ISSN 1016-1007 GPN2005600032
頁數:105﹣154 「少數」的言說:中國安多地區藏族青年的 電影生產與文化表述 The Speaking of “the Minor”: Film Making and Cultural Expression of Tibetan Youths in the Amdo Region
Yi-jun Li, Da-wa Zhuo-ma
Amdo Tibetan Region, film by Tibetan youth, indigenous film, minor film, Tibetan youth
Settled in the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau since ancient times, Tibetan is a cultural subject with a unique calendar, religion, language, art, customs, diet, clothing, and medical system. However, Tibetans have long been “the others” in international films due to their relatively marginal positions in economy, technology, and geography. That changed after 2002 when Pema Tseden and Sonthar Gyal, who are now world-renowned Chinese Tibetan directors, successively started their film-making and set off the so-called “New Wave of Tibetan Film” to pursue the cinematic subjectivity of Tibetan people. Inspired by both of them, nearly 100 Tibetan youths have made films about their ethnic group in the past decade. They are mainly from the Hainan Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture and Gannan Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture in the Amdo Region of China.

Previous studies have revealed that mainstream Tibetan-themed films are generally inevitable products of internal or external orientalism (Frangville, 2012). Western filmmakers have long shaped the stereotype of Tibetans with folk customs, fantastic history, religion, legends, and adventurous activities (Gong, 2018), while Chinese Tibetan-themed films mostly undertook the task of meeting the needs of ideological propaganda and urban people’s imagination of the “exotic world” (Liu, 1988; Lu, 1997; Ma, 2020). The literature has typically taken classical Tibetan-themed films as objects to critically analyze their discourses on ethnic culture, politics, or visual consumption issues, while neglecting the emergence of young Tibetan filmmakers.

In view of these facts, this paper focuses on young Tibetan filmmakers in the Amdo Region. It describes their general characteristics (in terms of background, levels of education and economy, lifestyle, etc.), explore the ways, purposes, and situations of their film-making, and analyze the principles, features, and implications of their works. On this basis, it reveals the role of Tibetan young filmmakers and their works in China’s existing power structure and film industry system.

This research takes the methodology of combining an ethnographic survey with film text analysis. The ethnographic survey includes two parts: interviews and observations. We conducted semi-structured interviews with young Tibetan filmmakers with different and representative characteristics in terms of age, area, education level, original family environment, and social status, and also entered a film studio run by Tibetan youths in the Gannan Tibetan area to gain participatory observations. During the survey, we also collected film works by Tibetan youths to analyze their aesthetic characteristics and discourse implications.

Findings show that Tibetan youths make films mainly due to strong personal or emotional forces, which differs from indigenous people in North America and Australia who shoot videos with the purpose of fighting against political and cultural hegemonies. Instead of minority groups’ united appeals, individuals’ dreams, thoughts, and friendships play chief parts in their film-making process. Although Tibetan youths attempt to construct the cinematic subjectivity of Tibet, they are not independent of China’s existing power structure and industrial system, but rather integrate various resources into intermediate positions in order to seek a delicate balance between ‘the self’ and ‘the other’. This is reflected in several aspects. For example, some young filmmakers maintain livelihoods and accumulate funds through cooperation with official government departments. They also try to enter public colleges and gain investments or honors by winning the attention of the mainstream media.

Tibetan youths pursue authenticity, depth, and artistry, opposing essentialism and binary opposition. Although indignant about the “distorted Tibetan culture” in mainstream films, they are not obsessed with expressing Tibetan traditions that have been covered up or lost under the oppression of others, nor have they created another Tibetan expression system that runs absolutely opposite to mainstream discourses. They strive to break away from the dualistic framework of majority/minority or indigenous/foreign by presenting the trivial and varied daily life of contemporary Tibetan society. They portray the reality of the Tibetans in the gap between tradition and modernity to reflect upon otherness and selfness in an intermediate position or place Tibetan ethnicity into humanity and universality to activate it. These young filmmakers seek to construct a cinematic identity of Tibetan ethnic group in the open context, so that it can be continuous in the negotiation with others.

It can be seen that the film-making of Tibetan youths is distinct from the so-called “cultural activism” (Ginsburg, 1997) and the “the activist imaginary” (Marcus, 1996), which are used to define the media activities of indigenous people in North America and Australia. Instead, it can be recognized as the making of “minor films” by Deleuze. This argument is based on three points. First, just as “minor films” aim to face the “the future” and generate a negotiable identity (Deleuze, 1985/1997, Jameson, 1992), Tibetan youth films seek to rethink and transcend the dualism. They tend to express differences, rather than declare resistance directly or to speak of their groups as “the oppressed”. Second, as “minor film” recognizes the significant role of the individual experience in vulnerable groups’ expression (Deleuze, 1985/1997), Tibetan youth films emphasize the importance of individual emotion in film-making, rather than incorporating the media activities of minorities into the grand framework of collective revolution. Third, just as “minor film” presents individual affairs to integrate diverse media landscape (Deleuze, 1985/1997), films by Tibetan youths focus on ordinary people and trivial aspects to explore culture and ethnic identity from the daily details of Tibetan society.

This case of Tibetan film study reminds us to avoid uncritically throwing indigenous people or minority-related issues into opposite and dualistic frameworks, such as dominance/subordination, majority/minority, and oppressor/oppressed. This approach is no different from the fact that current commercial films uncritically present ethnic minority areas as “Shangri-La”.
2023/ 春