The 'Teilhard adventure' started for me at the beginning of the year 2013 after reading the 'libretto', written in French by Benoit Vermander. Very dense and documented, the 20 pages were my first immersion into Teilhard de Chardin's world. I appreciated Benoit Vermander's pedagogical approach: in his usual concise style, he resumed a lifelong story while giving prominence to the texts and the voice of Teilhard. Thus I discovered the intense text of the Mass on the World and even had the chance to re-read a French school classic: an excerpt from 17th century philosopher Pascal.
But my challenge was to make a film of this 20 pages-long literary piece.
While working on the pre-production phase of the movie, we came across another team preparing a bigger scale documentary for US television: Frank and Mary Frost from Frank Frost Productions. Frank and Benoit had met during a colloquium on Teilhard in 2012 and they had kept in touch since then. Frank and Mary had planned a research site trip to China and they were very kind to invite us to join them.
In May 2013, I embarked on a trip to Beijing and Ningxia with Taiwanese filming assistant, Sharon Liu. Thanks to Frank and Mary's contacts, we met for example Hailu You, a paleontologist from the Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology of China (IVPP) who appears in the movie.
The following video is an interview with Frank at the end of our trip:
In the meantime, Benoit Vermander was planning an intercultural workshop organized by Fudan University with the support of the Taipei Ricci Institute. The workshop, held in Inner Mongolia, would invite scholars and writers, mostly from Shanghai and Taipei, to read and discuss excerpts from Teilhard's work. The logistical preparation of the workshop was undertaken by Liang Zhun, a photographer based in Shanghai and a long-term collaborator of Benoit Vermander. She notably contributed to the film the beautiful shots of the desert and the Salawusu Valley.
The workshop was also quite an interesting experience: our heteroclit group got immersed in the immensity of the landscapes that Teilhard had crossed nearly a century ago. One of the most dramatic moments was probably when a small group of us went at dawn to the plateau bordering the desert of Ordos to listen to Yaling Wu, a lecturer at the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences, read in Chinese the Mass on the World at the same spot Teilhard celebrated it.
After my trip to China, I joined Benoit Vermander in the region of Auvergne, Teilhard's birthplace in France, where we were very generously welcomed by his closest living relatives: his nephew Henri du Passage and daughter Marie Bayon de La Tour who inherited Teilhard's passion for geology. As we accompanied her to the banks of the river Allier where he used to take his nephews to show them rocks, one could even more vividly feel Teilhard's deep understanding of nature and Marie Bayon de la Tour, interviewed in the film, also emphasized this aspect: "Auvergne can only be understood if we imagine that it is alive, and that its geology evolves with time. I think it influenced Father Teilhard."
Once back in Taipei, I undertook the task of editing and finalizing the production of the movie, and finally the French version of the documentary premiered in Paris in June 2014 at the Centre Sèvres. The Chinese version was screened during the colloquium "Teilhard and the Future of Humankind" held in Beijing in October 2014. (Lien vers article BV) A year later the release of the DVD in its three versions, French, English and simplified Chinese would coincide with the anniversary of Teilhard's death.
Like any other project and human experience, this film in its three versions is the result of lucky encounters and fruitful collaborative work with all the difficulties and obstacles that it implies. I hope that this attempt of introducing Teilhard de Chardin to the Chinese audience, and to a broader public in general, can be the start of more dialogue, discussion and understanding between the people of different horizons.
This three part documentary was recorded over 20 years ago by the Guangqi film studios, but takes us back 400 years with re-enactments of conversations that would have actually happened between the Jesuit Matteo Ricci and his friend Xu Guangqi. A challenge that all western students of Chinese can relate to in part, Ricci shows us what it was to struggle through the strokes of a Chinese character before the days of the The Grand Ricci, let alone the brand new digital version. Fittingly Ricci is played by Jesuit Jerry Martinson.
Fr Jerry Martinson who acts Matteo Ricci in this film has also been involved in many cross cultural dialogue missions of his own, to hear about them click here.
