Warriors of the Rainbow: Seediq Bale (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)
July 29, 2012 by Dennis Amith
Wei Te-Sheng’s epic film about the Japanese occupation of Taiwan and its military trying to forcibly civilize the aboriginal people. Based on a true story, “Warriors of the Rainbow: Seediq Bale” is violent, fascinating yet heartbreaking and definitely recommended on Blu-ray!
TITLE: Warriors of the Rainbow: Seediq Bale
FILM RELEASE: 2011
DURATION: 150 Minutes
BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Defiition (16:9 widescreen), Stereo/5.1 HD Surround Sound
COMPANY: Well Go USA Entertainment
RATED: Not Rated
Release Date: August 7, 2012
Written and Directed by Te-Sheng Wei
Produced by Terence Chang, Chih-ming Huang, John Woo
Cinematography by Ting-chang Chin
Edited by Te-Sheng Wei
Art Direction by Yohei Taneda
Set Decoration by Yoshihito Akatsuka
Masanobu Ando as Genji Kojima
Umin Boya as Temu Walis
Chi-Wei Cheng as Jin – Dun Wu
Lin Ching-Tai as Mona Rudao
Da-Ching as Mona Rudao (young)
Jun’ichi Haruta as Egawa Hiromichi
Michio Hayashida as Hua-Lien Police Chief
Akira Hibino as The General OShima
Vivian Hsu as Obing Tadao
Yi-Fan Hsu as Ichiro Hanaoka aka Dakis Nomin
Produced by John Woo, In the mountains of Taiwan, two races clashed in defense of their faiths. One believed in rainbows, the other believed in the sun. Neither side realized they both believed in the same sky. Wei Te-Sheng’s epic film WARRIORS OF THE RAINBOW: SEEDIQ BALE retells an extraordinary episode from 20th-century history which is little-known, even in Taiwan. Between 1895 and 1945, a Japanese colony inhabited the island and subdued the aboriginal tribes who first settled the land. Seediq leader Mouna Rudo (Lin Ching-Tai) forged a coalition with other tribal leaders and plotted a rebellion against their Japanese colonial masters. The initial uprising took the Japanese by surprise, but they soon sent in their army to crush the rebellion, using aircraft and poison gas. The most expensive Taiwanese film ever made, WARRIORS OF THE RAINBOW: SEEDIQ BALE is written and directed by Wei Te-Sheng, whose romantic comedy CAPE NO. 7 received numerous awards and accolades.
Back in 1996, filmmaker Wei Te-Sheng was inspired after he watched a news story of an aboriginal group from Hualien protesting in Taipei and wanting to see their land returned back to them.
After visiting a bookstore and doing his own research on the subject, he became interested in what is known as the “Wushe Incident” of 1930 in which the Seediq, a Taiwanese aboriginal group felt the colonial Japanese were invasive to their land.
As far back in 1897, the Japanese were building roads in Taiwan and this led to many uprisings by the aboriginal tribes. In 1901, the Seediq killed over 670 Japanese soldiers and thus, the Japanese isolated the village of Wushe.
In 1914, the Japanese set out to eradicate the aboriginal groups in areas that were schedule for logging. And the bad treatment towards the customs and beliefs of the Seediq aborigine would lead to the tragic 1930 incident.
In October 1930, hundreds of Japanese attended an athletics meet at the Taiwan-Chinese Musyaji Elementary School and before dawn, Chief Mona Rudao led over 300 Seediq warriors to attack the Japanese people. A total of 134 Japanese including women and children were killed.
This would lead to two thousand troops from Japan to be sent to Wushe to use military action against the Seediq.
As many people are not familiar with Taiwan’s aboriginal groups, the research by Wei Te-Sheng would lead to the creation of a movie. In 2003, a short was created in the hopes of raising money for the film and would lead to a grassroot effort for donations towards the making of the film.
Eventually Wei Te-Sheng would make films such as “Cape No. 7” to earn money for the film and by 2009, production had begun and post-production would end in 2011.
The film would be 4 1/2 hours long, over 400 technicians from Japan, Taiwan and Hong Kong were brought in for the film and 1,500 non-professionals were hired to be actors.
For the film to be screened internationally, a shortened version combining the two parts of the film were reduced to two and a half hours and was screened at various film festivals and would open in theaters in America in Spring 2012.
