Review: Mayaw Biho and the Indigenous Image Movement

Wen-ling Lin, Associate Professor, Department of Humanities and Social Sciences, National Chiao Tung University

In addition to its spotlight on the American director Victor Masayesva, (a member of the Hopi Tribe) the 2007 Taiwan International Ethnographic Film Festival’s Director in Focus program will also highlight local talent. We are delighted to introduce Mayaw Biho, a documentary director and member of the Amei Tribe, and three of his films, Children in Heaven, Carry the Paramount of Jade Mountain on My Back, and Dear Rice Wine, You are Defeated.

The director was born and raised in the tribal village of Chihlo, in Hualien, from which he departed in order to attend high school. As a college student in Taipei, Mayaw Biho began directing such movies as ’Spring Sun’ is Our Name, As Life, As Pangcah, Children in Heaven, and Gi-Lahatzu. Upon graduation, he became an independent filmmaker, working on Formosa Aboriginal News Magazine, Our Island for the Public Television Service, and Words of Life on Super Television.

Interested in more than just the recording of copious images of aboriginal life, over the years Mayaw Biho has also worked actively in the cultural movement for the advancement of aboriginal social status. His films highlight contemporary politico-ethnic issues, such as the Taiwanese First Nation’s mission for the reclamation of the original aboriginal names for people and places. In addition to promoting the world’s general awareness of them, Biho attempts to arouse the consciousness of the island’s indigenous peoples themselves, and harness their collective power through his image-performances. In 2000, Mayaw Biho helped organize Taiwan’s first festival of tribal film, the Real Pang-cah Amei Film Festival. Then, in 2005, he was an instrumental player in the “Get Our Real Names Back” movement, which included commercial film productions, the distribution of documentaries, the launch of a website, and the “One Hundred People Reclaim Their Aboriginal Names” political action.

In this so-called pluralistic society, just how many diverse voices do we hear, how many different faces do we see?

Mayaw Biho uses this question as a jumping-off point, endeavoring to then directly pipeline the aboriginal experience to the audience, conveying aboriginal identity and belief systems via portrayals of tribal society, economics, and politics. Mayaw Biho’s “image-movement” explores the political potential of aboriginal self-representation, using new media as a tool for advancing the community’s political hopes. He shows how aborigines are creating a new sense of self, one meant to withstand the flux of greater political authorities, national identities, and social cultures that swarm around them.

Playing House with the Children in Heaven

Every year, the Taipei County Government sends a wrecking crew to demolish the impoverished tribal village that is situated under Sanying Bridge, due to its violation of the Irrigation Management Law. With police protection, excavators and trucks invade the riverbed land, razing the wooden houses and demolishing the entire village, with not even one patch of asphalt spared from their destructive authority. The debris is then hauled away in an efficient and singularly muscular display of governmental administrative power.

Mayaw Biho’s film portrays these events through the eyes of the village’s children. The children are boundlessly creative in their elaboration of fun and play, despite harsh surroundings. (A small inner-tube propped on a half-open door serves as the hoop in their game of basketball.) After their hamlet and homes are destroyed, the children survey the ruins. Rummaging, they gather random boards, a hammer, and some nails, and fabricate for their beloved dolls a new home, which also serves as temporary shelter for the children themselves.

The world, as seen by the children, is presented through black-and-white photos and color film. The still photos offer a sketch of village life while the color film, on the other hand, uses sound and movement to provide a running commentary. The “voices” of the children are silent, expressed through subtitles. Their unspoken narration and internal monologues, actually written by the director, harmonize with the voice of singer Parangalan on the soundtrack. Experienced together, these silent, sung, and narrated voices are very evocative.

After experiencing repeatedly the destruction and rebuilding of their hamlet, the children know that soon they will once more get to “play house,” —with the nation, police, and administrative powers. The lyrics of Parangalan’s song NoNoNo —“not alive but not dead, not real but not fake, not drunk but not sober, am I in heaven?”— express immeasurable frustration and irony.

Carry the Paramount of Jade Mountain on My Back

Children today probably know nothing of the story of Yu Yu-jen, let alone that of the bronze statue of him that once graced the summit of Jade Mountain.

