Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Diary for 16th August - 22nd August 2007

THURSDAY 16TH AUGUST - Films and Society

All this month, the British Film Institute is screening "10 Documentaries that shook the World". It is a collection of films that ranges from propaganda-fuelled celebrations of power, such as the Nazis' "Triumph of the Will' to campaigning pieces that document little-known injustices across the world, such as McLibel. Many of the films being shown are used as examples of the relationship between documentary film and society on university visual anthropology courses, so not only are they eye-opening for their subject matter but also as a way of analysing how the the filmic medium in the last century has been used to affect, as well as reflect, people's knowledge of the world around them.

FRIDAY 17TH AUGUST - Faces of Exclusion

Today I'm going to check out a prize-winning film made by a student on the MA in Visual Anthropology at Goldsmiths University, London. Prestes Maia won the Inter-American Bank's Faces of Exclusion 'microdocumentary' competition for its portrayal of a social movement amongst homeless people in Sao Paolo, Brazil who are reoccupying abandoned buildings. The aim of the competition was to enlist film-makers to complement more traditional research methods by documenting issues of social exclusion in Latin America. It's an interesting example of a development organisation turning to audiovisual research methods - good news for visual anthropologists everywhere! You can watch the film online, along with films made by other students, here.

SATURDAY 18TH AUGUST - Vodou in Old Street

This weekend there's a Haitian film festival being held at The Foundry in East London, in combination with an exhibition running there - Vodou Rezistans. The exhibition is a combination of sculpture and photography from 14.30 until late, and is being co-organised by Leah Gordon - an English film-maker and artist who has been working with Haitian artists for many years. The films being shown look at the social context for much of the art produced in Haiti. At 20.00 tonight, there's a short portrait of two sculptors from the island and the cultural and political forces that have shaped their work followed by Jorgen Leth's 'Dreamers' which documents the influence of spiritual forces such as vodou on everyday life. For more information, please contact Leah Gordon on leahgordon@aol.com

SUNDAY 19TH AUGUST - Telling porkie pies

Pigs hold great importance in many societies and cultures from their use as currency in Polynesia or as a taboo food amongst Jewish people. All in all, any student of anthropology is bound to come across them in one form or another. So today I'm going a little offbeat to pig out on porcine culture in an attempt to understand why they can be so valuable. After doing some background research by clicking on those links, I'll be returning to the Haitian Film Festival at The Foundry for the 20.30 showing of "A Pig's Tale" about a Vodou priest searching for a mythical Creole pig threatened with extinction by an misjudged US sponsorship programme. Following that, I can justifiably trot on home to rustle up something delicious, possibly using one of the suggestions from this article, which again refers to the cultural importance of our curly-tailed friends.

MONDAY 20TH AUGUST - Romany on the Radio

This evening I'm planning to tune into the second episode of Romany Roads on Radio 4 at 20.00, which looks at the changes in gypsy life since the end of World War II, and to what extent their culture and lifestyle has been affected by various challenges. Lat week's programme focused on the history of the gypsy diaspora across Europe and featured several ethnographic accounts from the early 20th century.
Also worth noting is that Thinking Allowed - a favourite of Anthropologist about Town because it regularly features anthropologists - is now available as a podcast. You can set up an automatic download here. There's also an opportunity to sign up for presenter Laurie Taylor's "irreverent"weekly take on life amongst social scientists in his newsletter.

TUESDAY 21ST AUGUST - Return of the Tribe

Tonight sees the return of BBC 1's flagship series, Tribe, in which explorer Bruce Parry travels the world and meets various tribal peoples. As you may be aware, the programme has been the subject of heated debate amongst anthropologists regarding how successful it is in its representations of the tribes it films. In fact, there was even a debate on the subject at the recent Ethnographic Film Festival in Manchester. In the first episode, Bruce visits the Matis people of the Amazon jungle in Brazil, and learns about the rituals they use to prepare for hunting, as well as looking at their relationship with outsiders from other parts of Brazilian society. You can view a preview of the programme online, as well as a series of other clips from the series. There's also more information available on the Survival International website here.


On Wednesday I'm going to check out another anthropology blog, Savage Minds, that operates as a discussion forum for (mainly postgraduate) students of anthropology. A brief look suggests they talk about anything from the Iraq war to sexual promiscuity via farming in Africa. It's a broad look at the latest developments in the field and is relatively accessible for those new to anthropology. They also have guest contributors - anthropology professors - from all over the world to keep things fresh. Well worth a look.

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