A review of documentary ‘Cradle of Happiness’, directed by Asel Juraeva, Kyrgyzstan, 2010, Digi-Beta, color, 20’
The movie starts in a hospital: white ceiling, white gloves, the sound of a heartbeat reproduced by the echography machine, a robotic sound that will stop as we see a doctor or a nurse take what seems to be surgical instruments of abortion. Then a fade out opens on to a dusty road, two little boys play at the foreground. A close-up lets us guess that they are twins.
This 20 minute movie is about the simple and happy life of these two little boys who basically spend their time playing in the garden, eating, watching TV and sleeping. The scenes are filmed at their eye-level, thus adopting their point of view and making us enter their world where adults are scarcely present: their mother, pregnant, who bathes and dresses them, their grandparents and their father who appears only once as he comes home.
So the space of representation in the movie just varies between the house and the garden in a continuous coming and going (va-et-vient). But another reality pierces through the opening created by the screen of the TV: the uninterrupted broadcast of images of war and violence contrasts with the serene sequences that depict the games and the activities of the family. As the camera lingers on the eyes of the little boys mesmerized by the TV, one of them suddenly lowers his look as though sadness has invaded him. That scene preludes the only fight scene between the twins (inside the house) which is followed by a long shot of the deserted garden where a toy gun remains.
The movie impresses by its scarcity of information: we only know that it takes place in Kyrgyzstan because of this strange sentence which opens the movie both in Russian and English: “Kyrgyzstan is a country of short films!” But we don’t know which village or town or city; also none of the people are named, there isn’t either any time indication. In fact, the movie is almost mute, only punctuated by the chirping of the boys. And this is what precisely gives to the movie its universal meaning and its interest. What we are told here is not the story of a particular family but the story of humanity through its particularism, with a certain Rousseauistic perspective: the innocent happiness of humans in nature disturbed by the corruption of a violent outside world that will maybe see these boys grow old to be soldiers; the opposition between childhood and adult age, the close tangle of life and death. But the movie is not pessimistic as it finishes on a note of hope with the birth of the twins’ little sister: the circle closes finally on life.
Rituals organize and symbolize a way of living together. Through the enactment of rituals, a community expresses its fear, its solidarity and its longings. In traditional societies, performing rituals enables people to organize time and space into a meaningful universe, to renew their commitment to the group to which they belong, and to cement an alliance among them, with nature and with the supernatural.
The variety of ritual forms is astounding. It reflects the richness of cultural forms, artworks and humane inventiveness. Among the ethnic minorities who, all together, account for almost ten percent of China's population, those living in the southwest may offer the widest repertoire of ritual performances. Caring for the souls of the dead, exorcising ghosts so as to cure illnesses, rejoicing at marriages, New Year or at harvest time. The four rituals mentioned here all take place in Sichuan province, among people of Yi, Qiang and Ersu ethnic origins.
Sitting nearby his canoe Thomas speaks more at length of his sense of cultural loss. Like the rest of his family and the whole village, he defines himself as a Catholic. But he speaks of the missionaries of the ancient time with a thinly veiled resentment: "They took everything away from us... they were very clever... They alienated us from our customs by making us afraid that our ancestral ways would lead us to death, and also by pointing out that the sacrifice of pigs and other rituals were all very expensive. They took away the skulls, and dumped them into the bush... They told us that they was only God, no spirits or ancestors... No, we cannot come back to the past, we cannot retrieve ancient sacrificial ways. We would be afraid to do so. If they had only suppressed bad customs.... But they took everything away, the good with the bad."