In their youth, Wu Sheng-mei and Chuan Kuei-mei, from the Tungpu Bunun, were two outstanding mountain guides who had the arduous job of carrying the Yu Yu-jen statue up the mountainside. Aborigines often served as guides and porters, helping climbers lug burdens through the thin atmosphere of high altitudes. Such strenuous activity eventually took its toll on the guides’ health, the excessive burden often resulting in irreparable leg damage.

Wu and Chuan worked together with the China Youth Corps during the 1970’s. In 1978, they were given the responsibility of carrying the bronze statue of Yu Yu-jen to the top of Jade Mountain. The statue, itself, weighing over 90 kilograms, was packed in a wooden crate which brought the total weight of their load to about 115 kilograms. The two also took turns carrying the statue’s base, which was made of concrete .

Ensconced on the mountaintop, the statue of Yu Yu-jen served as a kind of political totem, in line with the country’s Chinese identity and the political ideology of the time. With the lifting of martial law, Taiwanese nationalist feelings escalated and many people were eager to free themselves of everything “Chinese”. During that period vandals removed the head of the statue and, not long after, the rest of it, base and all, was shattered and cast into the valley from its mountaintop post.

When Wu and Chuan learned that the statue which they had so arduously labored to usher homeward had been destroyed, they were saddened and perplexed. Although not clear in their minds about what Yu Yu-jen represented, they knew that the newly aroused Taiwanese native consciousness that had spurred people to destroy his statue had nothing to do with them, either. Aborigines have an outsider’s stance regarding the ebb and flow of the island’s political rivalries. Regardless of who is in power, to the island’s aborigines Jade Mountain is marked with the footprints of their ancestors, a landmark evoking “home.”

Grandfather Says You’d Better Drink That Entire Bowl of Rice Wine

In the film, “Dear Rice Wine, You are Defeated”, a grandfather insists he does not trust the rice wine from the Taiwan Tobacco & Liquor Corporation. Suspecting contamination, he is afraid to drink it. Because the brewing process happens behind factory walls, the older generation is wary of rice wine produced by the TTLC. Grandpa knows that his people, the Pang-cah, brew many kinds of rice wine themselves. “Since it’s made by us,” he says, “you can see the people who make the yeast, and those who brew the alcohol, and see what ingredients they add…”

The idea that rice wine is harmful to your body takes on two levels of meaning in the film. One is that rice wine by its nature damages health, while the other is that specific ceremonial rituals stylizing its consumption can be harmful in themselves.

Many Pang-cah are convinced that one kind of rice wine is flawed and objectionable, while the second type of rice wine, produced within the community, is safe and acceptable. However, these two kinds of rice wine are now often confused, because people cannot distinguish them based on appearance. Members of the younger generation who have not been through the relevant tribal rites are especially unaware of the differences between the two.

Grandpa says, “You must finish all of the rice wine in that bowl.” In the tribe’s initiation ceremony, a member who drinks all of his rice wine is thus mature enough to shoulder larger responsibilities. The ceremony also represents resistance to the foreign rice wine because it underlines the differences between the vital tribal wine and —that other wine. The wine takes on ethnic significance, validating the spirit of the tribe and serving as a symbol of resistance to mainstream stigma and political repression.

From this film, we can learn some of the motivating goals of Taiwan’s indigenous peoples’ movement: the return to ancestral tradition, and the protection of tribal soul. In addition, the movement attempts to break through the framework and stigma imposed upon aborigines by outsiders, in order to develop individual and tribal self-confidence, self-determination, and autonomy. Broadcast on television, or shown on a movie screen, these images of indigenous people returning to the tribe and one of its traditions (albeit one that is being interrogated by contemporary value-shifts ), can effectively be turned into political capital, serving as an energy to re-unite the tribe and propel it forward. They can also serve as a bridge of communication with outside social groups, the government, and the future.

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Review:The Subversion of Imagination and Another Kind of Indigenous Voice: Imagining Indians(1992) and Water Land Life-H2opi Run to Mexico(2007) Victor Masayesva

Teng-yueh MA

Adjunct Lecturer,

Department of Anthropology, Fo Guang University

In line with this year’s theme, Indigenous Voices, the 2007 Taiwan International Ethnographic Film Festival chose to include Native American director Victor Masayesva’s films “Imagining Indians” (1992) and “Water Land Life-H2opi Run to Mexico” (2007).

