North American Premiere
124 minutes, in Mandarin with English subtitles
Directed by: Fung Kai
Starring: Allen Ko, Chen Po-cheng, Liao Chun, Alien Huang
DIN TAO’s box office story is as miraculous as the story it tells onscreen about two feuding leaders of rival Din Tao groups. First off: Din Tao is a traditional Taiwanese drumming performance in which the players dress like gods and take on their divine aspects in wild, orgiastic onslaughts of percussion, dancing oversized puppets, and mask work. When the film opened, some shows only sold ONE ticket. But director Fung Kai relentlessly promotes his debut film, and slowly word-of-mouth built, and by the time Chinese New Year arrived, it annihilated all seven of the other major releases, from Hollywood blockbusters, to posh star vehicles. Right now, DIN TAO is the number one hit of the year in Taiwan, racking up over NT$300 million at the box office.
Based on the true story of the Chio-Tian Folk Drums & Arts Troupe, DIN TAO begins in failure. A-Tai has gone to Taipei to become a rocker, but he’s a born quitter, and returns home, blustering that he’s going to America to become a rock star Any Day Now. His disciplinarian daddy runs a crummy, second-rate Din Tao troupe, and he and A-Tai’s relationship is all loveless, raging arguments. But after getting in a brawl with a rival Din Tao troupe (run by his dad’s nemesis) A-Tai’s pride is at stake and he vows to go toe-to-toe with Wu Cheng’s troupe and beat their butts.
Din Tao is not some quaint folk art – most troupes are made up of homeless kids and gang members who need quick cash. But the Chio-Tian Folk Drums & Arts Troupe embraced the idea that the moment they put on their divine make-up they were, for all intents and purposes, transformed into gods. To push themselves spiritually they strapped their enormous drums to their backs and ran around Taiwan, visiting temples along the way. The unexpected success of this film has led to a Din Tao revival, and performances are suddenly springing up everywhere, regular citizens are doing their own temple walks around the island, and kids who were formerly considered the lowest of the low are earning respect. And they should. Because sometimes that loser with dyed hair and tattoos playing the drums isn’t a hooligan. Sometimes, as DIN TAO proves, they’re also a god.