TAIPEI--An epic, heroic movie that portrays the uprising of lightly armed Taiwan aborigines against the evil Imperial Japanese colonial rule is proving a hit here with sympathetic audiences.
The movie is based on the Wushe Incident that occurred in 1930 in the mountainous part of central Taiwan. Members of the Seediq tribe attacked a school athletic meet and police facilities in Wushe and killed a total of 134 Japanese. The reasons for the attacks were said to be abuses by the Japanese police and development of forested areas that threatened the lifestyles of the Seediq tribe.
The governor-general of Taiwan dispatched the Japanese military and police, which took a month to quell the uprising. Most of the 1,200 tribe members who took part in the uprising were killed.
The popularity of the movie is due in part to the absence until now of major movies that focus on aboriginal tribes in Taiwan.
The screening of the first half of "Seediq Bale" began in theaters around Taiwan from Sept. 9. The production budget of 700 million Taiwan dollars (1.85 billion yen or $23.8 million) makes it the largest in Taiwan movie history.
The second half of the epic is scheduled to begin screening from Sept. 30. The two parts combine for a total length of four and a half hours.
The first half shows how the aboriginal tribe tried to resist efforts by Japanese colonial rulers to change their lifestyles and fight bravely against the Japanese military while scampering around the mountains.
While many Japanese police officers and military personnel are killed in the movie and there is a scene showing the Japanese military using gas bombs, the director, Wei Te-sheng, rejected attempts to classify his work according to certain historical views or political motives and describe it as "anti-Japanese."
According to the historian Wu Mi-cha, the Kuomintang government under Chiang Kai-shek equated the Wushe Incident as being similar to the resistance movement against Japanese colonizers on mainland China.
That was a convenient interpretation for the Kuomintang government, which was forced to flee from the continent to Taiwan in 1949.
However, after the democracy movement of the 1980s, a more varied understanding of the incident arose.
For one thing, it was uncovered that some Seediq tribe members refused to take part in the uprising, with some even siding with the Japanese. Such historical facts have also been incorporated into the movie.
Taiwan aborigines now account for only 2.2 percent of the entire population on Taiwan, with about 7,300 members of the Seediq tribe living in the mountainous part of central Taiwan.
However, there is a mood in all of Taiwan to support the movie.
The premiere screening at the Presidential Office plaza on Sept. 4 was attended by both President Ma Ying-jeou and Tsai Ing-wen, the head of the opposition Democratic Progressive Party.
Wu said, "While the Japanese will be interested in whether it is anti-Japanese or pro-Japanese, the movie should be seen as an attempt by the Taiwan people themselves to reflect on their society using history as a basis."
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