Victor Masayesva is an extremely relevant contemporary American Indian filmmaker who is a member of the Hopi tribe. With the support of scholarships, he was able to attend Horace Mann High School in New York and Princeton University. After graduation, he returned to his home on the Hopi Indian Reservation in northern Arizona. Beginning in 1980, Victor Masayesva began to photograph and film, using this environment and Hopi Indian culture as a backdrop. He has completed 16 films and documentaries about the Hopi Indians, becoming a kind of spokesman for the tribe.

Victor Masayesva insists on using an Indian subjective viewpoint in his works in order to change mainstream American society’s stereotypical impression of the country’s native peoples. Through the art of filmmaking, he tries to create a platform for the Hopi’s own voices and viewpoints in the hope of shattering the stereotypes of Native Americans portrayed in Hollywood’s film industry. His works reveal the complex emotions and viewpoints of his people, expressing subjective voices, striving for recognition and self respect, and articulating their indignation towards the history of settlement and oppression. To understand Victor Masayesva’s films and the works by other Indian filmmakers, you must first understand both the history of the settlement of the Americas and the USA, plus the area’s contemporary circumstances.

Prior to the American continent’s discovery in the 15th century by Europeans, there was no collective noun to describe this area’s native peoples. In 1492, the Italian navigator Christopher Columbus was seeking a new route to the Indies by traveling west. He instead discovered America, but mistakenly thought he had reached his intended destination. Therefore, he called the people living there Indios. Although he was mistaken, the name stuck and the people in that area were referred to as Indians, which became the collective name of the American continent’s indigenous peoples.

Over the past 500 years, the plight of the Indians facing European colonization (including by the Spanish, Dutch, and English) has been tragic. Beginning in the 16th century, due to European interests in the area, North American Indian people were massacred in battles and conflicts and nearly died out. After American independence, the Indians once again faced a more difficult predicament, the passing of the Removal Bill in 1830. In order to protect the interests of the white people in America, all Indian tribes living east of the Mississippi who had not been wiped out in earlier battles were moved to Oklahoma. The Indian people were shackled and bound together in a line, prodded along by the military as they marched to their destination. The Indian people in America were once again massacred in 1860, leaving only 340,000 in the country. In 1910 the number dropped to 220,000, but then began to rise over the rest of the century, to 550,000 in 1960, 1.43 million in 1980, 2 million in 1990. In 2000, the Indian population reached 3 million. Today, there are more than 200 Indian Reservations, most of which were created after the war. This is one of America’s darkest chapters in its history.

In order to illustrate the basic spirit of rule-of-law of the nation after its founding in the 18th century, the US government signed a treaty with those Indian tribes who had surrendered or swore allegiance to America. The treaty affirmed that the government would grant the Indians living on reservations autonomy and provide all the land they needed to survive. In 1871, the US Congress resolved not to sign or recognize any additional agreements granting autonomy to Indian tribes, but existing treaties remained valid. After the wars with the Indian people ended, the white government pursued a “Peace Policy” in its dealing with the Indians, sending Christian missionaries to rule over them and carrying out an assimilation policy. In 1924, Congress passed the Snyder Act in gratitude for the Indian participation in the First World War. The act gave American citizenship to the Indian people living within the country. The 1934 Indian Reorganization Act authorized Indian people to write their own constitution, elect an assembly, recover their culture, and worship as they chose. The government’s assimilation policy had not completely succeeded.

The deplorable situation that faced Indian inhabitants of America and the ignoble history of white settlement, however, are rarely discussed and sometimes outright ignored. In the National Museum of the American Indian, part of the Smithsonian Institution, the history of the country’s settlement is not one of the featured topics. From the origins of photography in the 1840’s to the 20th century’s film industry, Indians are one of the most popular subjects of entertainment in America. In commercial films, the tragic history of white people’s treatment and massacre of Indians is smoothed over or ignored. Instead, Indian people and culture have been taken up in the mainstream culture’s collective imagination. Indians are seen by whites as the vanishing race, so they are often a subject of recordings and the focus of many a camera lens. If the cameraman does not capture their images on film, the group will disappear forever. To members of Europe’s relatively advanced civilization, the Indian’s primitive civilization was a living specimen, the past that societies like theirs had lost. Indians were noble savages, innocent and pure. In Christian culture, however, Indians were seen as cannibals who enjoyed scalping whites, people of the New World who had been forsaken by God.

