哈勇家 (Hayung Jia)
Taiwan, 2022, 112’, Tayal, Mandarin, English, Taiwanese
Directed by: Laha Mebow
Screenplay: Laha Mebow, Hsieh Hui-ching
Photography (color): Garvin Chen, Aymerick Benjamin Pilarski
Editing: Chen Chien-chih
Production Design: Yao Kuo-chen
Music: Baobu Badulu
Producers: Eric Liang, Arthur Chu
Cast: Kagaw Piling (Grandma Hayung), Wilang Lalin (Pasang), Ali Batu (Ali), Gaki Baunay (Silan), Esther Huang (Yuli), Yukan Losing (Enoch), Yasuy Silan (Agnes), Amakankang Dalus (May), Andy Huang (Andy), Vaai (Mayor Toli), Wilang Noming (Grandpa Hayung)
Date of First Release in Territory: November 11th, 2022
The highlight of the 2022 Golden Horse Awards was undoubtedly seeing Gaga director Laha Mebow make history as the first ever Taiwanese indigenous filmmaker to win Best Director in the history of the awards. Though Taiwanese indigenous people officially make up only 2.42% of Taiwan’s population, they have a huge presence in Taiwan’s entertainment and athletic worlds. There have already been several films about Taiwan’s indigenous communities (including the first two feature films of Mebow’s own Tayal trilogy), but Gaga nevertheless feels like a breath of fresh air in its unsentimental yet touching depiction of family and culture. It is easily the best film about Taiwanese indigenous people since Wei Te-sheng’s Seediq Bale.
The film’s title refers to an umbrella term that describes the way of the Tayal people. It is an unwritten set of moral values that the people must abide by, or risk being punished by their ancestors. In the Hayung family, the one who upholds gaga is patriarch Grandpa Hayung (Wilang Noming), who serves as the historian, community leader and even part-time architect in the township. But when Grandpa Hayung passes away, the eldest son’s political aspirations, an unplanned pregnancy (as predicted by Grandma Hayung) and a land dispute break the peace in this seemingly close-knit family.
Mebow barely details what gaga entails in the film, but the gist of it is quite clear to viewers in the film’s depictions of Tayal traditions slowly giving way to modern values. Culture has become a commodity to sell to tourists. Land borders once decided by handshake and wine give way to government decisions. The young, who’d rather eat instant noodles from a local convenience store instead of traditional homemade delicacies, no longer hunt or speak Tayal like their elders. Though the conflicts in the film are specific to Taiwan’s indigenous tribes, the clash between tradition and modernity is a universal conflict that is relatable to all, regardless of culture and skin colour.
Despite the heavy theme, Gaga isn’t weighted down by seriousness. The film is, first and foremost, a laid-back and natural depiction of a family unit. Even though actions have serious, life-changing repercussions, the characters know ultimately that their bond cannot be easily broken, nor can their conflicts be easily solved by tearful confrontations or a few punches. Like in real life, many of the film’s plot strands are left not neatly solved when the end credits roll, but viewers are nevertheless left with the comfort of knowing that life in the Hayung family will and has to go on.
Also driving Gaga is Mebow’s personal love for her culture. Raised in the city all her life, Mebow used filmmaking to get in touch with her roots, and that love shines through the screen in Gaga. Made with a mostly non-professional cast and a crew that likewise includes many indigenous members, Gaga depicts the Tayal culture with both reverence and humour (the way one outsider reacts to certain traditions is particularly funny) without losing sight of the film’s dramatic core. Gaga may mark an excellent conclusion to Mebow’s Tayal trilogy, but I would be very happy to see Mebow and her cast tell many more stories of the Hayung family.
Raised in the city of Taichung, Laha Mebow started her film career as an assistant director. When she started working as a producer at Taiwan Indigenous Television, she began taking an interest in her indigenous roots. In 2010, she made her feature directorial debut with Finding Sayun, the first film of her Tayal trilogy. Her second film Hang in There, Kids! was chosen as Taiwan’s representative at the Oscars. In 2022, she became the first indigenous filmmaker to win the Golden Horse for Best Director with Gaga, her third feature narrative film.
FILMOGRAFIA / FILMOGRAPHY
2010 – Finding Sayun
2016 – Hang in There, Kids!
2017 – Ça Fait Si Longtemps
2022 – Gaga