Monday, June 6 - SESSION
Ethnographic film, its origins, methodology, film as a research process,
film as ideology and politics, film as an image of life style …
Chaired by Peter Crawford
NAFA – Nordic Anthropological Film Association
Scientific Research Centre of Slovenian Academy of Sciences&Arts,
Ethnographic film between data collection
In the history of anthropological and ethnological research many aspects
of filmmaking appeared. The cinema was invented as a tool for gathering
visual information about natural phenomena, while modern use of film
in anthropology and ethnology meets more sophisticated demands in the
research of a man and his culture. Among them are the questions of ethics
and participation. The film is not any more a tool for gathering data;
it is more and more the process of the construction of knowledge about
crosscultural visual phenomena. With the development of cinematographic
technology and especially with electronic visual technologies many media's
issues have to be put under question and many new genres are arising
from traditional ethnographic film. Rethinking ethnographic film today
means rethinking the methodology used in anthropology and in the science
in general. Thus the relationship between research and cinematic aspects
of culture remains the main challenge of ethnographic filmmaking.
IWF – Knowledge&Media, Göttingen
A never ending story – filmmaking
as research process
Since 25 years, I am doing research in a Mexican village. The topics
changed with the time: Developmental Anthropology and Studies of Material
Culture, Ritual and the Organisation of Fiesta, Migration and the Family
Development in a Transnational Context. More then 15 years ago, I started
to add film to the research process. Since then, the technology changed
a lot and new forms of film as research tool have been developed. On
the other side, new forms of doing research result in new forms of filmmaking.
The paper will give insides in the experiences I have made in Mexico
and USA, where the Mexican migrants now live. It will discuss topics
like research and collaboration, film construction and uncontrolled
developments, stories take.
Educational Research Institute, Ljubljana
Memory and identity on film
The complexity of meanings of the notion of memory became more complicated
and simpler at the same time, when first photography and then film had
entered human history. Unlike written records or different works of
art – including architecture – these "means" of
representation are simultaneously reducing and enlarging the impact
of subjectivity on a product, which makes a representation possible.
The mechanic aspect of producing a photograph, a film and (later on)
other visual or audio-visual representations, contributes to an impression
of a special "objectivity" of any "documented" look
through the lens of a camera. This gives way to an implication of simplicity
of any (audio) visual narrative. So, there is almost no doubt that such
a record represents a powerful means of verification of memory in almost
any respect: historical, collective, and even individual or psychological.
However, by accumulation of ways of audiovisual recording of no matter
what kind of objects we can think of, a memory, which is "stored"
in various media (photographs, films, tapes, disks, etc.), becomes more
complex as it is becoming increasingly inaccessible in its totality.
It seems like that especially film and other forms of audiovisual presentation
in a sense "objectify" memory. However, they are rather multiplying
levels of reality and therefore memory becomes open to manipulation.
Nevertheless, due to all circumstances, memory as it is "materialised"
in film, is unavoidably constructed. This makes work of film archives
especially demanding and ethically accountable. In the midst of a time-space,
which is inhabited by memory, the notion of identity is formed. This
notion brings us then closer to the realm of culture since identity
acquires its relevance in relation to difference. Each film is in one
way or the other related to these notions, which form its basic grammar.
Deutsches Filmmuseum, Frankfurt
Video and the city: urban culture in India
as a problem of spatial representation
Within the last 15 years video technology has substituted film as a
means of producing documentaries, and ethnographic documentaries in
particular. The technological development has given new impetus to debates
on important issues such as transcultural dialogue, polycentric perspectives
or the self-representation of minority cultures. The actual changes
in the construction of representational space have, however, attracted
only scarce attention. Video is still being regarded as a kind of cheaper
and more versatile offspring of the film medium, sharing its means of
spatial articulation and narrative coherence. As I will argue in my
paper, this assumption has serious flaws. Despite obvious similarities,
cinematic models of representation cannot account for the construction
of space in documentary videos.
Cases in point are Rahul Roy's documentaries on urban culture in India.
In these works, shot on video, human interaction is represented as interwoven
with the topographical frame of cityscapes. While this at first seems
to imply the notion of "narrative space" as used in film theory,
I will argue on the contrary that the representation of space in Roy's
videos significantly breaches with filmic traditions and employs new
aesthetic models based on different modalities of production.
Cinemateca Portuguesa, Lisboa
Portugal's most Portuguese village: constructing
Portugal's national identity in the 1930's
Ethnographic film is often associated with many European countries'
past as colonial powers and the way these countries used cinema to depict
African, American and Asian territories and populations they once ruled.
