Today I had the pleasure of watching Fan Shan-shun’s 范勝翔 award winning short film Prasan Ke’ 巴拉散 給. The title comes from an Atayal 泰雅 Aborigine term which means “handing over to someone to transmit messages.” The director is not himself an Aborigine, but came up with the idea for the film after spending a week hanging out with Aborigines. He was originally planning on making a three minute short film to enter in a competition run by Nike, but abandoned the project in favor of this thirty minute short film, eventually winning a Golden Horse award for his efforts.
The film revolves around a young Atayal boy who finds some expensive new Nike sneakers in the forest. At first he doesn’t want to share them with anyone, he doesn’t even want to wear them himself for fear of making them dirty. He puts them on when he and his classmates are practicing for a dance competition and are dressed up in their finest traditional garb. The irony of this is just one of the many strokes of genius in this film. The girls tease him ruthlessly and he eventually performs the dance without the sneakers, but he isn’t happy. Later, he is asked by the village headman to tell the head of the next village that they’ve caught a wild boar and are going to slaughter it for dinner.
They boy rushes home and puts on his sneakers to run to the next village. The film captures the beauty of the mountainous landscape as the boy begins his journey (the next village is very far away). Eventually the boy runs out of steam and begs another kid to help him, which he does — when he is finally offered the opportunity to wear the sneakers. And so the message and sneakers are passed from one child to another over the mountains in a journey of seemingly epic proportions.
Since most readers are unlikely to have an opportunity to see this film, I’ll tell you how it ends ….
Eventually the village head is given the message that a wild boar has eaten the headman of the first village. Not quite believing the story he calls to find out. Yes, calls. In yet another ironic play on modernity and tradition (quite different from this awful advertisement), the aging headman of the first village simply forgot that he could use a phone to accomplish the task of informing his friend. As he says, he isn’t accustomed to using a phone!
At the evening’s feast the boy gets his sneakers back, only to be asked by a girl if she can borrow them for a sports competition at school the next day. After some thought, the boy agrees. Finally, we cut to a scene from three days earlier in which a spoiled Taiwanese boy is being driven home by his parents when they discover he left his expensive new sneakers in the woods. The father says not to bother going back to find them, he’ll just buy another pair….
It is really a charming film. Credit goes to the great directing and nicely written screenplay, but also to the actor who plays the young boy.