Warriors of the Rainbow: Seediq Bale

Warriors of the Rainbow: Seediq Bale

A scene from WARRIORS OF THE RAINBOW: SEEDIQ BALE, a film by Wei Te-Sheng. Picture courtesy Well Go USA. All rights reserved.

Warriors of the Rainbow: Seediq Bale (2011/2012)

Opened: 04/27/2012 Limited

Limited (12+)04/27/2012
AMC Empire 2504/27/2012 - 05/10/201214 days

Trailer: Click for trailer

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Genre: Taiwanese Epic Historical Drama

Rated: Unrated


Wei Te-Sheng's epic film WARRIORS OF THE RAINBOW: SEEDIQ BALE reclaims an extraordinary episode from 20th-century history which is little-known even in Taiwan. Between 1895 and 1945, the island was a Japanese colony inhabited not only by the majority (Han Chinese immigrants) but also by the remnants of the aboriginal tribes who first settled the mountainous land. In 1930 Mouna Rudo, the leader of one of the Seediq tribes settled on and around Mount Chilai, forged a coalition with other Seediq tribal leaders and plotted a rebellion against their Japanese colonial masters. It was to begin at a sports day meeting where the assembled tribesmen were to attack and kill the Japanese officials and would then broaden to sieges on police stations and local government offices in the region. The initial uprising took the Japanese by surprise and was almost entirely successful. But the Japanese soon sent in their army to crush the rebellion, using aircraft and poison gas.

Mouna Rudo knew from the start that the relatively small force of Seediq tribesmen stood no chance of defeating the might of Japan. But he and his allies were sustained by the beliefs and myths which had nourished their tribes since time immemorial. Young males in the tribes had to undergo a rite de passage to become adult men, which gave them the right to have their faces tattooed. In the tribal language, they became Seediq Bale -- heroes of the tribe. Their belief was that their ancestors would lead the spirits of the Seediq Bale across a rainbow bridge to the summit of the mountain when their time came. And so, whatever the result of their uprising against Japan, they would march in victory across the rainbow bridge... The heroism and fortitude of the Seediq warriors and their womenfolk shocked even the Japanese and won them enduring respect.

Historical Background

The 1895 Treaty of Shimonoseki ceded the island of Taiwan (aka Formosa) to Japan. There was immediate tension between the islanders and their new colonial masters, sparking many small rebellions, but the brutal suppression of the Taiwanese Revolt in 1916 brought an uneasy peace.

At that time, the aboriginal tribes of Taiwan -- deemed 'primitive savages' by the Japanese -- were deprived of their lands and their weapons, along with their traditions of head-hunting and face tattooing. The tattooing was an integral part of tribal cultures: in the Seediq tribes, when a young man was given his face-tattoo it signified that he had passed from boyhood to manhood and become a 'hero of the tribe' -- a Seediq Bale. Despite all of Japan's constraints on their culture, the aboriginal tribes submitted to Japanese rule for a time. In Wushe, a tribal township on Mount Chilai, the Japanese even set up a school, a post office, a vocational training center ... and a branch of the Nenggao Police Ministry.

Mouna Rudo was the leader of the Seediq tribe in Wushe. He had sparked small rebellions against the Japanese in 1920 and 1925, but by 1930 seemed resigned to accepting Japan's rule. Thinking that they had 'tamed' the savages, the Japanese reduced the number of policemen stationed in Wushe.

During the 'phoney peace' of 1930, however, Pihu Sapu and other tribesmen from Hogo village persuaded Mouna Rudo to launch an ambitious new rebellion. They secretly lobbied other Seediq villages in the region and formed an underground alliance of six villages: Truwan, Mahebo, Bualon and Suku joined Wushe and Hogo in planning a surprise attack on the Japanese. The alliance mustered more than three hundred able-bodied fighting men in total.

The plan was to strike on October 27th, the day of a school sports meeting in Wushe, when the Commissioner for Nenggao and other high-ranking Japanese officials would be in attendance. The tribal army split into several teams to launch surprise attacks on all the region's police stations; they then converged to surround Wushe and massacre every Japanese in sight. The action was swiftly accomplished: 136 Japanese men and women were killed. There were 428 Chinese-Taiwanese living in Wushe at the time, and only two of them were killed, both by accident. It was a carefully planned and executed rebellion, nothing like a traditional tribal head-hunting attack.

In the days that followed, the Seediq rebels set fire to their own homes and villages. The Japanese were confounded and overwhelmed. When the police and army squads sent to crush the rebellion failed, the Japanese authorities tried to bribe the Seediqs to turn against the rebels. But the rebellion continued for fifty days.

It is said that more than one hundred Seediq women hanged themselves during the rebellion in order to free their husbands from the burden of taking care of them. Defeated in ground combat, the Japanese resorted to dropping poison gas on the rebels from aircraft -- in breach of international conventions. The gas bombs caused some rebels to surrender and others to commit suicide. Mouna Rudo saw that the rebellion could go no further and instructed the members of his family to kill themselves. He personally shot his wife and two grandsons and then hid up the mountain, hoping that the Japanese would never find him. His eldest son Tado Mouna fought to the last bullet and then hanged himself, along with other rebels. The 'Wushe Incident' -- as the Japanese dubbed it -- finally ended when one of the ringleaders, Pihu Sapu, was captured. It was a full fifty days after the sports day massacre.

The Japanese soon exacted their revenge. They first mounted 'The Second Wushe Incident': the execution of more than 200 captured rebels, designed to deter any further uprisings. They then moved all surviving Seediq tribespeople to an offshore island (they named it Kawanaka-hara-jima) connected to the mainland only by a flimsy suspension bridge. The Seediqs were finally isolated and contained.

