Review: Path of Destiny

Brian Hioe
Editor at New Bloom, where this review first appeared.

Yang Chun-Kai’s “Path of Destiny” (不得不上路) would be a deft evocation of the challenges facing preservation of indigenous tradition in Taiwan. Namely, even in those rare cases in which young people actively aim to participate in traditions which may soon be lost, the trend may be irreversible. And given inescapable social tensions between modernity and tradition, adherence to tradition demands great personal sacrifice.

The main focus of “Path of Destiny” is Panay Mulu, the youngest member of a group of Sikaway mediums who carry out ceremonies throughout the year to heal sickness and call upon the gods. The other members of this group are elderly, the much younger Panay having originally joined the group as part of scholarly research into Sikawasay tradition, and subsequently stayed with the group for over twenty years. Seeing as the group of Sikawasay the film focuses upon has already lost many of its members to age over the course of the twenty years Panay has been with the group, it is…

Review: The Woods Dreams are Made of

DJ W. Hatfield

Associate Professor of History and Anthropology

Berklee College of Music

On Places of Public Dreaming: Claire Simon’s The Woods Dreams are Made of

In his 1983 novel Crystal Boys 《孽子》Pai Hsien-Yong 白先勇 described Taipei’s New Park as “our hidden kingdom in darkness” 「我們黑暗王國」— at night, with the gates shut, this real space behind walls somehow became a fantasy land of imagined freedoms that could not be entertained, let alone realized, in daylight. Claire Simon’s The Woods Dreams are Made of explores a year in the life of what Simon calls an “accessible form of Paradise Lost,” an urban woods in which various dreams and life projects can take root. As in Pai’s work, the film provides an occasion for us to consider the relationship between space and urban subjectivity.

Simon depicts the Bois de Vincennes as a magnanimous and surprising character, whose changes throughout the seasons and ability to befriend nearly every urban denizen in need of respite give the woods a universal character. Within the woods, we…

Review: The Third Shore

Dr. Teri J. Silvio
Institute of Ethnology Academia Sinica

“When I’m here, I miss there; when I’m there I miss here.”

The Third Shore is a fascinating film in which the relationships among culture, history, and personal identity are explored. Concrete objects take on layers of significance, and the answer to each question reveals a deeper mystery. It deals directly with the issue of relations between indigenous peoples and settlers in the Amazon, but the characters’ alienation and moments of connection probably resonate with culturally displaced viewers everywhere.

The film gives us glimpses into two men who cross between settler and indigenous cultures from opposite directions. Director Fabian Remy is first fascinated when he comes across the story of João da Luz, the child of one of the first settler families in the region who was captured in 1945, at the age of 10, in a raid by a group of Kayapo. He was taken back to the Kayapo village, where he was adopted into a chief’s family, given a new name, Kramura, and taught Kayapo language and customs.…

Review: Faber Navalis

Gabriele de Seta

Faber Navalis is a movie about the embodied craftiness of boat-making. In the mobile camera-eye of Maurizio Borriello, the film-maker is also the faber navalis or ‘maker of ships’, at the same time director and directed, both silent artisan and self-aware documentarist. Condensed in thirty minutes of carefully spliced shots and intimate sounds is a compressed timeline of manual labor, wood and image treated as raw materials with symmetrical care. Just like each of the poetically framed scenes composing this documentary, an individual plank of wood is measured, marked, cut, contoured, sanded, polished, bent, transported and fixed into place. After half an hour of entrancing woodwork, as the creaking plank is being hammered into its matching gap on a side of the ship, one can imagine Borriello’s parallel work on the multitrack interface of a video-editing software, each audio and video track a painstakingly but instinctively shaped plank composing the waterproof hull of this documentary.

Trained as an anthropologist and working on a marine ethnography in post-Tsunami Indonesia, Maurizio Borriello resorted to learn the art of boatbuilding…

Review: Secrets of the Tribe

Anthropology Beyond the Pale : Reviewing Secrets of the Tribe

清大魏捷茲老師

Watching the Jose Padilha directed film Secrets of the Tribe (2010) is deeply troubling. Secrets of the Tribe is about professional anthropological misconduct and its consequences for the Yanomami (also called Ya̧nomamö or Yanomama). Although extent professional association and university investigations have so far passed no final judgment on wrongdoing on the part of the anthropologists, Secrets of the Tribe suggests the Yanomami engagement with anthropology has not been in the best interests of the Yanomami. The way the film makes its point is to show how the Yanomami talk about the anthropologists, how the anthropologists talk about the Yanomami, and how anthropologists talk about anthropologists. (Sadly, the film does not show how the Yanomami talk with Yanomami about anthropologists.) Viewing the film suggests to me that the anthropology discipline’s own culture of language use contributed to the abuses the film seeks to expose and that abuse will be piled upon abuse unless anthropologists learn how to talk with each other.

It is common knowledge that the…