Cepo, the estuary of Siouguluan River, is said to be the landing point where the Pangcah ancestor first stepped on Taiwan. The Makutaay Tribe here have maintained the traditional age system. The young generation will have an “upgrade” ritual every 4 years when the youngsters who work in the cities will return home for the special occasion. When the young tribesmen move up to the highest level: Mama Nu Kapah, they need to drink up a big bowl of rice wine when the sun rises in the morning after all night’s singing and dancing. However, with time changes, the youngsters now requested to change this traditional ritual that had been passing down for thousands of years. They wish to improve the “upgrade” ritual, or even abolish it. Can the suggestion gain approval from the Elders of the tribe?
The Bunun is a High Mountainous tribe, inhabiting in the area of the Central Mountain Range. Most Bunun aborigines are skillful mountain climbers, and are sometimes called the “sherpas” of Taiwan. They have been often hired as guides even up until today. Although back in the early days their work was considered as porterage, assisting mountaineers in carrying their heavy luggages and finding their way up the mountains, no one can ever deny that, while common people happily claim to be “mountaineers”, they know not the fact that almost all the trails up in the Jade Mountain, the highest peak in Taiwan, was built by Bunun Aborigines.
Wu Sheng-Mei and Kuan Kui-Lin were among some of the most famous “sherpas” of Jade Mountain back then. The bronze statue of Yu Yu-jen placed on the top of Jade Mountain was indeed erected by both of them. Unfortunately, their great effort had seriously damaged their health conditions, resulting in their bad knees and legs. This documentary is a lively recording of their current lives and their memories as well as the whole process of carrying the bronze statue of Yu Yu-jen all the way up to the top of Taiwan’s highest point.
The tribe living under the San-ying Bridge is charged with violation of the Water Act every year and will witness the powerful, which is rarely seen, execution of the government’s law enforcement that vacates even the shattered construction material after the demolition. On the other hand, the sand processing plant on the right side of the tribe grows bigger and bigger each day, and the garbage dumpsite on the left bank grows higher and higher each day. The government spends tens of millions of dollars to dispose of the hazardous waste material underneath the bridge. For those who live under the bridge, Ching Yu wants them back to the mountain!
The tremendous grassroots effort led by Black Mesa Trust to stop Peabody Mining Company from pumping pristine drinking water to transport coal was accomplished on December 31, 2005. With the termination of coal revenues the Hopi villages considered their future survival, reflecting on the traditional beliefs that have carried them through similar hard times over a millennium in the Southwest. The Hopi found the right prayer for the villages and for all people: running. In the documentary, Hopi runners carried a gourd of water gathered from international waters in the attempt to convey the message that “Water is Life” to the Fourth World Water Forum in 2006. The runners’ footsteps and breath vibrate in the wind approaching the critical moment which will result in the release of energy. In the Hopi belief this energy released into the environment is the real message to and from water! The message is shared now, in Paatuwaqatsi.
Having visited tribal communities in Arizona, Montana, New Mexico, South Dakota, Washington and the Amazon to produce this film, director Victor Masayesva says, “Coming from a village which became embroiled in the filming of Darkwind, a Hollywood production on the Hopi Reservation, I felt a keen responsibility as a community member, not an individual, to address these impositions on our tribal lives. Even as our communities say no, outsiders are responding to this as a challenge instead of respecting our feelings….I have come to believe that the sacred aspects of our existence which encourages the continuity and vitality of Native peoples are being manipulated by an aesthetic in which money is the most important qualification. This contradicts the values intrinsic to what’s sacred and may destroy our substance. I am concerned about a tribal and community future which is reflected in my film and I hope this challenges the viewer to overcome glamorized Hollywood views of the Native American, which obscures the difficult demands of walking the spiritual road of our ancestors.”