Retrospective

Songs of Pastaay

Hu Tai-Li, Lee Daw-ming

The Pasta’ay, which means the festival of the legendary little people, is a significant ritual held every other year in the Saisiat aborigine group in Taiwan.
Every ten years, they hold the Great Ritual. This film focuses on the Great Ritual in 1986. It tries to convey the Saisiat people’s affection for and belief in the legendary little people. At the same time, the film brings into light Saisiat people’s ambivalence towards tourist invasion, and their dilemma of being caught between tradition and modernization. Structured by the Pasta’ay songs’ movements, the film breaks down to 15 chapters. It carefully juxtaposes the visual with the aural elements, which are conveyed in the conceptual dichotomy between “the real” and “the artificial”.
This film is with the intention to present the content of Pasta’ay (the festival of the legendary little people) of the Saisiat aborigine group in Taiwan by imitating the unusual structure of Pasta’ay songs. The repetitive song pattern seems to reflect the Saisait people’s ambivalent feelings of reverence and fear, welcome and rejection, towards the outsite world, represented by the legendary little people, ta’ay.

Pas-taai – The Saisiyat Ceremony in 1936

Nobuto Miyamoto

From late November to early December in 1936, Utsurikawa Nenozo, professor of Institute of Ethnology, Imperial Taihoku University, guided his assistant Myamoto Nobuto to the Ta-ai ceremony ground in Hsinchu’s Five Finger Mountain area to investigate the Saisiyat ceremony, Pas-taai. With cameras, they documented the lively large-scale sacred events which lasted for days. Through the precious images, the people and the scenes of the ceremony of seventy years ago reappear before our eyes, including various clans beating glutinous rice cakes, the making of the dance hat Kirakil, ceremonial singing and dancing to entertain the spirits, and processes such as chasing the spirits, sending off the spirits, food worship, chopping hazels, destroying racks, etc.

Dead Birds

Robert Gardner

Dead Birds is a film about the Dani, a people dwelling in the Grand Valley of the Baliem high in the mountains of West Papua. When I shot the film in 1961, the Dani had a classic Neolithic culture. They were exceptional in the way they dedicated themselves to an elaborate system of ritual warfare. Neighboring groups, separated by uncultivated strips of no man’s land, engaged in frequent battles. When a warrior was killed in battle or died from a wound and even when a woman or a child lost their life in an enemy raid, the victors celebrated and the victims mourned. Because each death needed to be avenged, the balance was continually adjusted by taking life. There was no thought of wars ever ending, unless it rained or became dark. Wars were the best way they knew to keep a terrible harmony in a life that would be, without them, much drearier and unimaginable.