It is important to note that Wei Te-Sheng’s “Warriors of the Rainbow: Seediq Bale” is loosely based when it comes to the real Mona Rudao, nor were many of the characters seen in the film were modeled after real people.
For the Blu-ray and DVD release of “Warriors of the Rainbow: Seediq Bale”, both the longer and shorter versions will be released separately in the U.S.
“Warriors of the Rainbow: Seediq Bale” begins with a group hunting after a boar during the late 1890’s. But not long after, a young Mona Rudao (as portrayed by Da-Ching) and his aboriginal tribe, Seediq Bale, attack and Mona Rudao is able to cut off the head of his enemy (as part of cultural tradition in order for one to become a man).
The young Mona Rudao then gets a tattoo on his face to show that he has become a man. It’s also a sign of respect from his father, the chief of his tribe of his son, to finally rise as a person amongst the tribe.
But during that time, Taiwan has been ceded to the Japanese and for the Japanese, their goal is to take control of the island but to civilize the aboriginal people. So, in 1901, the Japanese sends out their soldiers to do just that.
We then see Mona Rudao and a few members of his tribe visiting a local Taiwan rice dealer in hopes of bringing food back to the village and we see another Seediq tribe coming to do the same. We learn that there are hostilities amongst the tribes and when both tribes begin talking back to each other, this leads to Mona Rudao and his people in trying to catch the other tribe in an ambush. But the ambush is put on hold as the Japanese soldiers begin to enter Seediq territory.
A war ensues and the Seediq are able to get the best of the Japanese soldiers by surprise and through savagery.
This leads to the Japanese to become more hostile and to attack the tribe in the same direction but also to come in the opposite direction into the Seediq village and take control of the land.
Mona Rudao’s father is killed during the Japanese attack and Mona Rudao and his men are captured.
Fast forward 25-years-later and the Seediq Village has now been changed to the town of Wushe. The Japanese military has a stronghold in the area and have brought in Japanese to not only police the Seediq tribe but to educate and civilize them. Now the Seediq attend schools, they learn to speak Japanese, there is a store and post office and while some of the Seediq have been integrated into the culture, they are still looked as inferior to the Japanese and those who have assimilated and work with the Japanese, are not in good relations with the Seediq as well.
While the elder Mona Rudao (as portrayed by Lin Ching-Tai) is the village chief, and even brought to Japan to become civilize and learn the Japanese culture, he is still a man dedicated to his old traditional ways, but knowing that now is not the time to fight back against the Japanese soldiers or military in order to ensure the safety of his people in Wushe.
But relations become strained when the Japanese police begin to abuse their authority on the Seediq. When one Seediq man nearly dies by holding lumber to bring back to Wushe, he is beaten and chastised by a Japanese police officer.
And many in the village begin to feel that they are losing their Seediq tradition by being forced to civilize and also some welcoming the change and also marrying Japanese women.
One day, as the Seediq were honoring a wedding banquet by the killing of an animal, a Japanese police officer was offered to drink a cup to honor the couple getting married. But instead, the Japanese police officer refused and used his stick to beat on the Seediq, which led to more hostile tensions between the Japanese and the Seediq in Wushe.
For Mona Rudao, he has been waiting for the moment to take back the Seediq land and when his son and many of the men come up with an idea to attack the Japanese during an athletics meet (which brings together hundreds of Japanese to one area), Mona Rudao and Seediq were able to get the commitment of 300 Seediq Warriors, while others chose to fight with the Japanese.
Mona Rudao and his followers felt this was the only way to fight for their traditional beliefs and customs and that was to eliminate as many Japanese as possible and also take control of all weapons and ammunition from police sub-stations, in order to fight back against the Japanese.
So, in 1930, during the athletics meet, the Seediq ambushed the Japanese and killed as many men, women and children. One Japanese man managed to escape and get the news out to the Japanese military and in response to the mass killings by the Seediq, the Japanese send out soldiers to fight.
But the Seediq, who know the territory well and where to hide, were able to slaughter the Japanese soldiers. Meanwhile, in response to the Seediq led by Monda Rudao gaining the upperhand, the Japanese military decides to drop gas bombs onto the area.
How will this battle end for Mona Rudao and the Seediq people?
