Monday, June 6 - SESSION 1:
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

09.00 am
Nasko Kriznar

Scientific Research Centre of Slovenian Academy of Sciences&Arts, Ljubljana
Ethnographic film between data collection and documentary
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.

Beate Engelbrecht
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.

Darko Strajn
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.

Discussion, comments, questions.




02.00 pm
Henning Engelke
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.

Tiago Baptista
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".

Akira Tochigi
National Film Center / The National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo
Ainu of the North: Visualizing the Natives in Japan
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 ignored.

Dan Nissen
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 in Denmark".
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.

Discussion, comments, questions.

04.00 pm
Peter Kubelka

Co-founder and former co-director of Österreichisches Filmmuseum, Vienna
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 concepts.

Discussion, comments, questions.

Back to Symposium - Go to SESSION 2