Disasters Create Physical and Emotional Distance
Q: How did you get to know the people of the Namasia District?
HH: I’d previously worked with a Kaohsiung social support group to conduct a video-making workshop for women of indigenous mountain tribes. After the disaster, I accompanied members of the group as they went into the communities for relief work. There I met the residents of the Namasia District. They wanted to keep living in the mountains but also felt fearful of the risks of natural disasters. They could gain access to high-class housing if they left the mountains, but they would probably have to let go of their lifestyles and income sources. That’s why they were wary of outsiders—at first some people wouldn’t even talk to me, and some were suspicious that I was part of the organization that had built the new housing facilities.
Q: In that situation, how were you able to approach them for the filming?
HH: As the reporters started to leave, the documentary filmmakers who stayed behind gradually started to make friends with the tribespeople. They learned that we were not associated with the government and finally agreed to cooperate with our filming.
Q: Are there memorable episodes with them that you can share?
HH: When I went to the mountains for the first time after the disaster, an elderly hunter accompanied me on the road obstructed by landslides where cars had to make long detours to get to destinations. It was also still raining and I was afraid the slopes would crumble under our feet, but the hunter was very calm and knew exactly where we were, saying “This is the way to the village, that is where the lake is.” However, when he later moved house with his family to the foot of the mountains and I went to see him, I saw that he was lost among the many buildings that looked alike, with only the address numbers as a guide.
Some siblings or relatives were split between remaining in the mountain and migrating to the plains, and discord broke out and relationships were severed. I’d first thought that being family, they would eventually overcome their divide, but in fact the rupture became deeper over time and both sides were unable to forgive the other anymore. I was very surprised to see how the emotional distance between them became more critical than the physical distance that the disaster had enforced.
Q: On October 12 (during YIDFF) a typhoon wreaked havoc in Japan. Is there anything you would like to say to the victims?
HH: The climate is getting more and more extreme. It is beyond human control. The big lesson I learned from this typhoon is “It’s no longer possible to solve this problem with the optimistic mindset of the past.” Natural disasters are now larger in scale and more frequent than ever before. Our taking advantage of nature has gone too far. Now we have to think carefully about how to get along with nature and minimize the damage. Humans are just a part of nature. Thanks to these natural disasters, we are forced to think about different issues. By confronting death, we reflect on life and ponder about its meaning.
(Compiled by Song Ryun)
Interviewers: Song Ryun, Sugawara Mayu / Interpreter: Nakayama Hiroki / Translator: Fujioka Asako
Photography: Nagatsuka Ai / Video: Kusunose Kaori / 2019-10-14