“Warriors of the Rainbow: Seediq Bale” is presented in 1080p High Definition (16:9 widescreen). Picture quality for the film is fantastic! From the lush green environment to the amount of detail seen in the closeups, from skin pores to the grime on the faces of people. Although a violent film that utilizes a lot of people being beheaded, fortunately the film doesn’t lean to the gore. We see heads being cut off, heads being held, but it was done in the way that the film doesn’t look too gory or bloody.
While the film does have its fair share of flickering, the most problematic is the visual effects for certain scenes. We know there is going to be no real mass bombing or fires in the forest area, so to capture the Japanese attacks via grenade or bombs, there are CG effects of explosions in the forest. Explosions plopped up into the film to make the viewer think the forest is being destroyed. Unfortunately, these scenes look too fake and for a film that looks absolutely great on Blu-ray, these are a few scenes that really didn’t look all that good. Fortunately, these scenes are short but that is probably my only feeling of weakness when it came to the overall picture quality. Colors were good, black levels were nice and deep but some of the visual effects look too cheesy to be part of this epic yet violent film.
AUDIO & SUBTITLES:
“Warriors of the Rainbow: Seediq Bale” is presented in multilingual DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 and Multilingual Dolby Digital Stereo. It’s important to note that the language spoken during the film is in Japanese and the original Seediq dialect. Music is beautiful and special effects are well-utilized through the surround channels. There are some scenes that are immersive, and with the film primarily being action-driven, from grenades being blown up, rifles being shot to the decapitation of soldiers heads. But overall, dialogue is crystal clear, music is also clear and the film sounds great via lossless!
Subtitles are in English and Chinese.
“Warriors of the Rainbow: Seediq Bale” comes with the following special features:
- Making Of Featurette – (28:50) Featuring the making of Featurette with interviews with director Wei Te-Sheng, producer John Woo plus behind-the-scenes footage, make-up and visual effects and more!
- Theatrical Trailer (2:03)
- International Trailer (2:05)
“Warriors of the Rainbow: Seediq Bale” comes with a slipcover case.
“Warriors of the Rainbow: Seediq Bale” is a violent film. It’s a film that more beheadings than one would expect to see in a film but within the context of the violence and beheadings, this is a film that relies on it because of the people that inspired the making of this film.
Wei Te-Sheng is a ambitious Taiwanese film that not only is expensive to make but it’s also an important film to show the history of Taiwan and what took place in the country, that many are not familiar with.
When we think of Taiwan, we often think about the problems that exist between Taiwan and China. And when we think of imperial (or colonial) Japan and its military, we think of World War II or the atrocities that took place in both China and Korea.
But “Warriors of the Rainbow: Seediq Bale” was a film that opened my eyes to the Seediq people. Similar to what the Native Americans experienced during the colonization of Caucasians in America, the Mexican-American War or whenever land was taken away from aborigine, the Negritos of Asia or the Ainu’s of Japan, history has shown that the quest of land, the conquering of land and its people has always been a bloody and violent confrontation. Not limited to a race, not limited to region, over centuries, this has gone on for a long time.
But what happened to the Seediq people, this was a historical and factual story that I have never heard about. I never knew about Taiwan’s aboriginal people nor was I aware of the resistance they fought against the Japanese government/military in order to keep their traditions and culture alive and not to be extinct.
I found it quite fascinating that the Japanese thought they could come into Taiwan, take control of the aboriginal tribes by force and try to civilize them through education and introducing them to Japanese culture. The problem was that through education and trying to make these people work and learn the Japanese way of doing things, they were not treated on an equal footing. There was police misconduct, forced labor ala slavery and the Japanese had no intention of honoring the Seediq’s beliefs or customs. They thought of them as savages and felt the need to look at them as only as savages with no equal footing.
There is no doubt that many can compare this film to “The Last of the Mohicans”, some have also compared the film to “Avatar” and “300”, but whenever a tribe or a group who’s land is taken away, their culture is eliminated, there is just no doubt that these people who are forced to change, are going to fight back.
Filmmaker Wei Te-Sheng did a wonderful job in showing the Seediq as a tribe that practices violence. Honor is about killing, beheading your enemy. It’s part of their custom!
And for a film that is 2.5 hours long (for the International version which I’m viewing, and I have no idea how the storyline pacing would be in the 4.5 hour version), Wei Te-Sheng then shows us how the Seediq were literally stripped away from their culture. The Japanese did not care for them, as many of the men were treated like slaves. Forced to build the town with not enough money, making them feel inferior and police having their way by beating the men. The Seediq Bale had no rights and so, we get to see how bad the Seediq were treated.
