Ironic indigenous primitivism : Taiwan's first 'native feature' in an era of ethnic tourism

Research output: Journal PublicationsJournal Article (refereed)peer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)


How do contemporary indigenous filmmakers regard primitivism? By way of reply, this article examines Laha Mebow's appropriation of a primitive Sayun in her 2011 film Finding Sayun. 'The beautiful maiden' Sayun was used in the 1943 Japanese film Sayon's Bell to promote wartime mobilization in Taiwan, and has been used since the 1990s in local branding. Mebow seems ambivalent about Sayun: she identifies with Sayun, or at least with the Sayun in Finding Sayun, yet never loses critical distance. Mebow's ambivalence plays out as generic hybridity: Finding Sayun is at once a metafilm, a documentary and a search for roots. Her ambivalence also plays out as irony, and this article argues that, in an era of ethnic tourism, ironic indigenous primitivism is a tactic of packaging a community and then getting a viewer or visitor to open up the package and see what's inside.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)209-225
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Chinese Cinemas
Issue number3
Early online date2 Sept 2014
Publication statusPublished - 2014
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

This work was supported by the National Science Council (now the Ministry of Science and Technology) of the ROC [Grant No. 101-2410-H-002-206-].


  • Taiwan
  • primitivism
  • indigenous film
  • Sayon’s Bell
  • ethnic tourism
  • authenticity


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