Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Aboriginal Taiwanese Tai Ya Tribe

Charlene and I traveled more than three hours by taxi, train and van ride to visit the Aboriginal Taiwanese tribe Tai Ya. The Aboriginal Taiwanese are like the Native American Indians in many, many ways: the original settlers of the areas, many native tribes that lived in the areas, foreigners came in and "took" the land from them, eventually the current governments gave them areas of land or reservations to live on.

The Tai Ya village is up in the mountains about an hour drive away from Taichung. They get mail maybe once a week and usually do not leave unless they have a job outside the village, or need to go grocery shopping. They speak their native tribal language, but almost all of them also speak Mandarin Chinese.

We were asked by Charlene's high school classmate who is married and lives this village, to come visit and do a "workshop". We were not quite sure what to do, but eventually we decided to make a short film involving many of  the school children in the tribe using photos, video, animation and music all created by the children. The theme for the short film would be 部落 夢想 家 - Tribe, Dreams & Home.

We arrived on Monday and began working with the children. Charlene took a group of kids and worked on cut-out animation, photography and video. I took another group of kids and worked on recording a Chinese song they wanted to sing, worked with percussion instruments, played guitar and recorded some sound effects.  I created a karaoke version of this Chinese song without vocals.  Then we recorded the kids singing over it and even added one girl's homemade percussion "shakers" over the song. In the end we finished the final edit of the short film 8 minutes before the film debut scheduled for 6:00pm Tuesday evening.

By 6:00pm the schoolhouse was full of children, parents and volunteers who all were anxious to watch the movie. We showed the 4 minute film a few times as well as did a live acoustic guitar version of the same song, and also a drum and dance version of another song. It was a great time and everyone was extremely kind and gracious. There is a sincerity and honesty about children that you just don't get with adults. Sometimes it can be frustrating and difficult, but it is something magical that we all seem to lose as we get older, so it's a pleasure to be around kids and experience such a special time in their lives.

Here is the film 部落 夢想 家 - Tribe, Dreams & Home:

After the show we took a van ride down the mountain into town, took a train, then a taxi and finally arrived home late Tuesday night. It had the feeling of being a secret agent, dropped into an area, sent to do mission, and then leaving mission accomplished. A whirlwind 30 hour round trip experience from Taipei, but something I won't forget for a long, long time.


  1. That is amazing Jim and Char! I'm so proud of you both. You two could make a great documentary team, winning an Oscar some day!

  2. Nice work Top Jimmy and same to Charlene.

  3. Bravo you two!!! Wow... I'm blown away by such amazing work in such a short time window! I've posted a link on my fb... This really deserves to be shared!


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