due to language barriers by the Seediq, and the propaganda methods of the Japanese Imperial Army, we will never learnt the complex truth behind the incident. That said, the story of the three hundred (yes, three hundred) brave Seediq warriors charging into the three thousand soldiers from the Japanese Imperial Army to behead them in the forest, and the tragic tales of mass hanging of the Atayal tribespeople in the trees, make the timeless story an intriguing one to tell.

The second full-feature film by director Wei Te-Sheng (魏德聖), Seediq Bale was a personal dream project for Wei and it has often times proved to be an overtly-ambitious yet severely underfunded project. While Wei were able to raised NT$ 2 million to shoot a 5-minute demonstration film in an effort to garner financial support, the project were unable to proceed until the unexpectedly popularity of Wei's debut full-feature film, Cape No. 7, in 2008. The film's success reignited the director's ambitious vision for Seediq Bale, and with renowned director John Woo joining as producer, the film began production in 2009 with a US$10 million budget. And if you are of the opinion that there's quite a hefty sum to spare, do note that the film had a crew of 20,000 people.

A bold venture by the investors by any means, Seediq Bale will be primarily in the native Seediq language, and secondarily in Japanese and Taiwanese. Literally meaning "A Real Man" or "A Real Human", the phrase "Seediq Bale" is now more commonly known by local Taiwanese thanks to the insurgence in popular culture covering the subject. From the immortalization of Mona Rudao (莫那魯道) as one of the figures in NT coins, 漫畫·巴萊, the local Taiwanese Manhua that inspired Wei, the Taiwanese black metal band ChthoniC (閃靈)'s fourth studio album of the same name, to artist Linzlang's "Bloody Gaya Fulfilled (大出草)", a painted rendition of the massacre (which is in itself a part of a set of mural paintings first displayed during 2009's Unbound: Voices of the Unknown exhibition), interest in the subject is arguably on a all-time high.

And for crying out loud, we seriously need a decent "Movie of the Year" contender this late in 2011.

Come September, Seediq Bale (賽德克‧巴萊) will finally hit the big screen in two 90-minute films. The first part, entitled 太陽旗 ("Flag of the Sun", a reference to the national flag of Japan), will be released on September 9th, while the concluding chapter, 彩虹橋 ("Rainbow Bridge", a reference to the mythic bridge for the dead to return to their ancestral lands, much like Bifröst in the Norse mythology) will be released on September 30th. While I sincerely hope that I can watch both films in one screening, I would count myself fortunate if they can eventually find their way here. For the audience in the West, apart from screening in competition at the 68th Venice International Film Festival, the film will also be shown at the 2011 Toronto International Film Festival in September.

Without further ado, here are the two official trailer for the film.

Trailer 1


Trailer 2


Here's the official synopsis of the film in English, courtesy of the 68th Venice International Film Festival:

Wei Te-Sheng’s epic film Saideke Balai recounts an extraordinary episode from 20th-century history which is little-known even in Taiwan. Between 1895 and 1945, the island was a Japanese colony inhabited not only by the majority (Han Chinese immigrants) but also by the remnants of the aboriginal tribes who first settled in the mountainous land. In 1930 Mouna Rudo, the leader of one of the Seediq tribes settled on and around Mount Chilai, forged a coalition with other Seediq tribal leaders and plotted a rebellion against their Japanese colonial masters. It was to begin at a sports day meeting where the assembled tribesmen were to attack and kill the Japanese officials. The initial uprising took the Japanese by surprise and was almost entirely successful. But the Japanese soon sent in their army to crush the rebellion, using aircraft and poison gas. Mouna Rudo knew from the start that the relatively small force of Seediq tribesmen stood no chance of defeating the might of Japan. But he and his allies were sustained by the beliefs and myths which had nourished their tribes since time immemorial. Young males in the tribes had to undergo a rite de passage to become adult men, which gave them the right to have their faces tattooed. In tribal language, they became Saideke Balai – heroes of the tribe.