It is probably very difficult for Americans to imagine Hollywood films without Indians. Audiences would lose out on quite a bit of entertainment. Without the Indian, we would not have John Wayne in “The Searchers” and we would be without hundreds of other heroes in similar westerns. Kevin Costner could not dance with wolves without Indians, nor could Brad Pitt appear in “Legends of the Fall”. The existence of Indians provided mainstream white society with an essential image and supporting character in its construction of the creed and romanticism of the western hero. Savage Indians are sacrificed to the Wild West hero’s six shooter. Indian princesses may be beautiful, but they always fall in love with the white military officer. The Indian soldier galloping on his horse is always closely followed by brave American cavalry. The Indian land is a lost paradise and there are always white explorers who like to live in teepees and are forever sentimentally attached to the tribe. These stories make up the idea of the imagined Indian in mainstream American society and around the world.

No other indigenous people on Earth are like American Indians. They are a Hollywood movie staple, appearing in a wide range of films and becoming an image in the world’s collective imagination. However, most of the Indians portrayed on film play a supporting role, only appearing to let out a whoop as they ride by on their horses and get shot by our hero. Although there are many scenes featuring Indian people, their characters are often silent, serving as a mere prop. Indian people, as they most commonly appear in westerns, should actually be called invisible people.

Indians did rebel against this image exploitation by mainstream society, but because the whites were always in a position of power, their efforts had little effect. In the past, Indian people have resisted when they were forced to perform their sacred ceremonies in front of the camera. For example, in 1904, when Edward Sheriff Curtis was shooting the Arizona Navajo Indian Yabichi ceremony, the masked participants danced with their backs facing the camera, refusing to be filmed. In other similar incidents, Indians often protested by throwing sand and rocks at the camera, destroying the film, or breaking the equipment. After the Red Power movement of the 1970’s, Indians became more conscious of their cultural rights. Attendees of many ceremonial activities were forbidden to make any type of recording.

Victor Masayesva and other Indian filmmakers, on the other hand, choose to actively utilize their own films to counteract Hollywood films, conveying Indigenous voices to fight the mythologized Indian image. Victor Masayesva once said that his most important objective in producing films is to break through the silence of Indians in mainstream American movies. He often chooses reels of film themselves as his medium, using Hollywood’s own films to combat the Indian images portrayed in the industry’s movies.

Victor Masayesva’s other mission is to convey the voices of his fellow Indians. He believes that still and video cameras are important tools that can preserve and pass down culture. Compared with writing, visual representations offer a more effective communication medium within Indian societies. Besides oral histories, the majority of Indian communication, including ritual activities and historical reenactments, occurs visually.

Images stand alone, while words can convey the thread of a story. Therefore, the integration of images with words or interviews has become a characteristic of Victor Masayesva’s photographs and films. This year’s festival features two of his films, both of which revolve around interviews and the statements of the interviewees, creating the axis upon which the story is built.

In his film, “Imagining Indians”(1992), Victor Masayesva opens with a reedited clip from an old Hollywood western. He uses the interviewee’s words to criticize the mainstream Indian images in the film, probe the representation of power and culture in Indian movies, and express Indians’ long repressed unhappiness at being just a prop in Hollywood films and their anger at how Hollywood distorts Indian culture. As the interviewee, Charles Hustito, says in the film, “White people took our land and restricted us to reservations. Now they are invading our lives and using them to make money. This is completely unforgivable. Respect our religion. We never tried to turn white people into Indians, so just let us be.” In the last scene of the film, an Indian woman lying in a dentist chair gets up and pushes away her chattering dentist who complacently believes that he is a friend to Indians. She grabs his drill and turns it on the camera lens and then pushes over the camera. This striking image of violence to the camera being used to combat the violence of the camera and the technique used to represent this idea merits further reflection.

Water Land Life-H2opi Run to Mexico (2007) is Victor Masayesva most recent work. The film is built around the Hopi Indians’ international long distance run to bring attention to water issues. It uses images of the run and interviews of those involved to explore Hopi attitudes towards the environment.

Hopi is an abbreviation of Hopi’sinom, which means “People Who Live in The Right Way” or “People of Peace”. The Hopi people’s most basic belief is that they must respect other people and all things upon the Earth. People must live their lives according to the instructions of Maasaw (the creator). The purpose of religious ceremonies is to increase the happiness and welfare of the entire world.

