Fri, Sep 25, 2015 - Page 12 News List

Movie review: Wawa No Cidal

This heartfelt drama illuminates many of the complex issues faced by Taiwan’s Aboriginal communities

BY Ho Yi  /  Staff reporter

Wawa No Cidal features a cast of mostly amateur actors who pull off genuine performances.

Photo courtesy of Activator Marketing

There is nothing fancy about Wawa No Cidal (太陽的孩子). It tells the straightforward story of an Amis woman trying to re-cultivate the farmland in her ancestral village. As simple as the production is, the film is also one of the most genuine and sincere works of filmmaking that have come out this year. Directing duo Cheng Yu-chieh (鄭有傑) and Lekal Sumi turn their lens to an Amis village on Taiwan’s east coast, creating a heartfelt human drama tackling the issues that are very close to the heart of anyone who is concerned with what has happened to the country’s indigenous communities.

The film begins with Panay, played by Amis musician and TV host Ado Kaliting Pacidal, returning home to the Amis community Makutaay in Hualien County. Like most villagers, Panay works in the city, leaving her daughter Nakaw (Dongi Kacaw) and son Sera (Rahic Gulas) in the care of her father, played by village elder Kaco Lekal.

Her father’s recently diagnosed cancer, however, forces Panay to rethink her priorities. She quits her job and moves back to the village to care for her family. But she soon finds out that her home is not what it used to be.

For one thing, exploitative tourism has caused damage to the environment and disrupted the local way of life. Many villagers now make money by singing and dancing to the influx of Chinese visitors who bring trash, noise and traffic jams to the once tranquil hamlet by the sea. Meanwhile, the development frenzy grips the region as local authorities and big corporations join forces to build parks and resorts on Amis ancestral land.

In an effort to help villagers gain more sources of income, Panay explores the possibility of re-cultivating the tribal farmland that has lain fallow for years. Her plan elicits doubts and suspicion among residents, while local bureaucrats prefer to support big, lucrative development projects instead of spending a few bucks on fixing dilapidated irrigation canals.

Film Notes:

Wawa No Cidal 太陽的孩子

DIRECTED BY: Cheng Yu-chieh (鄭有傑) and Lekal Sumi

STARRING: Ado Kalitaing Pacidal as Panay, Dongi Kacaw as Nakaw, Rahic Gulas as Sera, Bokeh Kosang as Sheng-hsiung

RUNNING TIME: 99 Minutes

LANGUAGE: In Mandarin and Amis with Chinese and English subtitles

TAIWAN RELEASE: Today


Determined, Panay manages to get a small university research grant and successfully persuades villagers to work together to restore the terrace to its former glory. Rice grows, turning the field into a lush vista of verdant green.

But little do the villagers know that the developer, backed up by the police, has other plans in mind.

A sense of authenticity permeates Wawa No Cidal. The mostly non-professional actors are Amis who face the same real-life dilemma as the characters in the film. The directors tackle the complex problems facing Taiwan’s indigenous communities.

The level of eloquence and lucidity partially owes to young filmmaker Sumi. Having grown up in Tainan, the director has reportedly returned to Makutaay, the birthplace of his mother, to seek his indigenous roots. His experience is no doubt told through the character of Panay, who not only returns home to reconnect with her heritage but is driven to earn the acceptance and trust of her people.

Consequently, the film is mostly based on real events. One seemingly far-fetched sequence in the film, for example, refers to the controversy a few years ago in which the local government seized Aboriginal land in Makutaay because the township office managed to lose the documents concerning the villagers’ applications for registering their land as a reserve.

Despite a somewhat flawed narrative and low production values, Wawa No Cidal is recommended to anyone who wishes to gain a basic understanding of the issues facing the country’s indigenous communities.

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