However, ethnographic film also has a European tradition of its own,
closely interlaced with the history of ethnography and anthropology
as autonomous sciences and with the desire of scholars to represent
local, regional and national cultural identities.
This paper presents a Portuguese attempt of this sort dating from 1938,
when the authoritarian regime organized a national contest to determine
which would be Portugal's most "authentic" village –
something other European countries also did. As part of this metonymic
contribution to the construction of Portugal's national identity as
an agrarian utopia, a short documentary was shot, sponsored by the same
official propaganda office that had organized the contest. In this film,
the viewer's gaze is made to coincide with the one of the national jury
visiting the final selection of 12 villages and to whose benefit local
scholars had organized all sorts of colourful peasant traditions hoping
to cause the strongest impression.
The film makes a strong case for the importance of ethnographic film
as a relevant instance not only of the iteration of existing European
national cultures, but also of the construction of so many of Europe's
national identities and traditions. Suffice to say that even today the
village of "Monsanto", which won the 1938 contest, is still
referred to as "Portugal's most Portuguese village".
National Film Center / The National Museum of Modern
Ainu of the North: Visualizing the Natives
After the start of the Meiji era (1868–1912) beginning with the
modern, that is, Westernized, restoration of the imperial system, Japan
managed to govern "internal" colonies as well as "external"
colonies: "internal" colonies include the Okinawan archipelago
in the south and the Hokkaido island in the north. As a consequence,
Ainu, the native people living in Hokkaido, became the ethnographical
object to be seen under the eyes of the ruling class who were inclined
to identify themselves with the West. With the presentation of the fragments
from "Ainu Life in Shiraoi-Kotan, Hokkaido" (1925, directed
by Saburo Hatta, 35mm tinted print with English intertitles, restored
by National Film Center, Tokyo, in 2003) (and possibly other titles
relating to the Ainu people), I will delineate the modes of production,
exhibition and preservation of this film which records the dying culture
and life style of this people. Based on the ethnographical visual materials,
I will also try to explore through how the modern Japan looked at the
Ainu people, and examine what the filmmakers wanted to record and what
Danish Film Institute, Kobenhavn
Life in Denmark
In Danish cinema history we could have a chapter on Danish films on
Denmark and the Danes. There have been produced quite a few of those
ever since the silent era and at least until the seventies. The films
do not concern themselves with our previous colonial territories as
Greenland and Faroe Islands. They focus on the rather small geographic
area we today call Denmark. They might be the result of being a small
nation with a very small number of inhabitants, and/or they could be
the result of being a nation for a thousand years.
My presentation will tell the story – as far as we know it –
of films on Denmark and the Danes and will focus on to examples: one
is from 1935 and is today known as Danmarksfilmen, or PHs Danmarksfilm,
the second film is from 1971 by Jørgen Leth. It is called "Life
The first one was an assignment from the foreign ministry to make a
film about Denmark, but the result was considered a scandal. It was
shelved and cut to pieces as unusable. Only decades after, it has been
reconstructed and stands today as a classic. I will elaborate on the
discussion about the film and the background for it, and discuss how
it is visualizing culture.
The second one is by a director who has always claimed, that he is approaching
his subject as an anthropologist looking at a certain tribe, with distance
and interest. This is what he is doing in "Life in Denmark"
and he is visualizing culture in quite another way than the first film.
It's one of the rare, truly original films made in Denmark.
Co-founder and former co-director of Österreichisches
Poetry and Truth
Peter Kubelka's POETRY AND TRUTH supplies us with one more layer towards
a portrait of the artist as archeologist – as a hunter and gatherer
of artefacts which, in some hundred years of time, will be able to answer
questions that cannot even be thought of today. Held against the background
of Kubelka's "gai savoir" and curatorial pedagogy, this found
footage film functions in more ways than one: as a work of art, as a
demonstration object, as an ethnographic document. However, instead
of recording the discovery of an unknown tribe in the wilderness, the
ethnographic footage at hand bears witness to our own Western rituals
of make-believe, you-should-have, go-and-buy. In the history of world
film culture, Peter Kubelka stands next to Jonas Mekas as one of the
few major cinematheque founders and film archivists who are also widely
acknowledged to be part of the filmmaking canon. His films include masterpieces
such as SCHWECHATER (1958), ARNULF RAINER (1960) and OUR TRIP TO AFRICA
(1966). Kubelka co-founded the Österreichisches Filmmuseum in Vienna
in 1964 and served as its co-director until 2001. The 13-minute POETRY
AND TRUTH is his first film release in 26 years. It was premiered at
the Österreichisches Filmmuseum in October 2003, during the opening
of its redesigned "Invisible Cinema 3" which is based on Kubelka's
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