And this is important because when the Seediq fight back, unfortunately their anger is against Japan. Men, women and children that represented Japanese culture, were going to be eliminated. As a viewer, the next hour and a half are action-based. Seeing how 300 Seediq will go on the attack against thousands of Japanese soldiers.
The story may seem too simple reading it, but it’s the execution of how the Seediq fought the Japanese soldiers. How the older children were integrated into the force to fight against the Japanese but also seeing the mass suicide by the women/wives/mothers of the men going off into battle and also seeing how they killed their own children, as a way to avoid dishonor.
There is also another story that relates to the Seediq who were integrated into Japanese culture, had jobs but were torn because they are for being civilized but know the Japanese still look at them as inferior and their own Seediq people thinking they are traitors. The person that is showcased is the character of Dakis Nomin (a.k.a. Hanaoka Ichiro, as portrayed by Hsu Yi-fan). He and his brother have accepted their Japanese civility and Hanaoka works as a policeman.
For Hanaoka, he feels there is a pride that a Seediq has become civilized and can work with the Japanese, to make them better into society. But of course, Mona Rudao is quick to show that despite the fact that he has become a policeman for the Japanese and that he and his Seediq wife Obing Nawi (a.k.a. Kawano Hanako) have assimilated, he is still seen as inferior. The Japanese will not see him as one of them and now, the Seediq do not see him as one of them. Will he die by Seediq tradition or die as an inferior person to the Japanese?
While the film does not explain what happened afterward between the Seediq and Japanese (aside an explanation of relocation), these confrontations between the Seediq and Japanese did lead to a change of policy in which the Seediq were given equal footing with other ethnic groups in Taiwan. And this would eventually lead to a generation of people in Taiwan who were educated by the Japanese and thus creating Taiwan civility among the aboriginal people but also increasing the relationship between both Taiwan and Japan which exists today.
While I did watch the International Version of “Warriors of the Rainbow: Seediq Bale”, I know that this film trimmed down to 2.5 hour, is accessible to viewers all over the world. But filmmaker Wei Te-Sheng does recommend people to watch the 4.5 hour version. This version goes into more detail about the troubled relations between Seediq and the Japanese, introductions of characters now shown in the 2.5 hour version but also a more extended ending with more detail on what happened to Mona Rudao and other characters in the film.
So, there is a lot of storyline that is lost in the 2.5 hour version. The 2.5 hour version primarily focuses on the Seediq and the Japanese and the battle between both sides, but for Asian cinema fans, the 4.5 hour version goes further into details about characters such as Kojima Genji (as portrayed by Masanobu Endo), Mahung Mona (as portrayed by Landy Wen), Takayama Hatsuko (as potrayed by Vivian Hsu) and Kawano Hanako (as portrayed by Irene Luo). But obviously, for those familiar with Asian pop culture, these stars are well-known in Japan and Taiwan.
And last, this is not a factual representation of the real Mona Rudao or are the characters based on real people or their actions. While the Wushe incident is real, the battle between the Sidiq led by Mona Rudao against the Japanese is real, there is much more to this story between the Seediq and Japanese that are featured in more detail in other books about Taiwan’s history or even websites, such as this.
As for the Blu-ray release, “Warriors of the Rainbow: Seediq Bale” does look and sound great on Blu-ray while the special features are about a half hour long. And there are two versions, a longer 4.5 hour version and this 2.5 hour version which was shown internationally in theaters. My preference would be to the longer version if you want the full story but otherwise, the 2.5 hour version would is more accessible as it gets rid of any storylines involving non-important characters, short in duration and focuses primarily on the relations and battle between the Seediq vs. the Japanese. But with that being said, you do feel that you are missing quite a bit of storyline when it comes to these other characters and will make those who enjoyed the 2.5 hour version of the film, seeking out the 4.5 hour version, knowing that the longer version is probably the definitive version to own.
Overall, “Warriors of the Rainbow: Seediq Bale” is a violent but eye-opening film about Taiwan’s history and its aboriginal people and what happened during Japanese occupation. While the storyline is much simplified in the 2.5 hour version, compared to its 4.5 hour counterpart, “Warriors of the Rainbow: Seediq Bale” is an epic film featuring great cinematography, an intriguing and surprising storyline that I definitely recommend!
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