I have been living in Taiwan since 1992, but, like most inhabitants of the island, I have been turning westwards more often than eastwards. And when I was leaving on research trips, most of the time they took me to southwest China, to remote mountainous areas, to study religious rituals and social changes, seemingly as far away from the Pacific world as possible. Still, a few months after my arrival in Taiwan, I spent some time in Taitung County, and, since then, the Pacific coastline entered my vision and my imagination. As the years went by I returned more frequently to Eastern Taiwan, as if drawn by a mysterious force leading me away from what had been my center of gravity. In 2008, I spent around 4 months of rest in Tafalong, an Amis village in Hualien County. That was a hot summer, and there were few trees around. I was often lying down, trying to recover from the heat as well as from the state of exhaustion that had led me to this refuge. When I was able to, I wandered around, most of the time in the early morning or in the late afternoon, and later on I painted – painted the fields, the mountains and the houses that were surrounding me, painted the feelings of heat and exhaustion which were sometimes overwhelming, and painted also the stories, chants and myths I heard. I also listened to family tales and to ancestors' genealogies. The documentary we subsequently produced with the Renlai team is called "On the Fifth day, the Tide Rose", referring to the chant that describes the deluge from which the first couple that inhabited the village escaped. I still remember the struggle against heat and exhaustion, my reactions to the personal and collective stories I was listening to, the strange and enchanting beauty of this part of Eastern Taiwan, situated between two mountain ranges, and the mysterious attraction of the sea nearby. You do not see the ocean from Tafalong, but the Pacific is waiting a few kilometers away, like a giant, threatening and captivating presence. You do not see the ocean in the paintings created at that time, but it is hidden into them – for the Ocean is the primal force that made me come with these tiny islets of ink, colors and paper scattered among the Sea of Unknowing.
Along the years, the experience of standing on the Eastern seashore gave rise to a pervading feeling: I started to see the Pacific Ocean not only as a physical but as a "mystical" space as well; and reading more about the Pacific world I realized intimately that its immensity and the experience of its crossing had inspired in-depth spiritual experiences expressed through stories, myths, poems, music and epics; its borders and islands have witnessed the coming and melting of all the world's mystical traditions breaking along its shore wave after wave; it is ultimately one of the privileged spaces where humankind has refined and chanted the experience and "resonance" of the Divine. The commonality of such spiritual experience is sometimes summarized by the term of "oceanic feeling", though such wording remains open to challenges and controversies. The metaphors of "depth", "abyss', 'water", "resonance', "oneness" and "circularity" also find special echo through the physical experience specific to the Pacific world. Linguistic and musical expression, mystical experience, literary and artistic metaphors, and cross-cultural synthesis here melt into one.
And Taiwan is a point of departure, of melting and of destination of the stories weaved by the waves...
But does Taiwan's youth, especially its indigenous youth, nurture a sense of belonging to the Pacific world? Does its original connection with this open world encourage its creativity, its perception of the "resonance" that related stories, music and art forms take throughout this oceanic interchange? Such questions have been shared and debated by more and more people, as Taiwan's quest for meaning and spiritual depth has intensified and evolved during the last ten years or so. The quest for the Pacific connection (a quest often inchoative and ambiguous,) has been part of a shifting Taiwanese identity. Taipei Ricci Institute and Renlai have been actors in such endeavors, and have gathered a wealth of material on Taiwanese indigenous people and Pacific arts and stories, accumulated through filmed interviews, field trips and documentary records of international conferences. Ricci Institute and Renlai have also played a role in the formation of the Taiwan Pacific Studies Association, and have led groups of indigenous youth to Canada and to Fiji. This is how the project of making a documentary revolving around Taiwan's indigenous youth and the Pacific took shape – and this is how I went to the Solomon Islands in the summer of 2012. The timing of our trip coincided with the 11th Pacific Arts Festival that was drawing Pacific islanders from the entirety of the Melanesian and Polynesian worlds. Therefore the experience was twofold: it was an authentic meeting with the Solomon archipelago, and also an encounter with the diversity of cultures and people that together weave into one the Pacific family. And indeed, feelings of diversity and of commonality were continuously intertwined during all the encounters that took place during our time in the Solomon Islands.