Cast/Crew Biographies

Lin Ching-Tai (Mouna Rudo)

Born in Nanao Township, Yilan County, Lin Ching-Tai is an aborigine from the Atayal tribe. He is the chairman of his village and also its pastor. Besides occupying himself with the development of his community, he works on preserving the cultural heritage of the Ryohen so that the new generation will not lose touch with its ancestral stories and spirits. WARRIORS OF THE RAINBOW: SEEDIQ BALE mark his first-ever work as an actor.

Umin Boya (Temu Walis)

Umin Boya (also known by his Chinese name MA Chih-Hsiang) is an actor, screenwriter and director. His father is from the Toda branch of the Seediq tribes. He first came to prominence in Wang Shaudi's PTS series BIG HOSPITAL, LITTLE DOCTOR and went on to act in the TV serials CRYSTAL BOYS AND BANQUET, picking up Golden Bell Award nominations along the way. He has written and directed three award-winning short films, and has been seen in such Taiwanese feature films as Sylvia Chang's 20 30 40 and Yang Ya-Che's ORZ BOYS.

Ando Masanobu (Kojima Genji)

Ando Masanobu's first leading role was in Kitano Takeshi's KIDS RETURN, and it won him a Japanese Academy Award and a slew of other prizes. He has since been seen in many more Japanese films, including Fukasaku Kinji's BATTLE ROYALE, Ninagawa Mika's SAKURAN and Lee Sang-Il's 69. He branched out into Chinese cinema when he was cast in Chen Kaige's FOREVER ENTHRALLED and went on to appear in Wu Ershan's THE BUTCHER, THE CHEF AND THE SWORDSMAN.

Kawahara Sabu (Kamada Yahiko)

Born in Hiroshima, Kawahara Sabu studied at the Toei Actors School. Since 1970 he has appeared in such TV serials as TOGETHER, THE FILE ON YOUNG KINDAICHI and TEAM MEDICAL DRAGON 2. His many film appearances include SHIRATORI REIKO and 13 STEPS. In 2010 he starred alongside Terashima Shinobu in Wakamatsu Koji's CATERPILLAR.

Wei Te-Sheng (Writer/Director)

Born in 1969, Wei Te-Sheng joined a small production company in 1993 and learned his craft on the job. He has assistant director credits on many films, including Edward Yang's MAHJONG (1996) and Chen Kuo-Fu's DOUBLE VISION (2002). He made his debut feature ABOUT JULY as a modest independent production in 1999, winning praise from critics in Taiwan and a Special Mention from the Dragons & Tigers Award jury at Vancouver Film Festival. His second feature, CAPE NO. 7 (2008), was also made on a relatively modest scale but became the highest-grossing Taiwanese film in the history of Taiwan and picked up top prizes at the Golden Horse Awards, Hawaii Film Festival and the Asian Marine Film Festival. The huge success of CAPE NO. 7 helped him to raise the finance to make WARRIORS OF THE RAINBOW: SEEDIQ BALE, a project he has nurtured since the mid-1990s.

John Woo (Producer)

John Woo began his illustrious career by making small indie films as a student in Hong Kong. Hired soon after graduating by the major Golden Harvest -- and later by their rivals Cinema City and Film Workshop -- he established himself as an outstanding director of both action movies and comedies. After a brief foray into production in Taiwan, he found his career hitting overdrive when he made a series of films starring Chow Yun-Fat: A BETTER TOMORROW (1986) and its sequel (1987), THE KILLER (1989), ONCE A THIEF (1990) and HARD-BOILED (1991), all of which enjoyed huge success at home and abroad and made him world-famous. Hollywood beckoned, and he made another series of hit films in America: HARD TARGET (1992), BROKEN ARROW (1995), FACE/OFF (1997), MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE II (2000) and WINDTALKERS (2002). At the same time he began nurturing young talents by executive-producing their films ... and he picked up five Clio Awards for his short THE HOSTAGE (2002), made for BMW. In 2004 he and his producing partner Terence Chang turned their attention back to Chinese cinema and he began work on his spectacular diptych RED CLIFF (2008) and RED CLIFF II (2009), based on the literary classic "Romance Of The Three Kingdoms." While developing his own next project, he continues to help other directors by serving as their executive producer -- including Su Chao-Pin for REIGN OF ASSASSINS and Wei Te-Sheng for WARRIORS OF THE RAINBOW: SEEDIQ BALE.

Terence Chang (Producer)

Born in Hong Kong in 1949, Terence Chang studied architecture at the University of Oregon and film at NYU before returning to a long and varied career in the Hong Kong film and television industries. Stints with Golden Harvest, RTV, Johnny Mak Productions and D&B preceded the producing job at Tsui Hark's Film Workshop which led to collaborations with John Woo on A BETTER TOMORROW and its sequel. Terence and John went on to co-found Milestone Pictures, and have continued working together on both American and Chinese movies. Terence is not only John Woo's producer but also his most trusted advisor and friend. Like John, he is dedicated to nurturing the next generation of Chinese directors.

Jimmy Huang (Producer)

One of the most experienced producers in Taiwan, Jimmy Huang is best known for his collaborations with Tsai Ming-Liang (THE RIVER and THE HOLE) and with Chen Kuo-Fu (THE PERSONALS and DOUBLE VISION, the latter co-produced with Columbia Pictures). He went on to produce a string of blockbusters: Su Chao-Pin's sci-fi thriller SILK, Jay Chou's SECRET ... and Wei Te-Sheng's CAPE NO. 7, which went on to become one of the biggest hits in Taiwan film history.