The biennial Taiwan International Ethnographic Film Festival (台灣國際民族誌影展) took place in Taipei from 29 September to 2 October. The theme of the 2007 festival was "Indigenous Voices". The aim of this was to offer a perspective from indigenous people themselves rather than that of anthropologists and film makers. It featured documentaries from Taiwan and around the world.
The first session I attended was on Sunday afternoon. I saw two documentaries about the Saisiat (賽夏族; also spelt Saisiyat), a tribe from the mountainous areas of Xinzhu and Miaoli Counties in Taiwan. I was particularly curious to see these after visiting Nanzhuang, one of two areas in Taiwan where the Saisiat live, earlier this year.
Pas-taai: The Saisiat Ceremony in 1936 (巴斯達隘：1936年的賽夏祭曲)was made by Nobuto Miyamoto, a Japanese anthropologist in 1936. It shows the Pas-taai ceremony (矮靈祭). This ceremony is held by the Saisiat once every two years. However, the film had sat in the archives for 70 years and the screening was its first public screening since that time. Following that Songs of Pasta'ay (矮人祭之歌), made in 1986, was screened. It was interesting to see the contrasts although the basic elements of the ritual were unchanged.
Members of the Saisiat tribe from Wufeng Township (五峰鄉) in Xinzhu County were present at the screening. Some of the older men said they felt very moved by the film and could recognise some of their relatives in the film. Prof. Hu Tai-li said in the next few months they will screen the documentary in Saisiat communities.
On Monday morning I saw three documentaries from Australia. These were presented by CAAMA. These documentaries were made for television in Australia, but I was glad to have the chance to see them in Taiwan.
Then on Monday afternoon I saw three more documentaries from Taiwan. Amongst these was When the Village Encounters the Country (當部落遇到國家) which was about the Smangus case. The documentary focused on the events surrounding their sentencing and a subsequent protest to the Forestry Bureau in April and May 2007. While I don't think it presented any new information it confirmed the fact that the three men have suffered a great insult and injustice.
Another of the documentaries in this session, Conversation between Tali and Yaki (達利和雅給的對方), was about Atayal facial tattooing. This traditional custom of the Atayal was banned during the Japanese era and today only a few old people carry the traditional tattoos. Tali, a young Atayal man in Taoyuan County decided to get his own tattoo and the film explored what it meant to him. It contrasted his opinion with that of Yaki, an old woman who was tattooed during the Japanese era.
Although I was only able to attend a few sessions of the festival I thought the program was rich and varied. I learnt a lot from the documentaries I saw and I look forward to the next festival two years from now.