According to oral histories, the Hopi are among the oldest of the North American Indian tribes. Currently, the Hopi Indian Reservation is located in the northeastern part of Arizona, surrounded on four sides by the Navajo Indian Reservation. The Grand Canyon National Park lies close to the southwest. Not counting the Colorado River Valley, Hopi land measures tens of thousands of square miles. The area is entirely desert, covered with red sand and enormous rock formations that would be familiar to anyone who has watched a western.

Water is this area”s most valued natural resource. In recent years, I have traveled there to perform fieldwork. I was hosted in the home of some Navajo Indians located in the middle of the desert, so remote that there was no running water or electricity. Each week, the family must drive their truck to purchase water. They had to walk over six hours back and forth each day to lead their sheep, the household’s only assets, to a small reservoir. It rains fewer than twenty days out of the year and the number goes down even further during droughts. Such difficulties are almost unimaginable for those who have not experienced lack of water on this scale.

Groundwater is an important source of water, but the land is also rich in coal, gold, and turquoise. Mines extract large amounts of groundwater to wash the ore and process the excavated materials. After use in the mine, the waste water is dumped out, polluting the groundwater. Rational use of the area’s limited water resources is essential to the survival of the area’s Indian peoples.

Rather than resorting to violent protests, the peace-loving Hopi Indians decided to use this long distance run to bring attention to the issue among tribe members and the outside world. Carrying maize to represent life and other ceremonial objects such as branches and ladles, a group of Hopi people started the 2000 mile run south to Mexico. Along the route, they stopped to pray and chant with different groups and organizations that they met. The Hopi shared their message that water is the source of all life and by treasuring water, we can begin to respect others and seek world peace. For those living on Taiwan, which is buffeted each year by flood-inducing typhoons, the Hopi’s reverence and respect for water leaves a very deep impression.

Ethnographic and documentary filmmakers around the world often come in conflict with those they film on moral principles. The majority of filmmakers still respect indigenous voices and native points of view, hoping that through sharing their films they can achieve cross cultural understanding and tolerance. The eternal questions are, “How can we make people understand another culture? Is that even possible?” I believe that it is not only an indigenous person who can understand and express an indigenous voice. However, filmmaking requires technical knowledge and a large capital investment, so often it is an outsider who provides the means for an indigenous person to express his own indigenous voice. This is especially the case when the indigenous people belong to a politically or economically disadvantaged group. After watching many ethnographic and documentary films made by outsiders, Victor Masayesva possibly hoped, as an Indian himself, to give the audience another perspective on indigenous voices and a native point of view. We aim to present viewers with this kind of contrast, the most interesting and introspective experience we can provide at this year’s festival.

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Review: Songs of Pastaay

The Making of Songs of Pasta’ay

Tai-li HU

Research Fellow, Institute of Ethnology, Academia Sinica

This year’s Taiwan International Ethnographic Film Festival will show “Songs of Pasta’ay” together with Nobuto Miyamoto’s “Pas-taai — The Saisiyat Ceremony in 1936”, ingeniously bringing together two works that share the same topic, but were filmed 50 years apart.

Reviewing Taiwanese ethnographic film history, although the Japanese government produced several documentaries in Taiwan during the early years of its colonial rule, most of the films were merely propaganda glorifying Japan’s achievements. During the 1930’s, Nobuto Miyamoto, assistant to Taipei Imperial University’s Professor Utsurikawa, picked up a 16mm camera to try his hand at ethnographic filmmaking, producing two films about the island’s indigenous peoples. In 1934, he recorded his first movie, 500 meters of film about the Paiwan tribe’s five-year ceremony. Two years later, he filmed the Saisiat tribe’s Pasta’ay ceremony held in Daai Village. His skill as a filmmaker had markedly improved, as the image clarity and stability of his later film surpass the first. Miyamoto’s pioneering films were forgotten for several decades, but were thankfully rediscovered in the archives of National Taiwan University’s Department of Anthropology in 1994. In cooperation with The National Film Archives, the films were then digitized to preserve them for posterity. The first public showing of Miyamoto’s films during this year’s festival is an important event in the history of Taiwanese ethnographic film.

Exactly fifty years after Miyamoto made his first film, I shot Taiwan’s first color ethnographic film with quasi-simultaneous audio recording, “The Return of Gods and Ancestors: Paiwan Five-year Ceremony”, using a hand-cranked Bell & Howell 16 mm camera. Then in 1986, working with Mr. Lee Daw-Ming, I filmed “Songs of Pasta’ay” about the Saisiat Tribe, also using a 16 mm camera. It was Taiwan’s first ethnographic documentary with simultaneous audio recording.

