2012 seems to be the year of independant movies for Terracotta along with the debut directors and tales inspired and based on true events. Seediq Bale is no exception to this trend and, Twelve years in the making, it made a gripping two and a half hour viewing.
Set in the early 20th centrury it tells the true story of the aboriginal tribe uprising against the Japanese occupation, focusing on the Seediq tribe led by Mouna Rudo. The Guerilla style of warfare set against the beautiful scenery in Taiwan, the traditions of the tribe and the inter tribe antipathy all contribute to the massacres and the inevitable retaliation.
After an introduction from the Taiwanese Ambassador and Da Ching, the movie began, a first hunt in pogress and the blood sacrfice the men must give to the ancestors to earn the distinctive tattoos on their faces. Claiming heads with a swift stroke of a machete, we begin to see the way of life fo the people before the Island of Taiwan was handed over to the Japanese. There is hostility between tribes of course, one that never really truely fades even after their submission to the Japanese.
It was said the film was originally four hours long but had been edited to two and a half and I think that was a wise decision as it kept the pace and action tightly controlled and ever increasing tension. Passionate and utterly determined to preserve their dignity and culture in the face f the greatest odds, one can’t help but admire the courage and conviction. It is hard to understand sometimes as a race that has not been oppressed in this way, why anyone would risk losing their whole culture and not just try to preserve it or assimilate to simply survive. This erroneous thought is shown in action, as several of the tribesman work for the Japanese, have adopted Japanese names and are divided in their self identity. Regarded as savages no matter what they wear or how smart they are but attempting to fit in as a way of surviving even though they have no memory of tribal life. In the end all it takes is one small dispute to spark the battle and escalate the massacre. One personal vendetta to inspire slaughter on a grand scale.
The acting was superb in the film, especially that of Lin Ching-Tai who played the senior Mouna Rudo, Da Ching who played his younger self and the boy who played Pawan, a younger boy who truly posessed the warrior spirit. The music fitted the scenes well with their lyrics and melody – traditional words featuring the voices of Landy Wen and Vivian Hsu and tribal chants as a backdrop for some battles. The physical preparation the actors had to go through for the film really paid off, a flawless representation of the physical prowess of the tribes people to travel long distances and fight.
After a brief Q&A during which Da ching answered a few questions on the film (answers already covered in the masterclass [link to follow] earlier in the day) he stood up and gave a very sincere thank you to the audience for attending as can be seen in the video clip below.
For anyone wanting to see this film it should be on general release in June/July of this year and its well worth spending the time on it.