Fri, Nov 25, 2011 - Page 16 News List

Movie review: Finding Sayun 不一樣的月光

Shot entirely around a small Atayal village and with a cast of mostly nonprofessional, Aboriginal actors, ‘Finding Sayun’ is director Chen Chieh-yao’s sincere attempt to reconnect with her roots

By Ho Yi  /  Staff Reporter

The cast of Chen Chieh-yao’s Finding Sayun is made up mostly of nonprofessional, Aboriginal actors.

Photo courtesy of Sky Films Entertainment

For her debut feature Finding Sayun (不一樣的月光), Atayal director Chen Chieh-yao (陳潔瑤) returns to her home village to unearth the legend of Sayun (sometimes spelled Sayion), an Atayal girl who fell to her death in a turbulent stream while carrying a Japanese teacher’s belongings at the end of World War II.

Whereas Wei Te-sheng’s (魏德聖) big-budgeted Seediq Bale (賽德克.巴萊) tackled Aboriginal history in the form of battle epic, Chen (or Laha Mebow in Atayal) takes a completely different approach, examining her Aboriginal roots through personal memories and scenes from everyday life.

The movie begins when the tale of Sayun draws a television crew to the Atayal hamlet of Tyohemg (金岳) in Nanao Township (南澳), Yilan County. Yukan (Tsao Shih-hui, 曹世輝), a high-school boy and a young hunter, does not understand the crew members’ interest in the story. But his grandfather’s (Chang Chin-chen, 張金振) memories of Sayun, whom he went to school with, revives his interest in the old tribal village, which the villagers had been forced to desert 50 years prior.

The grandfather wants to pay a visit to his childhood home, and Yukan is determined to fulfill the old man’s wish. One day at dawn, together with Yukan’s friend A-guo (Cheng Chia-yeh, 鄭嘉業) and Hsiao-ju (Fang Chih-yu, 方志友) from the crew, they embark on a journey along the treacherous trail to the Atayal home.

Shot entirely in and around the Atayal village and with a cast of mostly nonprofessional, Aboriginal actors, the film is director Chen’s sincere attempt to reconnect with her roots. She delivers a refreshing, lively portrait of Aborigines, who are often depicted as miserable and depressed in films such as Everlasting Moments (靈魂的旅程). Lin Ching-tai (林慶台), who plays Mouna Rudo in Seediq Bale, returns in this movie to his real-life profession (he’s a pastor) and the young Atayal actors give confident performances.

Finding Sayun 不一樣的月光

Directed By: Chen Chieh-yao (陳潔瑤)

Starring: Tsao Shih-hui (曹世輝) as Yukan, Fang Chih-yu (方志友) as Hsiao-ju, Chang Chin-chen (張金振) as Yukan’s grandfather

Language: Mandarin with Chinese

and English subtitles

Running Times: 99 Minutes

Taiwan Release: Today


To be honest, Finding Sayun is a debut effort with many flaws. Its storytelling is uneven, and the decision to insert two irrelevant Chinese characters — in order to woo Chinese investors perhaps? — is awkward. Moreover, the film can be fairly confusing to audience members unfamiliar with the legend of Sayun.

The significance of the story surfaces only if one knows how Japanese colonialists used it for propaganda purposes, the fact that director Chen’s grandmother was Sayun’s classmate and friend, and how the late banker Lin Keh-hsiao (林克孝) kindled public interest in the village when he wrote a book in 2009 about his years investigating the story of Sayun.

Still, Chen knows that there is more than one way to look at history, and uses documentary footage to show how differently the story is remembered by the villagers she interviews. In the end, Finding Sayun is the director’s journey of finding her own way home as she follows the 77-year-old tribal elder Chang to the place where her grandparents were born and the ancestral spirits still dwell.

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