Monday, May 16, 2011

Lucy Special: RAI 12th International Film Festival Anthropologists on film

There’s a whole strand in this year’s festival concerning anthropologists on film-from those rather famous ones like Levi-Strauss (‘Claude Lévi-Strauss, Return to the Amazon’ Marcelo Fortaleza Flores 2009) and their activities and experiences in the field to those behind the camera considering the nature and reality of the fieldwork endeavor itself. Essential stuff for both budding and fledged anthropologist alike as it’s good to reflect on where the discipline has been to know where it can, and is, going. The radical shifts during disciplinary development can be seen through the leaps forward and mis-steps of pioneers, players and the simply passionate alike.

Films to look out for include the story of the first ethnographic film made (‘The Masks of Mer’ Michael Eaton 2010) plus those concerned with direct interventions and engagements of anthropologists within environments, whether restoring and recreating historic homes in new space (‘Further Lane’ John M. Bishop 2011) or embedded with the US army (‘Human Terrain’ James Der Derian 2010). The ‘experimenter effect’ of the ethnographic venture is explored intimately in films addressing the deep interrelationship and effect of researchers and the communities they work with, both positive and negative. Deep bonds inspiring new forms of ceremony and celebration are found regarding Frembgen in Pakistan (‘The Red Sufi Martin Weinhart 2010), Francois and Stern in Motalava, (‘The Poet’s Salary’ Eric Wittersheim 2008), and Rouch in West Africa (‘I Am a White African - Farewell to Jean Rouch’ Bernd Mosblech 2008). In contrast, the perspective from within the Yanomamo tribe of Chagnon’s work illustrates when things go wrong. By exploring the work, perspectives and debate generated by this controversial project, the very nature of the anthropological project itself is considered (‘Secrets of the Tribe’ José Padilha 2010).

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