And the much, much more detailed synopsis in Chinese:

賽德克,是一個位於台灣山區、信仰彩虹的民族部落,他們居住在山嵐繚繞的世外桃源,過著與大地共存、生態平衡的生活。族裡的馬赫坡社出了一位意氣風發、同樣信仰彩虹的英雄,他是馬赫坡社頭目之子莫那魯道,年少的他在首度「出草」即以迅雷不及掩耳地將兩顆異族的人頭帶回部落裡,從此之後,賽德克部落間無人不知莫那魯道這個名字,而也因莫那的年輕氣盛,種下了他和道澤群族的鐵木瓦力斯(馬志翔 飾)多年深埋的仇恨與對立。好景不常,賽德克族自由自在的生活,就在甲午戰敗、信仰太陽的日軍正式進駐台灣後而徹底改變。 日治時代的來臨,改變了賽德克族原本的生活, 多數族裡的男人從此搬木頭服勞役,而女人淪為日本家眷幫傭;此外,在日本化政策下,部分族人像花崗一郎、花崗二郎開始學習日本文化,並取了日本名,成為日本警察,更在日本當局的安排下,迎娶同為日化的族裡女子川野花子(羅美玲 飾)、高山初子(徐若瑄飾)。

見證這三十年來的壓迫殖民的莫那魯道,看著多數的族人被迫放棄自己的文化與信仰,過著苦不堪言的日子,而部分族人更搖擺在日本與賽德克族的身分之中,失去了自我。眼看祖先辛苦建立起的家園和獵場,在日方統治下逐漸消失,感到痛心的莫那魯道,內心一直有個聲音提醒著自己,唯有在自己的獵場,通過重重的試煉,在臉上紋上驕傲的印記,成為一位真正的賽德克人,在死後才能走上讓祖靈認同的彩虹橋。

一九三○年,馬赫坡社新來的菜鳥日警吉村,因文化和語言的誤會,在一場族內的婚禮上與族人們起了強烈肢體衝突,自此,馬赫坡社便活在恐遭日警報復的陰霾裡,而其他日方與族裡的衝突事件也日益漸增。事發後,長期遭到壓迫的賽德克年輕人,群聚要求戰鬥總頭目莫那魯道帶領他們反擊日本人,忍辱負重的莫那魯道,他清楚知道這場戰役一定會輸,更將賭上滅族的危機,但他明白唯有挺身為民族的尊嚴反擊,他們才能成為「真正的人」,於是他悄悄率領自己的兒子和族內年輕人,循著祖先之訓示,準備血祭祖靈奪回屬於他們的獵場,而這一切全看在莫那魯道的女兒馬紅眼裡(溫嵐 飾)。

短短一天的時間,在族裡青年奔走各部落的聯繫下,隔日凌晨,各個部落紛紛起義,無預警地殲滅了監視各部落的駐在所,並集合前往正在霧社公學校舉辦一年一度的運動會會場上,當日本國旗伴著國歌緩緩上升之時,三百個頭綁白布的起義的族人,從會場的四面八方蜂湧而起,發起為民族尊嚴而戰的公學校大戰…。

突如其來遭到猛烈攻擊的日軍反應不及,兵敗如山倒的情勢讓日本政府震怒,立刻派出陸軍少將鎌田彌彥帶領幾千名的軍警聯合前往霧社討伐;而一向對賽德克族友好、遠在高山駐在所的小島源治巡查,獲知自己妻兒不幸在公學校遭到屠殺的噩耗時,憤怒掩蓋了理智,他以懸賞的方式,半強迫地逼莫那魯道的世仇鐵木瓦力斯出兵,協助日軍進行完全不擅長的山區游擊戰。太陽帝國的憤怒反攻,挾著賽德克族莫那魯道與鐵木瓦力斯之間的新仇舊恨,一場驚心動魄、以信仰之名的戰役,即將在櫻花盛開的漫紅山林裡一觸即發…。

The posters from the film.






These are the character posters that have been released thus far.










Promotional art for the film.


Set stills from the film.






















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