Finish year

The Gangster's God

Director :


  • Taiwan
Color :
Running Time :
49 min
  • Urban
  • Rural
  • Ethnology
  • Folk
  • Religion


Every Lantern Festival in eastern Taiwan, a group of men strips bare above the waist, and wearing nothing but red shorts, stands on a sacred palanquin, allowing people to pound their bodies with bottlerockets, singeing their skin. They are believed to be human incarnations of the god Handan. The “Scorching of Handan” has in recent years become a major event in eastern Taiwan – Taidong. Those who take part in the ritual have always been shrouded in mystery, and rumored to be members of the gangster underworld.

The film delves deeply into the local underworld community of Taidong..The reason these three underworld members play the role of “living Handans” is to serve the true god in heaven. Some hope to extricate themselves from the life of the Taiwanese underworld; others are learning how to enter into it. Some have worked as hit men. Some still work as strongmen collecting debts. They have all served time in prison, and have committed various crimes. Through this ritual, we can witness the rules and relationships within this small underworld community, as well as the different values that different generations hold toward popular religious beliefs.

Source: Taiwan Int'l Ethnographic Film Festival

Director Statement

" The ritual of the Scorching of Handan is an essential part of their socialization. The straighter a man stands and the longer he withstands the pain, the more worthy he shows himself to be. During the half hour or more that they stand on the palanquin, through the torment inflicted on their bodies, they are transformed from disdained, insignificant figures into redeemed heroes. This is an extremely dramatic contrast. " - Ho, Chao-Ti


source: Taiwan International Documentary Festival

Festivals & Awards

2006 Women Make Waves Film Festival
2006 Women Make Waves Film Festival
2007 Taiwan International Ethnographic Film Festival
2007 Taiwan International Ethnographic Film Festival

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