Shen Suzheng, MA student, Graduate Institute of Taiwan Literature and Transnational Cultural Studies, National Chung Hsing University
What does a “national salvation mountain service team” have to do with village relocation? What does cultural brainwashing have to do with the torment of leaving one’s ancestral home? The film Sakuliu 2: The Conditions of Love (2013) shows the link between these seemingly unconnected things and discovers that their influence and impact are very much the same.
The film’s protagonist, Sakuliu Pvavalung, is a renowned Paiwan artist. Once, he forgot who he really was and thought only about serving the Kuomintang government and promoting state ideology. But after he rediscovered his personal and cultural identity, he used it in his sculpture in an attempt to rouse and inspire his fellow Paiwan people. Wandering between the two poles of aboriginal and mainstream culture, he takes it upon himself to act as a pioneer – standing at the dividing line between two worlds, joining them together while also helping his fellow aborigines resist the dominant ideology.
Director Jofei Chen interweaves Sakuliu’s story with a second thread – that of Typhoon Morakot – and plays the two off each other. On the night of August 8, 2009, torrential rains brought by Morakot caused a massive landslide that destroyed an aboriginal community in Dashe Village, Kaohsiung. Following the disaster, the government responded by relocating the village in order to prevent similar disasters in the future. This act was a continuation of the “national salvation mountain services team’s” onslaught on traditional aboriginal culture. Jofei Chen also tries to bring out the structural problems that aboriginal people have to face in mainstream culture and capitalist society, such as the rural-urban income gap, the unequal distribution of resources, problems with aboriginal education and identity, and the lack of recognition of aboriginal land and traditional territory. The intertribal relationships remind outsiders not to see all indigenous peoples as a single, monolithic “Other.”
When these critical, intractable external problems come to a head and the tribe is forced to relocate, internal rifts open up and conflicts and disputes begin to break out. Apart from creating artworks on the theme of village relocation, Sakuliu is also keen to help with reconstruction efforts. He takes with him a model of a “tribal classroom/reconstructed village,” a teaching aid to help residents plan the relocation and reconstruction of their village.
In 1994 documentary filmmaker Lee Daw-Ming looked at Sakuliu and his family members’ lives in Sakuliu, exposing the problems encountered by the Paiwan and all other aboriginal peoples in Taiwan as well. When Sakuliu 2 is viewed in conjunction with its predecessor, it not only shows how Sakuliu has personally changed in the intervening years but also raises the difficult question: After twenty years, have the problems of Taiwan’s indigenous peoples—unequal distribution of resources, lack of proper recognition, unfair land distribution, and so on –been resolved? Or have they only gotten worse?
1 Sponsored by the China Youth Corps (CYC), “national salvation mountain service teams” were groups of university students who went to aboriginal villages to promote Chinese culture in the guise of helping poor aborigines.