A Cross-Generational Search for One's Identity - Moving Premier of Documentary "Searching for Taromak: Land of Warriors"

The premiere and panel discussion of the documentary Searching for Taromak: Land of Warriors, by the Forestry Bureau of the Council of Agriculture, Executive Yuan, planned and executed by the Taiwan Good Food Association, and produced by Jiu Cai Digital Images, was held at SPOT Huashan in Taipei today (10th). Danaro, the lead actor and chieftain of the Taromak clan, Liao Shih-Han, the director, and Anne Wu, executive secretary of the Taiwan Good Food Association, attended the event to share their experience of the filming.

The elders of Taromak often say, "When you go into the mountains, you will be able to find yourself."

Taromak is a traditional clan of the Rukai tribe located in Taitung, which means "land of warriors." After many migrations, the clan settled in Kapaliwa more than 300 years ago and has remained there for centuries. However, a fire in 1969 burned down many of its buildings and artifacts and caused heavy casualties in the village. In recent years, the tribe has started to rebuild its traditional buildings such as ancestral houses, and to pass down its craftsmanship. They are also actively preserving the culture of the tribe through traditional rituals, especially the annual mowing festival, harvest festival, and swing festival, using millet, their traditional farm produce, as the core of the rituals to unite the people. This documentary is a detailed record of how the new chieftain, Danaro, united the tribe, traced the roots of the millet culture, and faced the issue of passing down their traditional tribal culture to younger generations.
Searching for Taromak: Land of Warriors presents the contemporary challenges of cultural survival faced by the traditional tribes in exquisite detail. As the younger son, who was not meant to lead the tribe, Danaro was appointed to succeed as his older brother worked in the city and refused to become the chieftain. How does a young chieftain who "can't even speak the tribal language well" find his own way to lead his clan? How will the youth of Taromak work with each other to preserve and pass down their cultural heritage?
Director Liao Shih-Han has always focused on the local elements of Taiwanese culture as the core of his work. In this film, he also conveys the sustainable spirit of traditional tribes to "take only what you need," and portrays the physical and spiritual connection between the land and the Indigenous people, interweaving a moving natural and cultural landscape. Searching for Taromak: Land of Warriors was awarded the Best Feature Documentary at the New York Film Awards in July, and was also the closing film of the Taiwan Film Festival Berlin this year. It brought the diversity of the Taiwanese peoples and their culture to the international stage and opened the eyes of the overseas audience to the traditional knowledge and culture of Indigenous peoples.
The documentary is part of a project by the Taiwan Good Food Association, which is subsidized by the Forestry Bureau, to assist with tribal community development, adding value to the use of traditional plants (such as millet and upland rice). By following the cultural practices of ecological sustainability and yearly tribal rituals and festivals, the tribe maintains the "Satoyama landscape" while practicing the "Satoyama lifestyle." The goal is to innovatively transform the wisdom of local indigenous peoples in managing the land, the use of natural resources, and preservation of biodiversity to achieve an environmental, cultural, and economic balance. To record this process, the film also captures and realistically presents various aspects of tribal life.
According to the Forestry Bureau, the abundance and beauty of Taiwan's natural environments and the traditional environmental knowledge of Indigenous people's symbiotic relationship with nature may respond to current global issues, such as climate change and biodiversity loss. Through the film, it is hoped that the public gains a better understanding of the tribe's efforts to preserve its millet culture, the rituals and ceremonies the respect for heaven and earth and ancestral spirits, the introspection toward the land and environment, and the implementation of the Satoyama Initiative. To live as the initiative states, "through sustainable use and management of resources, including biodiversity, human societies must find ways to enjoy a stable supply of ecosystem services and continue to exist in a way that does not damage the natural environment." We hope that people living under this culture will continue to live in harmony with the mountains and plains, and realize a harmonious living landscape with forests, communities, and agricultural ecosystems.

※ The documentary Searching for Taromak: Land of Warriors can be viewed for free on the Forestry Bureau's media platform: https://media.forest.gov.tw/video_page.php?mID=otlbgormfj1636099874060
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