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Monday, June 2, 2014

My Experience as a Movie Director

Coco Hsiao

Last summer, I participated in an incredible activity – “Click Taiwan,” which was sponsored by the Chunghwa Telecommunications Foundation to shoot a documentary film. The foundation hoped not only to observe and record aborigine cultural values, but also to build a bridge between cities and country towns. It was an amazing chance to tell stories of how beautiful Taiwan is from a college student’s view.

All photos by the author
 Kttp Village” is the home of the aboriginal tribe from Puyuma, which is located in Zhiben, Taitung. It is a beautiful area with lots of natural scenery that visitors from the city especially enjoy.

“Cooperation” is the first thing that comes to mind when visitors first meet the Puyuma people. I discovered that working together is their core value; they believe that “unity is strength.” For example, no matter if they are rich or poor, villagers like to help others as much as they can and to share what they have. They love the feeling of getting together to complete everything as if they’re a big family. This also shows their loyalty toward their hometown.


A few days after I arrived, I began to find some inspiration for my film. As I was walking through the village lanes, I saw some white flags printed with black writing hanging on the walls. These banners announced a Kttp Village activity, “Against Tomb Migration,” which was a protest against the government policy of forcing the villagers to move their family tombs. The people who live in Kttp not only wanted to express their anger and opposition, but also defend their homeland. The link between their ancestors and later generations is a symbol of “inheritance,” just like the roots of a tree: if you cut the roots the branches will die; likewise, if the ancestral tombs are moved the culture and traditions of the tribe will gradually disappear.

I was touched by the villagers’ insistent attitude in protecting their ethnic honor and rights. Most people nowadays are too detached to stand up and give voice to their concerns. This activity gave me the idea of recording the feeling of pain and sadness people experience when faced with losing their culture.

In order to preserve the traditional wisdom of their ancestors, the residents held a week-long “Aboriginal Cultural Summer Camp” for their children to teach them more about their traditional culture. At this camp, there were lots of interesting courses and activities like the aboriginal language, harvest dance, arts & crafts DIY (making hunting traps), singing, and traveling around the village to understand the historic sites. 

The most significant part of these activities is learning how to work together with others. As the teachers interacted with the students, I could feel how the villagers really attached importance to their culture and wanted to hand it down to the next generation.

The year 2013 was a special year for Kttp Village because it was the first time the teenagers held this summer camp by themselves. Although it was not an easy task, they still tried hard to do well. When they prepared for the camp, I could sense these teenagers’ growth through my camera. At first, they were nervous and afraid to speak in front of a group; they even had no idea how to manage their schedule. 

However, these young people were determined to complete their mission even though they faced many difficulties. They believed they could overcome all obstacles and achieve their goal because they had a passion heart for continuing their traditions. As they worked together, the teenagers became braver and more confident in resolving their problems. Seeing the determination their eyes as they worked together to confront challenges was a beautiful and inspiring sight. I decided to record this theme as the second part of my film to capture a glimpse of every moving scene. 

During the process of shooting the film, there were some obstacles such as “Integrating a different cultural thinking,” which was a complicated one for me to solve because I am a visitor from another city. I thought that even though we might come from different backgrounds, I should not only stand at the same level to understand the aboriginal values and behavior, but also truthfully record the villagers’ point of view. Otherwise, my film would be a spectator film without any emotion. Another problem was the “Young people’s interviews.” Most of these teenagers were too shy to express their opinions, so I tried my best to chat in a friendly way and record at the same time. This created a relaxed atmosphere free of stress. Dealing with these problems taught me the importance of considering more carefully how other people feel.

My fifteen days in Kttp Village flew by. This proved to be an important opportunity for me to learn another philosophy of life. This film-making experience taught me how to break away from the stereotypes about aboriginal culture. If you would also break free from you preconceptions of aboriginal culture, perhaps you would like to participate in the next “Click Taiwan” activity. Search the Internet for “Click Taiwan” for more information on how to apply. I am positive that you will reap a unique harvest of lasting memories!  

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