Taipei, May 9 (CNA) Hu Tai-li (胡台麗), an anthropologist, ethnographic filmmaker and an adjunct research fellow at Academia Sinica’s Institute of Ethnology, has died of an illness.
She was 72 years old, former Council of Indigenous Peoples head Sun Ta-chuan (孫大川) said Sunday.
In a Facebook post Sunday morning, Sun said he was shocked and sad when he heard late Saturday night about the loss of professor Hu, a well-respected friend of Indigenous peoples.
Born in 1950, Hu, a pioneer of ethnographic films, graduated from the History Department of National Taiwan University (NTU) and obtained her Ph.D. degree in anthropology from City University of New York.
She was a research fellow at Academia Sinica, a concurrent professor in National Tsing Hua University’s Institute of Anthropology, chairwoman of the Taiwan International Ethnographic Film Festival, and head of the Taiwan Association of Visual Ethnography.
Hu directed and produced a number of documentaries and published several books that inspired studies of Taiwan’s Indigenous peoples, new immigrants, and ethnic groups as well as gender issues.
Hu’s first ethnographic documentary film was The Return of Gods and Ancestors produced in 1984.
Her film Voices of Orchid Island won the “Best Documentary Film Award” at the 1993 Taipei Golden Horse Film Festival and the “Silver Plaque Award” at the 1994 Chicago International Film Festival.
In 1997, her Passing Through My Mother-in-law’s Village became the first Taiwanese documentary to hit commercial theaters.
Hu’s other films have been honored at several international film festivals. Her Returning Souls won an Intangible Cultural Heritage Award special mention at the 2012 Jean Rouch International Ethnographic Film Festival (Paris) and the Gold Remi Award in the ethnic/cultural category at the 2013 WorldFest-Houston.
Hu published her first book Sex and Death in 1986. It described her experiences in Papua New Guinea, where she conducted field research after earning her Ph.D. degree but before she returned to Taiwan.
“We often worry that the culture of aboriginal tribes is on the verge of disappearing but we don’t ask whether our own culture is about to disappear?” Hu said in the book.
“If we are not willing to abandon our prejudices and face our own and other ethnic cultures humbly, we will never escape the fate of being someone with a narrow view of world, just like a frog in the well,” she wrote.
Her other literary works include Daughter-in-law Entering the Door; Mother-in-law’s Village: Rural Industrialization and Change in Taiwan; Burning Melancholy, Paiwan Nose and Mouth Flutes; and Cultural Performances and Taiwan Indigenous Peoples.
The news of Hu’s death came as a shock to many of her friends in cultural and arts circles.
Taiwanese author Chen Fang-ming (陳芳明) said in a Facebook post that Hu was his schoolmate at NTU and known for her serious and rigorous attitude toward her studies, and he calling her passing “unacceptable.”
Choreographer Ping Heng (平珩) who did field work with Hu, said on Facebook that Hu led her to enter the world of ethnography and that she was never able to keep up with Hu’s strength and overflowing enthusiasm for going out into the field.
(By Chang Hsiung-feng, Chiu Tsu-yin and Evelyn Kao)


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