When I made these two documentaries, I had not yet seen Miyamoto’s films and did not consciously follow in his footsteps, but we had both coincidentally decided to cover the two very same tribal ceremonies. Both of our films chronicling the Paiwan tribe’s five-year ceremony were shot in Daai Village. When shown in succession, the two films reveal the changes that have occurred in this important ceremony over the 50 years that separate our recordings.

It has been 20 years since I filmed “Songs of Pasta’ay”. The date for the Saisiat Tribe’s Pasta’ay Grand Ceremony in 1986 coincidentally fell during the period I directed the Taiwan Indigenous People’s Ceremonial Song and Dance Research Project. I wanted to take the opportunity to record this important ceremony, which is held only once every 10 years (in the past it was normally was held once every two years). The Project’s coordinating researcher, Miss Cheng Yi-yi performed research and filmed at Shiantian Lake (the southern Saisiat ritual group or gaga), while I was in Daai Village (the northern gaga) working on a 16mm documentary film. I yearned to film a documentary with true simultaneous sound recording. After viewing my first documentary, “The Return of Gods and Ancestors”, celebrated cameraman Chang Chao-tang expressed interest in assisting with my next work. With the help of a friend, he got a hold of an obsolete CP16 synchronous camera from a television station. He held the camera himself, while Lee Daw-Ming performed the simultaneous recording using his second-hand Nagra synchronous sound recorder that could operate in coordination with the synchronous camera. He had just graduated from Temple University, where he had received professional cinematography and editing training. Aside from the subsidy we received from the Institute of Ethnology at Academia Sinica, we also applied for support from the Council for Cultural Affairs and the Kodak Company. From a total of 20,000 meters of rough cut film, we produced an hour-long documentary, “Songs of Pasta’ay”, equaling a filming ratio of ten to one.

Before filming began, I performed intensive research, coming across Lin Heng-li’s compelling article, ‘The Songs of the “Pas-Taai”,’ written in 1956. Two months before the Pasta’ay Grand Ceremony, the northern and southern gagas, or ritual groups, hold meetings where they practice the ceremonial songs. These songs are sung in a unique, repetitive way and it takes four to five hours to sing the complete series. Long sections of the songs are made up of function words, while there are about an equal amount of content words, which have meaning. While observing these practice sessions, I systematized the sequence of the verses, repetitive singing method, and functional words. Listening to the songs several times, I was better able to appreciate their strict structure, the alternating content and function words, and the beauty of the songs’ pitch variations. The more I listened and explored, the more captivating the songs of the Pasta’ay became. Could I somehow integrate the unique qualities of the songs with the images I filmed? How should I go about such a task?

Repetitive chanting that is so organized as in these ceremonial songs is quite rare. The repeated rounds of chants represent the incantations of the dwarf people (little people) and reflect the Saisiat people’s ambivalent feelings towards the dwarves. The songs that follow are like poems, separated into verses. Each verse has its own theme and uses a plant name to set the rhyme for the end of each line. Within the songs, there are some particularly important verses that must be sung at the correct time and according to specific rules. Ceremonial songs are separated into two kinds, primary and auxiliary, and the content and functional words play off each other in every song. These characteristics of the ceremonial songs assisted me in assembling and organizing the images in the film. I structured the film to mimic the form of the ceremonial songs as much as possible. Using my own hypothesis, I wanted to extend the complicated feelings that the Saisiat have towards the dwarves to the tribes’ ambivalent feelings about modern day outside influences, such as tourism and the government. Also, I hoped to show that the Saisiat were using the Pasta’ay to organize themselves and work towards alleviating the contemporary crisis facing their people.

Therefore, I arranged the scenes in “Songs of Pasta’ay” as follows:

1.The film is organized into 15 chapters, following the movements of the ceremonial songs themselves, as performed by the northern gaga. Chapter names are based on translations by Lin Heng-li. For example, “role” is the song of Urticaceae, “ayim” is the song of the patroller. Each chapter uses only part of that movement’s song serving to highlight the images in that portion of the film.

