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Art can't shine when box office gold lines the silver screens

By Liu Wei (China Daily)

08:23, May 21, 2012

Taiwan director Wei Te-Sheng recently brought Seediq Bale, a film about a Taiwan tribe's fight against Japanese oppression in 1930, to mainland theaters.

The tribe lost their battle in the film, and Wei will likely lose at the box office, too.

The film has grossed only 3 million yuan ($476,100) since its May 10 premiere, while Disney's The Avengers - released five days earlier - has raked in more than 300 million yuan.

It centers on the Seediq, an aboriginal tribe in Taiwan's inner mountains, who rise up against their Japanese rulers. Japan took charge of the island after the Chinese government ceded it after an 1894 war.

Although suffering from a feeble storyline and excessive directorial sentimentalism, the film deserves accolades for the magnificent action scenes and touching performances. It lives up to some critics' conclusion that it qualifies as an epic.

But why is it that such a quality film now faces a lose-lose situation - viewers miss it in theaters studded with Hollywood blockbusters, such as Battleship and The Avengers, while the director misses the chance to prove he can win over a wider audience than Taiwan's?

Some blame the theaters for saving limited screens for the film, saying they should support good domestic films.

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