It was disappointing to read that Seedig Bale, Taiwan’s official selection and one of the nominees for the 84th Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film, failed to enter the final list. This almost 5-hour long movie depicts an epic about a rebellion against Japanese rule during 1930s led by Mouna Rudo of the indigenous Seedig tribe in Wushe of central Taiwan. Some regarded that its failure to get the Oscar was attributed to the ignorance of foreign viewers about the historical background of Taiwan at that time.
In 1895, the Treaty of Shimonoseki was signed by Qing dynasty as a result of the defeat in the First Sino-Japanese War which broke out a year early over the domination of present day Korea Peninsula. That treaty saw the cession of Taiwan to Japan and its colonization of this island for fifty years until the end of the Second Sino-Japanese War in 1945. Seen as primitive savages, the aboriginals had never been treated fairly by the Japanese. Rebellions had been sparked at times in the early stage of Japanese rule. Later, though a comparatively conciliatory policy was adopted trying to tame the tribal peoples, Japanese never stopped exploiting their livelihood and resources. The rebellion, organized and led by Mouna Rudo, dubbed by the Japanese as “The Wushe Incident”, was the aboriginals’ final attempt to get even with their colonizers and it was suppressed with severity and cruelty. Using aircraft and poison gas, a direct breach of the international law, the Japanese were finally able to crush the rebellion. Many died, the captured resistance fighters were executed, and the surviving tribal peoples were relocated. The aboriginal resistance was never heard of. During World War II, numbers of tribal youth were drafted by the Japanese to serve and conduct jungle warfare with Americans in the Pacific theater. Many never returned.
I quite admire Mr. Wei De-shen, the director for his vision and insistence to shoot this picture so that the truth of the history could be unveiled. We can forgive the atrocity committed by the Japanese but we shall never forget.