KATHMANDU, July, 17: At the screening of “A Home Video of Alsang’s Mom,” the opening documentary for this year’s Nepal International Indigenous Film Festival (NIIFF) by Chia-Wei Chang, a Taiwanese filmmaker, the audience cheered and clapped.
But seated in a quiet corner of the same auditorium was a group who, hesitant to applaud the film, were astonished at those who were doing so.
The group consisted of O’loh Kumo, director of the news department at Taiwan Indigenous TV (TITV), Abus Baingkinuan, journalist and anchor for the same channel, and Chia-Wei Chang, a filmmaker and also a producer for the news group of the same channel.
“It’s amazing how excited the Nepali audience is inside the theater. In Taiwan, everything is very quiet at film screenings,” exclaimed Abus Baingkinuan.
“It’s great that the Nepali audiences connect to the film and its emotion to such an extent,” added Chang who is on his second visit to Nepal. Last year, too, he had one of his films screened at NIIFF.
The Taiwanese television group, however, had not come solely for that one film. They had another five films selected by NIIFF, a workshop to conduct and other programs. Also, the TITV crew broadcast the festival everyday through their channel in Taiwan.
Republica caught up with the group to discuss indigenous cinema and cinema culture in Taiwan.
How did the tie-up between NIIFF and Taiwan Indigenous TV happen?
Chia Wei Chang: I came to know about the NIIFF through a professor and was delighted. Last year, I sent my “What Men Don´t Know” to this festival and I was lucky that my film was selected. Then I came to Kathmandu for my film screening and loved the environment. Upon my return to Taiwan, I organized a meeting with the Indigenous Television, TITV, and that’s how the tie-up happened.
Please tell us more about your television and the idea behind it?
Abus Baingkinuan: Our television channel is one of a kind. It actually comes as an effort from our side to preserve indigenous culture. We provide various training to the youth who want join visual or audio media. We understand that media in today’s world is the fastest means to build bridges of communication. Taking advantage of its explanatory powers, we’re trying to enable society´s weaker groups to pursue equality and justice and bring out the talents hidden among the indigenous societies.
Taiwan Indigenous Television was established on December 1, 2004 and started broadcasting in the beginning of 2005. After around 18 months, our TV channel became the first "indigenous television station" in Asia and started broadcasting on July 1, 2005. As of today, we regularly provide young people with trainings on visual and audio broadcasting so that they can share their stories with the world.
Why do you think it’s important for the youth to learn about indigenous culture?
Abus Baingkinuan: I’m a youth myself and I believe that we youngsters are the greatest wealth and strength of our country. At our television, we believe that by training the youth to embrace and preserve their culture, we’re ensuring a future that’s rich in mores and tradition. At a time when it seems that with the advent of Internet and modernization, youth all over the world are slowly getting disconnected from their roots. We use the tools of a modern world, like television and film, to encourage youngsters to love and safeguard their indigenous cultures.
As a filmmaker, what´s your message to young and upcoming filmmakers?
Chia-Wei Chang: I can’t speak much for commercial cinema. But as far as independent projects are concerned, one has to have passion. I stress on passion because for documentary and non-fiction filmmakers, there’s almost no profit in terms of money, and without money, it’s very difficult to make films.
So if any Nepali filmmakers wish to have their films/reports broadcast through television, how do they connect to you?
O’loh Kumo: We would love it if Nepali filmmakers submitted their films based on indigenous culture. We’ll definitely have those projects broadcast through our television. Apart from that, from our participation in NIIFF, we’ve learnt a lot about organizing a film festival. We’re hoping we can soon hold an event similar to NIFF in our country. For that too, we would love Nepali filmmakers submit their films. This can be done through our website, www.titv.org.tw.
Finally, do share with us your overall experiences on your stay in Nepal.
Chia-Wei Chang: We’ve had a lot of fun here. Last year, while I had my film screened here, I was delighted at the audience’s response and it was the same this year, too. I made a few friends last year and made a few newer ones this year, too. I hope I can come back soon and organize a film exchange program with Nepali filmmakers.
Abus Baingkinuan: I too had a lot of fun. I think the Nepali indigenous people and we look the same. It felt like we were one big family here. I also loved the array of foods displayed although most of them were a bit too spicy for me. Apart from that, it was also a learning experience for me. Since my job is that of a news anchor, I had to interview Nepali people. And due to the language barrier, it was challenging at times. Nonetheless, I had fun. The most important part of my trip was that I got to share my experiences as a member of an indigenous tribe with the ethnic people here in Nepal. It seems we have the same problems. With hope, through such programs in the future, we can discuss our common issues and put them on global platforms.