Two lost youngsters reconnect with their roots over one idyllic summer in Lekal Sumi Cilangasan’s gentle exploration of culture and identity, Pakeriran (巴克力藍的夏天). Produced by the Indigenous Peoples’ Cultural Foundation, Sumi’s gentle drama finds a city boy quite literally thrown in at the deep end when he returns home to his indigenous community while bonding with an equally lost young woman chasing the legacy of a father who abandoned her.
As the film opens, university student Futing (Matam Hidaw) is lost in thought, gazing a pretty classmate and hardly listening to his friends as they plan the road trip they’ll be taking over summer vacation. That evening, however, he gets a panicked phone call from his mother telling him that his grandfather has been taken ill and he’s to come home as soon as possible. Futing doesn’t get a chance to explain he’s made other plans, and so finds himself on the first available train, his friend taking off with the girl he likes on the back of his bike as they drop him at the station before setting off on their summer adventure. He’s quite annoyed therefore when he arrives and discovers his grandfather is fine, he just sprained his ankle, but the rest of the family have taken off on holiday and left him to look after grandpa who is quite keen that Futing take part in the upcoming Sacepo festival in his stead.
Having spent most of his life in the city, Futing no longer understands the local dialect nor does he know very much about traditional customs. Hanging around shyly outside after being instructed to attend a meeting to discuss the festival, Futing is brought in by an older man, Kacaw, who becomes his mentor translating for him as the elders heckle, disappointed that he can’t understand them and exasperated that he has no manners, failing to realise that he as the youngest should be pouring them wine and doing it in ceremonial manner. Tripping up on his way home he’s rescued by Lisin (Ipun Kanasaw), a young woman taking a working holiday at a cafe where they showcase the local cuisine for tourists, but leaves abruptly when he’s recognised by an old friend of his mother’s who asks him to explain the Sacepo festival to the newcomer, too embarrassed to admit he really has no idea what it’s all about.
Lisin, meanwhile, is also on a quest to reconnect with her history through following in the footsteps of her foodie father who apparently went out one day and never came back. She thinks he might have passed through his village, so she’s patiently absorbing all it has to offer while quietly learning to assume responsibility, eventually forced to take charge when her mentor, Mrs Jiang (Ilid Kaolo), is delayed on her way home. Predictably enough, Futing’s desire to rediscover his ancestral culture is spurred on by his growing attraction to Lisin whose interest in the local customs fuels his own. Suddenly, he becomes invested in the idea of seizing his manhood through completing the ritual, determined to learn how to catch a fish in the traditional way, cooking it in water heated with rocks warmed by the sun.
The titular Pakeriran refers to a rock island on the far side of an inlet which, it was said, the young could prove themselves men by swimming to and warriors by swimming around. Later, Futing discovers there are other, easier ways to reach Pakeriran but then that isn’t really the point. Through reconnecting with his culture, Futing develops a new respect for the natural world, concerned by all the rubbish he finds floating in the water some of it irresponsibly dropped by non-indigenous fishermen. An attempt to confront one of them brings home to him his marginalised position within Taiwanese society when he’s not quite arrested by local police who accuse him of illegally fishing on his ancestral land without a proper licence after being tipped off by the petty fisherman. Originally resentful, watching the photographs of his friends having fun on their trip roll in over social media, Futing comes to embrace his heritage as a member of the indigenous community as he comes of age, gaining a new appreciation for his place in the world. Beautifully showcasing the traditional culture of the Amis people, Pakeririan offers a rare insight into an all too often hidden side of Taiwanese life through the eyes of the two youngsters as they discover new sides of themselves though reconnecting with their heritage.
Original trailer (English & Traditional Chinese subtitles)