Shi Tingyu, PhD student, Graduate Institute of Taiwan Literature, National Taiwan University
Directed by renowned director of television soap operas Fung Kai, the 2012 film Din Tao: Leader of the Parade tells the story of a traditional Taiwanese festival parade, trying to convey the value of this cultural tradition and show how it has dealt with the processes of modernization and urbanization, which have precipitated a crisis of transformation, and the friction between generations over issues of cultural identity.
Din Tao is a street parade put on as part of the celebrations for a religious fair in a traditional agricultural village. The troupe performs dance routines to give thanks to the gods, with singing and acting that humans, too, can enjoy. The blend of acting, acrobatics, martial arts, and music also showcases local folk and religious customs, which are a valuable cultural resource. However, as Taiwan becomes ever more modernized and industrialized, the sharp drop in population suffered by agricultural villages makes the survival of the cultural traditions shown in Din Tao extremely doubtful.
The film’s storyline also shows the predicament of folk art groups everywhere in recent years. Protagonist A-Tai (played by Alan Ko) is a rural boy who leaves home for Taipei in the hope of starting a musical career but is forced by practical necessity to return to the village to try a different path, earning the taunts of his father, A-Da (played by Chen Bozheng), who is also the parade leader. Back in the village, A-Tai sees that his father’s troupe is already in decline and realizes suddenly that traditional kinds of performance may be unable to meet the demands of modern society, but he also thinks deeply about how to improve the troupe and in the process rediscovers his own passion for music and performing. However, when A-Tai looks for a way forward his father rebukes him, saying, “If you go against tradition, you go against your ancestors.” In the end, A-Tai proves himself to his father when he leads the troupe in a performance on the national stage.
From the beginning of the film, images of the electric guitar and the skin drum are used to symbolize the conflict between Western and traditional cultures. After a series of clashes and reconcilements regarding forms of expression and core values, in the end a balance is reached and the two approaches are brought together in the form of a business venture which enables outsiders to participate in cultural festivals—a compromise that allows both sides to co-exist. But we have to question whether this third way does in fact ensure the continuation of traditional folk art. Does such “reinvention” actually preserve the essential core values and spirit of folk art? The film does not offer any answers.
Only one thing is certain: the film will pique the viewer’s interest in folk art and the culture of Din Tao. The film adapts for the screen the cultural renewal program of the Taiwanese Din Tao group Chio-Tian Folk Drums & Arts Troupe. It also cunningly incorporates the real-life story of the childhood and adolescence of some of the troupe members, thus transforming the popular stereotype of Din Tao culture and challenging traditional folk art to rebuild itself in a modern, mass-market world.
|Related Literary Themes：||Religious Literature|