THE RICE BOMBER
Directed by Cho Li
Official Selection, 2014 Berlin International Film Festival
Official Selection, 2014 Hong Kong International Film Festival
Like many sons of central Taiwan, Yang Rumen was raised by his grandparents. And like many, he grew up on a rice farm, getting scolded by his grandfather for eating bread instead of supporting the local rice industry, and hearing on TV about agriculture-related protests happening in faraway Taipei. Somehow that kid from the rice fields became the nationally-renowned rice bomber, planting explosives around the island to draw attention to the plight of farmers after Taiwan joined the WTO in 2002 and started importing agriculture en masse.
THE RICE BOMBER, based on Yang Rumen’s true story, is such a compelling watch in part because that line from kid-in-the-fields to terrorizer-in-the-streets is never explained psychoanalytically. Director Cho Li (Zoom Hunting) surrounds Rumen with other symbols of social justice – a self professed “revolutionary” from the upper classes, a homeless kid working as a vendor in the streets, an academic proficient at answering socio-economics questions on TV – but Rumen brushes them off and settles into his own activist skin.
Actor Huang Chien-wei plays Rumen as a drifting, blank-faced loner – not in the pathological sense, but in the mold of an introverted small-town philosopher, educated on compulsory military training, TV news, and family ethics. He hasn’t been socialized as a social activist, but represents something far more urgent, homegrown, and unexplored: the time bombs ticking away in ordinary folks. –Brian Hu
Cast: Huang Chien-wei, Nikki Hsieh, Michael Chang