Warrior cries and brutal decapitations color the opening scenes in Wei Te-Sheng’s "Seediq Bale," the fierce Taiwanese epic running against Hollywood favorites for the Golden Lion award at Venice this year.
With a record production cost of $24 million, "Seediq Bale" brings to the big screen the true story about a rebellion of aboriginal tribes against their Japanese colonial rulers in Taiwan in 1930 — at their ultimate defeat.
Produced by renowned Hong Kong-based director John Woo — whose Hollywood films include "Face Off" and "Mission Impossible 2" — the film alternates between fight scenes and moments of spiritual anguish for the proud tribesmen.
Stunning cinematography captures the untamed beauty of Wushu, a tribal township on Mount Chilai, where the concept of freedom is inextricably linked to hunting wild animals through lush undergrowth — a ritual at risk as civilization takes hold.
"The film tells the story of an encounter between a people who believe in rainbows and a nation which believes in the sun — a heroic battle in defense of faith and dignity," Wei said about his most ambitious work to date.
Over 12 years in the making, "Seediq Bale" features a cast of 15,000, many of whom were handpicked for the part in a door-to-door search throughout Taiwan for people with the right characteristics: specifically, "hunters eyes."
Wei said he had researched the history behind the "Wushe Incident" thoroughly and had been very aware of not wanting to "exacerbate dormant tensions," but instead "affect some kind of reconciliation between the two opposing sides."
Wei and Lin Ching-Ta — who plays tribal chief Mouna Rudo — has been accompanied to the premiere screening on Thursday by co-stars Vivian Hsu and Landy Wen, who both made their names as singers before going into acting.