Returning Souls

Hu Tai-Li
1 hour and 25 minutes


In the most historic and famous ancestral house of the matrilineal Amis tribe in Taiwan, the carved pillars tell legends such as a great flood, a glowing girl, a descending shaman sent by the Mother Sun, and a patricidal headhunting event. After a strong typhoon toppled the house 40 years ago, the pillars were moved to the Institute of Ethnology Museum. In recent years young villagers, assisted by female shamans, convinced the descendants and village representatives of the necessity to communicate with the ancestors trapped inside the pillars.

They eventually brought the ancestral souls (rather than the pillars) back and began reconstructing the house. In an environment highly influenced by western religions, national land policy, and local politics, the young tribal members encounter many frustrations as they dream of cultural revitalization and of bringing back not only the ancestral souls but also the soul of the village. This documentary interweaves reality and legends as well as the seen and the unseen as it records this unique case of repatriation.