Made in Taiwan. We’ve all turned over a product that we’ve purchased here in the United States and seen those three little words, but the history of that small island is something that we know little about. Warriors of the Rainbow: Seediq Bale is an epic film from Taiwan that presents a historic episode from their history which is little-known to the world, and even in Taiwan itself.
The film, directed by Te-Sheng Wei sets out to document the events that occur between 1895 and 1945 in Taiwan. Taiwan at the time was an island that was inhabited by Han Chinese Immigrants as well as the remaining aboriginal tribes who settled the mountain lands.
As the film starts out, we see the tribal clans at war with each other hunting for heads. Headhunting was a practice by which young men would remove the heads of their enemies and doing so would bring great honor to them and allow them to be with their ancestors spirits in the afterlife when they died. A young Mouna Rudo (Da-Ching) is a powerful, spirited warrior but as the Japanese take control of the island all of this is about to change. They end the practice of headhunting, build schools, stores, and other amenities.
As we move forward in time approximately 20 years, Mouna Rudo (Lin Ching-Tai) is now Chief of his tribe. After years of ridicule from the Japanese he decides to forge a coalition with the other Seediq tribal leaders and plot a rebellion against the Japanese and a blood sacrifice. This uprising takes the Japanese by surprise as they see the aboriginal people as savages and barbarians and nothing more. They do not believe they have the intelligence to put together a plan to attack.
The film has been shortened from its original release length of over 4 ½ hours to approximately 2 ½ hours. There are certainly parts of this film that are slow and the pace needed improvement. Whether this is because of the edits or not I’m not sure, but the running time of 150 minutes still seems a bit too long. The scenes that do work, work well and the director has a good sense of telling the story and keeping the viewer interested.
The standout performance in this film is that of Lin Ching-Tai. Ching-Tai, a Pastor in his homeland is new to acting and seems to have a natural inclination to giving a strong performance. He delivers his lines very well and the films heart and emotion revolve around his character. In fact, one of the best lines of the film comes from his character and basically says that while the Japanese gave them schools, stores, and other things, all it does is show the Seediq’s how impoverished they truly are. This is a very effective line in the film.
The special effects in the film are pretty poor. The scenes with the digital animals look like they were done on a home computer. Smoke scenes are poorly done. While this film was epic in scale and likely budget, it would appear as though the budget went for the locations and not the effects. It doesn’t take away much from the story, but can be a bit distracting.
This is an interesting piece of history that is little-known and truly fascinating. While it isn’t perfectly done the story is compelling enough to maintain your interest throughout the 2 ½ hours.
FINAL GRADE: C +
Reel Film News Movie Review by Bill Ayres