An amateur filmmaker in Hualien County hopes to preserve the cultural traditions of the Siraya Aborigal community by making a video documentary on the Siraya’s Dachuang Ritual Festival.
Pan Tzu-chou (潘資洲) is from Fuli Township’s (富里) Dongli Village (東里村), where the majority of residents are Siraya Aborigines, one of the nation’s 10 lowland Aborigine groups.
Although the Siraya were still recognized as an Aboriginal community by the Japanese during the colonial era, they are not one of the 14 Aboriginal communities recognized by Taiwan’s government.
“We have kept our traditions alive by holding the annual festival on the full moon of the ninth month on the lunar calendar. This kind of night ritual is unique to the Siraya people,” he said.
The documentary, entitled After Sunset, Before Dawn: The Night Ritual Festival of Dachuang Siraya People (日落之後、黎明之前：大庄西拉雅人的夜祭), premiered on Thursday last week at the Railway Culture Park in Hualien City.
“The film is my way of telling the stories of the Siraya people and the village I grew up in. We show how everyone gets ready for the event, from the preparatory meetings, to people practicing the ritual dance, collecting ingredients for the food and then cooking it, all the way to the festival itself,” Pan said.
The documentary also includes interviews with villagers and visitors to show the festival’s cultural significance from the perspectives of the Siraya as well as outsiders.
As secretary-general of the village’s Siraya Worship Temple Management Association, Pan said he is worried that traditional culture and religious rituals will disappear in a generation if these practices were not documented and protected.
“That is why I wanted to make this documentary, so we can consolidate our cultural identity, pass it on to the younger generations and continue to fight for our rightful Aboriginal status,” he said.
Pan received a NT$200,000 subsidy from the Ministry of Culture to help make the documentary, but he said that did not cover all the production costs for the two-hour film.
The village’s festival was given “cultural treasure” status last year by the Hualien County Cultural Affairs Bureau.
The county government has also promised to help with other Siraya-related projects and to fund showings of the documentary in various Siraya communities.