Film Screening and Discussion

The Weatherhead East Asian Institute, the Department of Anthropology, and Taiwan Focus present a screening of Returning Souls directed by Hu Tai-Li.

Discussion and Q&A with filmmaker to follow, moderated by Myron Cohen, Director of the Weatherhead East Asian Institute and Professor of Anthropology, Columbia University.

Thursday March 28, 2013
4:00 – 6:00 PM

Followed by reception
Schapiro Center, Davis Auditorium
530 W 120th Street
New York, NY 10027

For directions and map, click here.
Registration required.
To register please click here.


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.

Director’s Biography

Hu Tai-Li is a research fellow and documentary filmmaker at the Institute of
Ethnology of the Academia Sinica in Taiwan, and the president of Taiwan
International Ethnographic Film Festival. She has directed and produced nine documentary films (The Return of Gods and Ancestors, Songs of Pasta’ay, Voices of Orchid Island, Passing Through My Mother-in-law’s Village, Sounds of Love and Sorrow, Encountering Jean Rouch, Stone Dream, After Passing, and Returning Souls) and published seven books. Her films have won numerous awards, including the Best Documentary Award Film Award at the Taipei Golden Horse Film Festival "The Best Documentary Film Award," a “Silver Plaque Award” at the Chicago International Film Festival "Silver Plaque Award" and many others. 

Violinist Joseph Lin

In 2011, Joseph Lin joined the renowned Juilliard String Quartet as the ensemble’s first violinist.  Previously, Mr. Lin was a founding member of the Formosa Quartet, winner of the 2006 London International String Quartet Competition. In 1996, Mr. Lin was awarded First Prize at the Concert Artists Guild International Competition, and was named a Presidential Scholar in the Arts the same year. In 1999, he was selected for the Pro Musicis International Award, and in 2001, he won First Prize at the inaugural Michael Hill World Violin Competition in New Zealand.

Composer Shih-Hui Chen

Shih-Hui Chen currently serves on the faculty at the Shepherd School of Music, Rice University. Recent premieres include a sound track (composed in collaboration with composer Kurt Stallmann) to accompany an animated film for the annual Water and Land Dharma Ceremony produced by Dharma Drum Mountain, a highly regarded Buddhist organization in Taiwan. Future projects include a continuation of her research of Taiwanese indigenous music in 2013-14 with support from a Taiwan Ministry of Foreign Affairs Fellowship. During this time, she will return to Academia Sinica to compose Postcards from a Formosan Paiwan Village. Upcoming premieres include: Out of Han Court for string quartet and Nanguan pipa, War Songs for flute and guitar, and Three Poems from the Ancient Dynasty of Tang for flute and chamber orchestra. 2013 will also see the release of three recordings of her work, including a solo CD of her works on New World Records.