Documentary | 2001 | 56 mins | VHS | Closed Captioning
Producer/Director: Taggart Siegel
Producer/Editor: Jim McSilver
THE SPLIT HORN follows the emotional saga of Paja Thao, a Hmong shaman, and his family in the U.S. They were transplanted from the mountains of Laos during the Vietnam War to America’s heartland. For more than 17 years, Siegel has chronicled the intimate and private lives of Paja Thao, his wife and their thirteen children.
This candid and moving documentary focuses on Paja, whose spiritual leadership plays a vital role in Wisconsin’s Hmong community. He ministers to the physical and spiritual needs of friends and family with elaborate rituals that bridge the natural and spirit worlds. However, as Paja’s children have grown up, they begin losing touch with their father’s 5,000-year-old traditions.
This intimate family portrait explores universal issues of cultural transformation, spirituality and family. It is a rare close-up view of one Hmong family’s resettlement and acculturation in America. Siegel captures a sense of sadness mingled with hope as the film delves into how ancient Hmong tradition struggles to survive in a new land and culture. Ultimately, the vital themes of family, community and culture, woven throughout the film, echo the concerns of many American families in contemporary times.