The Way of the Shaman Drum

Shot, edited and subtitled in 10 days.
This years’ theme was Craftsmanship, Inheritance and Innovation.

5th Edition of Student Ethnographic Festival in Zadar, Croatia
WINNER ▶The way of the shaman drum ▶ PORTUGAL
Here’s what our jury had to say about it: “The film, apart from dealing with the ethnographic heritage (master of ritual drumming in China), also presents the problems and challenges of preserving the ethnographic tradition caused by political, cultural, religious and ideological premise. The way of the shaman drum is also a coherent film based on the aesthetic plan, based on the use of video interviews and associative editing and fluidly executed framing or rasterizing the rhythm of the medium plan and the big plan detail. By fitting and creative manipulation with film-making means, the author enriches a classical ethnographic theme (preserving the traditional heritage) and creates a contentious and formally impressive film work. Because of all this, we consider The Way of the Shaman Drum deserved to take the title of the best SEF 2018 movie”

The spiritual aspects of Shamanism are inured in mystery and some believe Shaman doctors and healers can tell the future and ward off demon spirits during special dance ceremonies.

Nonetheless in the film, The Way of the Shaman Drum, the director João Meirinhos, provides viewers with a earthlier and pragmatic account of those involved in Shaman Culture as Manchu-ethnic minorities living in northeastern China’s Changbai Mountain, Jilin Province.

70-year-old Guan Yunde, a promoter of Manchu’s Shamanism culture, works alongside a business partner and has designed and built Shaman drums. He has unearthed Shamanism’s mysteries.
Shamans hold animals dear to their hearts and sustain a polytheistic faith, meaning that all living beings, including animals, have a spirit and are god-like. Hence, in northeast China alone, they worship the god of tiger, god of wolf and so on.
Shamanism is more about loving nature and ancient Manchu culture than with participating in so-called demon spirit dances. Guan lived in a home with many generations of Manchu ancestors, while his father was recognized as a tribal leader.
They used kiwi wood to make Shaman drums, since it displays few defects when carving. For some people, Shamanism is perceived as evil, but for the Manchu-ethnics, such as Guan Yunde, it’s simply a proud part of the Manchu culture that deserves to get passed down to future generations.

Official screenings:
– Looking China Changchun Group @ University of Jilin (CHINA)
– Confucius Institute @ University of Manchester (ENGLAND)
– Shortcutz Lisboa #302 @ Bom, Mau e o Vilão (PORTUGAL)
– Imagens e ritmos do xamanismo contemporâneo @ Universidade de São Paulo (BRASIL)
– Eyes & Lenses XIII @ University of Warsaw (POLAND)
– SEF Students’ Ethnographic Film Festival @ Zadar (CROATIA)
– Cinema no Estendal @ Beco do Jasmim, Lisboa (PORTUGAL)
– ECO’PORTO 2018 @ Casa das Artes (PORTUGAL)

The original title for this film was: Tiao Tchin (跳神, literally means “spirit-jumping” or “god’s dance”) and it refers to Tiao Shen, the Chinese name of the Manchu shamanic ceremony. During the workshop, I was advised this name was not appropriate or allowed to be used in China. Furthermore, I was requested to delete a scene of the film, from 3:47 to 3:55, because it made reference to the persecutions of the Chinese government to shamans and shamanism during the Cultural Revolution between 1966 and 1977. The absence of freedom of speech is one of the stereotypes Western countries have of China. I think Chinese people are very smart and aware about what they can and cannot share in public and, in my case, were over zealous and preferred “not to risk it”. Either way, it was unfortunate to experience first hand censorship in the XXI century even at such a small scale during my wonderful stay in this wonderful country.

Official version available here:

1. 清·何耳《燕台竹枝词》

“The iron hoops behind the drum shake when the the drum is played loudly
And the drum beat sounds full of life,
With the year coming to an end, people are dancing in groups,
As the saying goes
That peace is always shown in people’s life
When we can hear the music that is played in the palace
Is as beautiful as the music played in fields.
Everywhere is harmonious.”

The Poem of the Bamboo Branches in YanTai
He’Er (Qing Dynasty)

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