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BUDDHA BLESS AMERICA

Taiwan, 1996 (MIFF 1997, Regional)

Director: Wu Nien-jen

Taiwan's colonial past is brought into sharp and ironic relief in Wu Nien-jen's satiric com­edy. Though the settings and cultural references are very specific, audiences will have no trouble recognising a universal story of America's conquering heroes, their duplicitous hosts, inevitable rebellion and ubiquitous self-interest.

During the Vietnam War, a pocket of arid farm land on the Taiwan coast is commandeered for a joint US-Taiwan military exercise, possibly of a dangerous and experimental nature. Meanwhile, the villagers whose fields have been wrecked content themselves with gifts of canned food, impossibly over-sized denim trousers and what­ever their pranks can yield.

Writer-director Wu pointedly shifts the focus to an understanding of how Taiwan's colonial past allowed such a takeover to occur in the first place. And as we watch the translators' wilful deception of both sides and the seduction of the poor villagers, one can start to believe exactly how it happens as well as the price they will pay.

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