Thursday, October 24, 2013

Buddha Bless America (Wu, 1996): Film Review

Buddha Bless America 太平天國 (1996), directed by Wu Nien-jen 吳念真, represents the disruptions and complexities of a postcolonialism as well as any film I am aware of.

The film is set in Taiwan during the Cold War during the 1960s, and it focuses on a local community of residents who are relocated to a small elementary school while the United States and Nationalist armies jointly conduct military exercises on the community's farmland.

The story traces the impact of this event on the lives of a middle-aged man named Lin who initially supports the intervention, but over time becomes disillusioned while retaining a positive overall image of the U.S. At the same time, his son is removed from his regular school routine and hangs out with his friends day and night -- they watch the U.S. military exercises and observe the behavior of men at a brothel built specifically for the foreign troops; meanwhile, his grandmother strives to maintain her family's dignity while her fading memory leads her to blur the lines between concurrent events and events that occurred previously during Japanese colonization.

In a memorable scene she stands her ground and uses a wooden broom to prevent U.S. tanks from ruining her farm property.

The way the film presents a type of psychological colonization on the local populace is effectively conveyed throughout the film by the stylistic use of music and the passage of time -- in another powerful scene, slow-motion is used to portray a grandmother and then a boy walk in front of the camera while a light bulb sways in the foreground and men fight in the background -- leaving a lasting impression.


  1. This is one of my favourite Taiwanese films. It says so much about the condition of the Taiwanese people and how they view all the powers that affect their lives.

  2. Thank you for your comment -- I agree!