Yu Shun-Chi, MA, Graduate Institute of Taiwanese Literature, National Chengchi University
To promote and preserve Atayal culture, Shei-pa National Park financed Atayal Millennium (2006), a short film directed by Chen Wenbin, winner of a Golden Horse “Best Documentary” award. During the filming Atayal director Biling Yabu was invited to record the movie crew’s interactions with Atayal villagers, resulting in another documentary, Atayal: A Thousand Years Have Passed.
In 2008 Atayal Millennium won the Worldfest-Houston International Film Festival’s Platinum Prize for Best Ethnic and Cultural film. A few years later director Chen based another film on that earlier work. Everlasting Moments, a story of aborigines living in a modern urban area, was Taiwan’s first full-length motion picture in which most of the dialogue was in either the Atayal or the Pangcah (Amis) languages. Everlasting Moments premiered in 2011 and was selected to compete in film festivals in Singapore and Heidelberg.
The story is set in both the past and the present, following two plotlines. Buta, an ancient Atayal chieftain, is leading his clan in search of new land – the survival of his people is at stake. In the course of his quest, however, Buta gets lost in the fog and wanders into a modern city, where he meets Dagun, a fellow aborigine and government bureau chief. In spite of residents’ protests, the government plans to tear down an illegal housing unit, home to members of the Yami tribe. Dagun is caught in the middle – he sympathizes with his people, yet is part of the very bureaucracy that will render them homeless. But before he can resolve his dilemma, he is involved in a car accident and falls into a coma. Buta then appears to Yougan, Dagun’s brother, who has come to care for Dagun. Buta and Yougan have a long series of talks in which Buta attempts to convince the two brothers to “come home.”
“Home” is the film’s theme – an ancient Atayal chieftain gets lost looking for a new home, and a modern government tears down indigenous peoples’ housing while residents cry out in protest: “We want our homes!” When Buta tries to convince Yougan to give up his nomadic city life and return to the village to become a “true Atayal,” Yougan retorts, “Have you found your home?” Throughout the film Director Chen shows audiences what it means to be a true Atayal, offering a beautiful and nostalgic look at life lived according to ancient tribal teachings. In the end Buta is reunited with his kinfolk and together they find the road home. Yougan returns to his village and begins a new life, and Dagun crosses the “rainbow bridge,” returning to the eternal homeland of his ancestral spirits. Thus, the three Atayal souls have all completed their journeys home.