Seediq Bale premiere shines in Venice

Director Wei Te-sheng yesterday asserted that the power of the arts and literature trumps that of politics as his "Seediq Bale" won accolades at the 2011 Venice Film Festival despite the presence of political undertones from without.

Meanwhile, it was revealed that Hong Kong movie director John Woo had extended a helping hand to the younger movie director.

Wei's Venice Film Festival entry was plagued by political maneuvers from the outset.

First, the organizing committee for the film festival reportedly said that all Taiwanese films that are nominated for the Golden Lion award will have to add the name "China" in front of "Taiwan" in the future, and then there was a row over the display of the Republic of China national flag.

Dogged by persistent reporters who keep asking him politically loaded questions, Wei said that the power of the arts and literature trumps that of politics and could spread to all corners of the globe.

According to Wei, politics makes the world ugly.

An aerial view of the world is the most beautiful map, because it represents what the world really looks like, and nothing could be uglier than the map in which there are enclosures surrounded by national boundaries, he said, adding that politicians are the people who draw lines on land.

Claiming his remarks were intended as a plea for an effort to put politics aside when art is being appreciated, he said he just wanted to stress that art is not confined by national boundaries.

"If some ideas are beyond human control, just let them blossom," he said.

Commenting on the question of his country's appellation, Wei said that if we have a clear idea of where our goal is, we simply try to reach it.

We will not get lost if we know where we are going, even if there are setbacks on the way, he added.

As the curtain fell on the worldwide premiere of a 135-minute shortened version of Seediq Bale yesterday, people in the audience gave the movie a thunderous 10-minute standing ovation.

"Taiwan! Bravo!" foreigners in the audience shouted, as tears streamed down the cheeks of the cast of actors, including Vivian Hsu, Landy Wen, and Ma Chih-hsiang.

A Fu Jen Catholic University choir, which was on a performance tour of Europe, performed aboriginal tunes outside the theater before the screening.

According to media reports, Hong Kong-based movie director John Woo, who is appreciative of Wei's talent, had gone to bat with the organizing committee for Wei.

Woo, a director of international fame, allegedly did not want Wei to plead with people everywhere.

So when Director of the Venice Film Festival Marco Muller was in Hong Kong last March, he made Muller stay in his hotel room, where he showed him the four-and-a-half hour uncut version of Seediq Bale using a portable projector.

The rest is history.

Woo yesterday also gave Wei a push, literally. As the cast and crew met the press after the screening, no one could recognize the usually low-key, plainly dressed Wei.

And that's when Woo gave him a push from behind to make him stand out from the crowd.