Living in today's ever-changing globalised world is threatening traditional cultural practices and identity. The history of the Taiwanese indigenous peoples is evidence of this with the island's history marked by previous Chinese and Japanese rule and today, more generally, the rule of modernity. Thus, for the indigenous peoples of Taiwan, although they primarily live in smaller, rural areas, maintaining a strong sense of cultural belonging, identity is a challenge. Cerise Phiv's documentary Writings that Weave Waves: East Formosans and the Pacific World explores this challenge, glimpsing into the lives and perspectives of several indigenous Taiwanese individuals living in a changing world and their relationship with the indigenous way of life of their ancestors.
In February 2012, during the Chinese New Year Holidays, I went with Benoit Vermander and my brother to two Atayal villages on the East Coast of Taiwan: Jinyang village and Wutah. There I met again with two of the aboriginal students I accompanied to Canada for a cultural exchange in September 2011. We asked them to take us to the places and people which would represent and explain the best their Atayal traditions.
The genesis of the movie “Writings that Weave Waves”
It was in 2008 that I participated for the first time in the shooting of a documentary with the Ricci Institute: during the month of July of this year, as a small crew, we went to a village on the East coast of Taiwan to follow a young Amis woman, Nakao Eki. She was engaged in research concerning aboriginal oral history, and as a part of her studies, she was returning for the first time in 7 years to Tafalong, an Amis village on Taiwan’s East coast (Hualien county) which is especially famous for its harvest festival. After two month of filming, editing, and post-production work, a movie was born: On the fifth day the sea tide rose…
Through the metaphor of the “tide”, the title already suggests the idea of Taiwan being shaped by waves. Indeed the title was chosen after one of the lines of an Amis song we recorded and which tells the legend of a mythical wave that brought to this place the founding ancestors of Tafalong village. Besides this, the expression also reminds of the different waves that pound the shore of Taiwan: those of the ocean but also the waves of migration.
Thus, this very first movie experience not only introduced me to the basics of filming and editing but also to the aboriginal culture of Taiwan. Indeed, the movie depicts the way the main character and her family deal individually and collectively with their history, and more precisely with the memory of their history. This first contact with the East Formosans already raised some questions about the way the aboriginals pictured in this movie related to the Pacific as the ocean is important in their legends and culture but they personally seemed to feel estranged to its physical existence.
At the same time, the Ricci Institute was following its shift towards the Pacific with the creation of the Taiwan Society for Pacific Studies (TSPS). In September 2011, I had the chance to accompany the Ricci Institute in taking a group of 14 aboriginal students who were sent to Canada for a cultural exchange with the First Nations peoples (a project sponsored by the Council of Indigenous Peoples of Taiwan - CIP). I was in charge of filming the trip. It was only 9 days but for some of the students it was the first time they had ever left Taiwan and despite the brevity of the trip it was a mind opening experience in a variety of ways. First of all, they undeniably found more self-confidence , especially after the preparation for the trip for which they had to take classes on history, culture, dance and singing. They also bonded in special way with the aboriginals they met in Canada and one could feel a real kinship between them despite the fact that the cultures are not so similar at first glance. In fact, it was through singing and dancing together that the connections between them really became clear. But at the same time, this experience also seemed to make some of them realize how much they were alienated from their own culture and traditions.
Two parallel concepts became the starting point of a new documentary:
1. How young Taiwanese aborigines relate to their own culture and how are their traditions and knowledge transmitted?
2. How do they relate in particular to the Pacific, is there only a global Pacific culture and what would be its features?
In the meanwhile, we were planning the conference and the idea of ‘weaving’ occurred naturally, after all, a movie can also be conceived as a patchwork of images woven together.
