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Anita Chang, Filmmaker: What Does It Mean to Lose a Language?

A transmedia documentary project sharing stories of language identity and revival

Set in Taiwan and Hawai'i, Film and Digital Media Ph.D. candidate Anita Chang's film Tongues of Heaven focuses on the questions, desires and challenges of young indigenous peoples to learn the languages of their forebears—languages that are endangered or facing extinction. Using digital video as the primary medium of expression, four young indigenous women from divergent backgrounds collaborate and exchange ideas to consider the impact of language on identity and culture.

Root Tongue is an online platform for audience engagement motivated by the stories and issues raised in Tongues of Heaven. The women's experiences prompt a larger conversation about linguicide and revitalization in Root Tongue, a forum that allows participants to share their perspectives through dialogue as well as uploads of photos, music, writings, and short videos. Users will also be able to access educational and community resources on language preservation. Indigenous people and minority language learners have a keen awareness of the demands and flux of their own communities in the context of other global societies. Root Tongue aims to continually illuminate their visions as they heal, energize, and rethink the personal and local.

Anita Chang is an independent filmmaker, educator and writer. Her award-winning works have screened internationally and broadcast on public television and cable outlets in U.S. and Taiwan. Chang's experimental and documentary works are inspired by and engaged in discourses on postcolonialism, ethnography, diaspora, and cross-cultural representation. She has taught production and studies courses in numerous contexts, such as the Academy of Audio Visual Arts & Sciences in Kathmandu Nepal, the renowned Motion Picture Department at National Taiwan University of Arts as a Fulbright Scholar, and the Department of Indigenous Languages and Communication at National Dong Hwa University in Taiwan.