2.Just as the songs themselves contain a dichotomy of function and content words, my film is also made up of two parts representing the concrete and the abstract. Within each section, I employed two different methods to match up the songs and images. The concrete portion is comprised of songs with special significance that must be sung during certain portions of the ceremony. When these songs are played during the film, they are shown in sync with the actual ceremony as it is occurring. For example, “Role (the song of Urticaceae)” is sung when the northern and southern gaga meet on the riverbank. The ceremony is officially kicked off with “Raroal (song of invitation)”, which is sung in front of the ceremonial hut facing east to greet the dwarves. “Wawaon (song of the enemy)” is an extremely significant song that must be sung standing up at midnight on the second day, while “Bibilaiyan (song of the Hsiangshan tree)” is a light, spirited song sung on the third night. “Papaosa (the sending home song),” “Arebe, Kokoroy (the road home song),” and “Matano Sibok (song of waiting for the Hazelnut tree)” are all sung as a farewell to the dwarves. While these four songs play, the screen shows the images of the tribe sending away the dwarf spirits. A series of songs also sung on the three nights for the ceremonial dances are simpler than, and not as striking as, some of the other tunes. I, therefore, used them as background music during the abstract chapters of the film. As much as possible, I tried to follow the meaning of the lyrics to convey conceptual, mythical, reflective, reminiscent, and psychological topics. For example, “Kapabalay (song of Calamus)” plays when a young factory worker discusses his feelings about dreaming of the dwarves. When the officiator of the ceremony recounts the legend of the dwarves, “Bə’ə (song of the Arrow Bamboo)” plays in the background. “Ayim (song of the patroller)” is played when someone explains the origins of the handing over of the ceremonial flag. “Heyalo (the raincoat song) ” accompanies the scene where the rain touches off trepidation among the Saisiat. “Awuηə (song of the scarab beetle)” is used to reflect the Saisiat’s complicated feelings towards the pressure to make their ancient rite more attractive to tourists. The song of peril, or “əbəy (song of danger)”, represents their fear of the dwarves’ punishment. During one scene, “Kabtiroro” (the sunshine song) serves to contrast traditional and modern ideas and to describe the tribes’ current economic straits.

3.The interplay of the content and function words within the songs inspired me to contrast images and ideas on screen. The ceremony’s sequence served as the film’s axis, which was then interwoven with images of related tribal activities. Day scenes alternated with those at night and the visible Saisiat people obviously are portrayed differently than the invisible dwarves. Upon the dwarves’ arrival, the Saisiat are thankful and welcoming, but this is paired with caution and fear when they bid the dwarves farewell. These conflicting emotions recur throughout many of the verses. The entire film also employs intense color contrast and the camera intentionally accentuates the contrast between light and dark.

4.No voice over was used in the film in order to encourage the audience to watch the images and listen carefully to the natural sounds of the film. They can concentrate on the songs as they are sung or played in the background, and focus on the interviews without any distractions. Some portions have subtitled explanations, which are less invasive because the audience can decide whether to read them or not.

Some portions, however, did not come out as expected and the content and form were not ideally integrated. Also, not all viewers are able to understand or accept this kind of experiment. Audiences who previewed “Songs of Pasta’ay” were not accustomed to watching a film with no narration because they were used to being fed the filmmaker’s own interpretation. When a filmmaker foregoes authoritative narration, she gives viewers an opportunity to understand and interpret what they see on the screen on their own. In reality, the meaning of the Pasta’ay ceremony is too difficult to completely comprehend, so even I only have an elementary understanding. As I continue to learn and encounter more information, my own interpretations could also change. I hope by presenting these striking images of the Saisiat people in this way, I can provide myself and my audience with more room to imagine.

After the people of the northern gaga watched the film, many requested copies to commemorate the event. “Songs of Pasta’ay” was not only broadcast on Taiwanese TV, but was also shown at film festivals around the world. My Saisiat friends were very gratified that their culture was getting this kind of recognition. At first, some had been upset with the scenes that showed intoxication or tribe members speaking in the Hakka or Taiya languages, because they felt that these exposed some of the tribe’s flaws. However, others believed that, “We cannot fault the filmmaker for recording our shortcomings; instead, this should inspire us to do some soul searching.” It is an important achievement if an ethnographic film can provoke reflection and self-examination among the local aboriginal people featured. We will invite the Saisiat Tribe from Daai Village to attend this year’s screening of “Songs of Pasta’ay” and Mr. Miyamoto’s 1936 film in the hopes that viewing these works will encourage even more reflection.

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