I chose then to go visit two of the students who were part of the trip to Canada. And in February 2012, Benoit Vermander, my brother and I went to two Atayal villages located in Ilan County on Taiwan’s East coast: Jinyang and Wutah. Despite the fact that these villages are not too far from the ocean, these aborigines still consider themselves from the mountain more than the coast. We just asked them to show us their villages and aspects of their traditional culture on the go. Our plan was also to take these students to another island in the Pacific to let them experience the culture of another Pacific island. We decided then to set out for the Solomon Islands because of its special diplomatic links with Taiwan and because the country was organizing this year’s Festival of Pacific Arts. It was a unique opportunity to gain an insight into the diversity of the cultures of the Pacific where Taiwan aboriginal culture would also be represented as the Council of Indigenous Peoples was able this time to send a performance troupe.
Unfortunately, neither of the two boys could come on the trip in the end. One was called for military service and the other had to finish his medical internship. So we went to find another student from a village in the same area. Yubax Hayung (羅秀英) was born of an Atayal father and a Bunun mother and she is from Aohua, an Atayal village located a few kilometers away from the other two villages and from the coast. She turned out to be a very interesting character to follow, being also probably one of the most unsettled within the group of students.
Thus, in July 2012, we flew to the Solomon Islands to continue the shooting and I completed the editing within four months in order to present the movie at the International Austronesian conference organized on November 27-28 this year by the CIP and the TSPS.
The summary of the documentary is available here: http://www.erenlai.com/index.php/en/editorials/5138-writings-that-weave-waves-east-formosans-and-the-pacific
Or watch the trailer
This documentary shows how aborigines in Taiwan, especially the younger generation, express and live their identity, while linking their narrative to the world of Oceania, which their ancestors contributed to develop, and where aboriginal people nowadays struggle to express their cultural, social, political and spiritual self-perception. In short, it is about the flow and exchange of experiences and stories (the ever-changing narrative weaved by the waves of the Ocean) that enrich and mix into one our local and global identities. The Oceanic continent both separates and gathers together the people who inhabit it.
For the Pacific Ocean is not only a physical entity but a “storied” space as well: its immensity and the experience of crossing it have inspired in-depth stories, myths, poems, music and epics; its borders and islands have witnessed the rise and fall of cultural and spiritual traditions breaking along its shore, wave after wave.
Taiwan is a point of departure, a meeting point, and a destination for the stories weaved by the waves. This documentary aims at nurturing in Taiwan’s youth, especially in its indigenous youth, a sense of belonging within the Pacific world, while encouraging their creativity, their appreciation of the variety of the cultural resources offered by other Austronesian people, and its perception of the “resonance” that related stories, music and art forms inspire throughout this oceanic interchange.
Thus the filming of this documentary really started in Vancouver Island, Canada where some of our protagonists met with First Nations during a cultural exchange where both groups performed their traditional dances and songs. Then we get a glimpse of the way aboriginal traditions are preserved and transmitted in villages on the eastern coast of Taiwan and we travel through the Melanesian and Polynesian world with scenes and stories filmed during the 11th Festival of Pacific Arts, held in Honiara, Solomon Islands, this year.
Director: Cerise Phiv
Co-director: Benoit Vermander
Image: Cerise Phiv, Amandine Dubois, Yubax Hayung, Wilang Watah, Takun Neka
Editing: Cerise Phiv，Amandine Dubois
Languages: Chinese, English, Spanish
Subtitles: English, Chinese
Watch the trailer here
Readers in China can watch it here
The Premiere will take place at the National Central Library in Taipei on Tuesday November 27th at 5pm as part of the International Conference organized by the Council of Indigenous Peoples and the Taiwan Society for Pacific Studies. You can join the facebook event: https://www.facebook.com/events/129160723900797/
This is a two part documentary about how cultural understanding is forged on a day to day basis between models of civilisation that were considered to be fundamentaly incompatible. The aim is to make a case for ending caricaturised notions of 'the other' rooted voicelessness and disenfranchisement.
Taipei-based filmmaker Pinti Zheng teams up with the members of avant-jazz project Flâneur Daguerre for this documentary exploring their music, their concept of "sound images," how they "wander" through musical space, and the musical life in Taipei. Includes footage from recording sessions, live shows, and interviews. (edited by Pinti Zheng with Louis Goldford)
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