Fri, May 06, 2011 - Page 13 News List

Past imperfect

Tony Coolidge’s mother never shared her Taiwanese Aboriginal background with him. ‘Voices in the Clouds’ documents his journey of self-discovery and examines the persecution that indigenous people face

By Catherine Shu  /  Staff Reporter

Two years later, after she passed away, Coolidge made his first trip to Taiwan as an adult. “After she died, my quest was not about discovering her culture, but about going and reconnecting with her family and bringing back her spirit in a way,” Coolidge says. “Only I discovered something totally unexpected.”

Coolidge says he can relate to the bigotry faced by his Atayal relatives because of the discrimination he experienced as an Asian American. In the American south, his mother and stepfather were viewed negatively for being a mixed-race couple; at school, his classmates taunted him with fake kung fu moves and “ching chong” noises.

“I can’t say I fully understand what my mother went through, but I understand what discrimination was like,” Coolidge says. “It gave me an understanding of why she did what she did to fit in with mainstream culture.”

Despite language and cultural barriers, Coolidge says he has always felt welcomed in Taiwan. He now lives in Tainan with his wife, Shu-min Hsu Coolidge (徐淑敏), and their three children.

In the film, Shu-min is candid about the misconceptions she had about Taiwanese Aborigines before accompanying her husband on his journey of discovery. Voices in the Clouds was made for American audiences, but Coolidge and Hose hope it will give Taiwanese people a chance to reflect on their country’s complex, multi-layered ethnic heritage.

Hose says that when the film was screened at US film festivals, several Taiwanese-born audience members told him that they, like Coolidge, were surprised to find out about their home country’s Aboriginal tribes.

“I figured, ‘How are we ever going to help preserve a dying culture if people from their own country don’t even know the culture exists?’” Hose said. “Raising awareness is the first step on a long road toward preservation.”

“It’s from having a strong sense of belonging that you have a foundation to move forward in your life,” Coolidge added.

This story has been viewed 9608 times.

Comments will be moderated. Keep comments relevant to the article. Remarks containing abusive and obscene language, personal attacks of any kind or promotion will be removed and the user banned. Final decision will be at the discretion of the Taipei Times.

TOP top