DER Documentary

Voices of Orchid Island

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by Hu Tai-Li
color, 73 min, 1993




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Voices of Orchid Island focuses on the Yami on Orchid Island, a small island located 45 miles off the southeast coast of Taiwan in the Pacific Ocean. The film explores the complex and often troubled relationship the Yami community has with the outside world by looking in detail at three different cases of "invasion" it has experienced.

The film opens by directly addressing the suspicions the Yami have of outsiders. The visit of a Taiwanese tour group to the island is fraught with cultural miscues, sometimes humorous in their absurdity, but there are also sobering hints of exploitation. By the end of this scene it is easy to understand why the Yami have forbidden tourists to photograph them. The second aspect the film deals with is the island's medical care. The film follows the one western-trained doctor on his rounds as he tries to introduce a basic level of modern medicine while confronting a firmly entrenched set of local beliefs and traditions. Finally, the film documents the local anti-nuclear movement, the target of which is the nuclear waste dump the ROC government has built on the island. We hear representatives of the national government defend the site's safety while local people express their fears and concerns at having the site so near by. Woven throughout the film are views of Orchid Island's rugged, gorgeous scenery and its vibrant festivals.


Film Festivals, Screenings, Awards
Best Documentary Film, Taipei Golden Horse Film Festival, 1993
Silver Plaque Award - Documentary Film, Chicago International Film Festival, 1994
Bilan du Film Ethnographique, Paris, 1994
Gottingen International Ethnographic Film Festival, Germany, 1994
14th Hawaii International Film Festival, 1994
OKOMEDIA, Freiburg, Germany, 1994
Hong Kong International Film Festival, 1994
Margaret Mead Film Festival, New York, 1995

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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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