I have just returned from a screening of the first of two parts of the 2011 Taiwanese film “Warriors of the Rainbow: Seediq Bale” (賽德克·巴萊), and I am still somewhat in shock. The film depicts the 1930 Wushe Incident, in which a number of Taiwanese aborigines of the Seediq Bale tribe rose up against Japanese colonizers. Over 130 Japanese were killed (including women and children), while hundreds of Seediq Bale (lit. “true men”) died in the fighting. I understand that the second half of the film, which I have yet to see, depicts (in part) the Japanese response, in which a great many aborigines were killed. It is certainly an incident about which we hear very little – it is completely overshadowed by events such as the Marco Polo Bridge Incident, the Mukden Incident, and the Nanjing Massacre, which occurred several years later, in mainland China. Yet, within the contexts of Taiwanese history, the history of Japanese Empire, indigenous & colonial studies, and the like, it is actually quite interesting and important; certainly, within a historical narrative of a series of encounters between the Japanese and the Taiwanese aborigines, stretching back as far as 1871, if not earlier, it seems an incident of some considerable importance and interest.
There is so much to this film that I scarcely know what to say. In fact, I hesitate to say anything at all, because anything I say would need to expounded upon, expanded out, explained fully, and balanced out by additional statements as well, over the course of many pages. All of the issues this film touches upon are quite complex, and if there is a side or a stance to take, I do not know where I stand. So, rather than risk misrepresenting myself, or influencing your experience or interpretation of the film, I suppose I shall just leave it at this, and allow you to draw your own conclusions, and your own thoughts and questions.
I am very thankful to Profs. Kuo-Ch’ing Tu, Kate McDonald, and Anne-Elise Llewallen, for their comments after the film, putting it somewhat into context, and helping us begin to think about some of the issues this film raises. This review by scholar Darryl Sterk likewise discusses a number of those issues, and is quite thought-provoking; I am sure there are plenty more reviews out there taking a variety of different stances and expressing a diversity of reactions.
US Version Trailer:
The film was shown earlier this year in a limited release in a handful of major East and West Coast US cities, as well as in various British, European, and Chinese cities, in an “international version,” cut down to about 2 1/2 hours. I am glad that the Center for Taiwan Studies here at UCSB is showing instead the full, uncut, Taiwanese version of the film, even if it is closer to 4 1/2 hours. The second half will be shown here at UCSB’s Multicultural Center Theatre sometime in January. I look forward to it, and to the discussions which might emerge out of it.