DER Documentary

The Return of Gods and Ancestors: The Five Year Ceremony

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by Hu Tai-Li
color, 35 min, 1985

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The Return of Gods and Ancestors is the first locally made ethnographic film in Taiwan. Under extremely low budget, anthropologist Hu Tai-Li recorded with a hand-cranked Bell & Howell 16 mm camera the most magnificent five year ceremony in Paiwan tribe. The shooting ratio was only 3:1.

The Paiwan people on the one hand expected to receive blessings of the gods and ancestors through piercing rattan balls with extended bamboo poles; on the other, they tried to prevent any harm caused by the evil spirits. During the filming processes, the competitive chiefs were stimulated to reveal the cultural structure in front of the camera. The Paiwan five year ceremony is not only the reunion of the dead and the alive, but the meeting of the old and the new.

Film Festivals, Screenings, Awards
Margaret Mead Film Festival, New York, 1985
American Museum of Natural History, New York
reviewed by American Anthropologist, 1987, Vol.89, No.1: 263-264

Related Resources
"The Camera is Working: Paiwan Aesthetics and Performances in Taiwan", an essay by Hu Tai Li

Series Related films:
Voices of Orchid Island
The Return of Gods and Ancestors: The Five Year Ceremony
Songs of Pasta'ay
Passing Through My Mother-in-Law's Village
Sounds of Love and Sorrow
Encountering Jean Rouch Stone Dream

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Supported By Massachusetts Cultural Council National Endowment for the Humanities National Endowment for the Arts