1996 filmfest home

Incorporating the RAI biennial Film Prize and the University of Kent Ethnographic Film Festival
Friday 8th - Sunday 10th November 1996


Parallel Screenings

Migration, Migrants and Anthropological Film

Contemporary interest in migration and migrant identities forms part of a wider project encourages by the EU and the ESRC and is reflected in much current research. A number of the films submitted in 1996 explore the theme of migration, migrant experiences and the relationship between home and away. The films in this session also raise a number of issues concerning the use of documentary and fiction to represent migrant experiences. When does a film about migrant become a political statement? And whose point of view does the film represent? Migration is inevitably a political issue in the 1990s, what potential does ethnographic film have for this rather controversial domain?

We begin in the United States with Oaxa California, the story of a Mexican family living in California which focuses on the experience of cross-cultural life. Taxi to Timbuktu again being in the US, in New York where it explores the experiences and standpoints of African taxi drivers, cut with footage from their home villages that the film later visits. Urban immigrants remain central to this session as we move to Europe where Bintou in Paris uses fiction to high light gender issues represented through a family dispute over female circumcision amongst African immigrants. In Flight a rather different type of migration unfolds as Khanty children are taken from their isolated rural families to a larger settlement where they will learn a new culture and life-style. Finally, The Sami Reindeer Herders, a film of outstanding quality, draws our attention to a life-style to which seasonal migration is integral. Whilst the subsistence strategies of these 'migrants' are very different from those of the urban migrants we meet in the earlier films they are equally political for their own special reasons. Of particular related interest is A Sheepherder's Homecoming, one of the films selected for the RAI Prize Screenings on Friday afternoon when it can be seen in 16mm. This film is also available in the video library.

Death, Bereavement and Anthropological Film.

The set of films selected for this session can be viewed from a variety of different perspectives. Death and funerary ritual has long since been a significant focus of anthropological attention and the entries for the 1996 prize competition reflected the strength of a continuing interest in this field. On the one hand these films represent anthropological approaches to the study of death,, attention is paid to the details of mortuary ritual and material practice of dealing with death. Simultaneously contemporary stress on subjectivity is represented when in some of these films the potential of the media to represent personal and quite intimate representations of experience is exploited to offer an insight into individual standpoints on death and bereavement. These films which also inevitably raise a whole series of ethnical and moral issues explore both the public and enclosed domains in which death is made meaningful in a range of different cultures. Dialogue between visual anthropology and the anthropology of death and bereavement clearly holds much potential and it is hoped that this session will inspire a lasting discourse

The Social Life of Song

Ethnographic film allows an important opportunity both for people to perform their music and song to a camera as well as for filmmakers to takes these fascinating art forms as the central narratives of their own work. The three films selected for this session feature a significant and enjoyable footage of song and music from three different cultures. In Let our Songs Live we see how below the surface the old culture and religion of the Siriono of the Bolivian Lowlands is still alive beneath the veneer of a North American Missionary culture. Ou Les Accordeons Chantent explores Vallentato music and the life of its musicians in Northern Columbia.

Living Religions and Cultures of Ritual: Religious Lives and Rituals in Ethnographic Film

The films screened in this session take as their focus some of the multiple ways in which religion may be interwoven with other aspects of social and cultural life, both on the level of personal subjectivities and as a wider and sometimes more imposing way of constructing reality and creating a social order. The first four films contemplate religious ritual, Warrior Rituals: Tupay in Chiaraje is about a fertility ritual which has taken place in Cosco, Peru since the pre-Hispanic period. The Torches takes us to Italy, this time to a Catholic festivity - the Procession of the Torches, whilst in Bushos another festive activity which is frequently found in varying forms in different cultures is featured as the Carnival of Bushos brings into the public domain some of the social problem of concern to this Slavonic group. Tayuban: Dancing the Spirit of Java takes us to an third area of the world. This film has the added dimension of offering us an insight into the role played by the anthropologist in the organisation of the performance of this religious ritual and the making of the film. The location is a Javanese village where the film follows the unfolding of this ritual dance which is performed as a gift to the protective spirit and an expression of community identity. The films shown later in this session concentrate in more details on the ways in which the religious dimension of life is experienced and the ways in which religion may structure an individual's life and activities. We Came Back is about the arrival of Orthodox Jews from all over the world in Mako, the native town of their parents. The central event to their visit is the 50th anniversary of the Holocaust, and the death of the last rabbi of Mako, yet the film also draws out other themes which rest on this religious narrative- such as the opportunity to meet old friends.

Keepers of the Faith offers an intriguing and sensitive perspective on the daily lives and narratives of Burmese Buddhist nuns. This film provides an insight into Buddhists models and experiences of femininity both inside and outside this religious context Finally, Bear and Shaman focuses on another different experience of religious life by exploring the life and activities of Ulchis Michael Duvan, a 94 year old Shaman.

In addition to these a large number of films of related interest are to be screened in other sessions and over 100 videos will be available for viewing in the Festival Video Library during the three days of the Event.

Guests and Guides: anthropology, tourism and travel on film

This session focuses on the relationship between those who visit other cultures and those who act as their hosts. Anthropologist, tourist and traveller are modern categories of uncertain autonomy. Each of the films screened in this session represents and comments on the experiences of people who are identified with these categories in one way or another. The visual imagery, interviews and voiceover of these films constitute representations of experience of/with 'other cultures': Into the Longhouse follows the visit of a group of Dutch tourists to the Iban of Sarawak; in Sweet Sorghum, Kaira Streckner reflects on her experience of life with the Hamar as the daughter of anthropologists Jean Lydall and Ivo Streckner; in Ella's Journal, anthropologists Ella Wiswell returns, 50 years after her original fieldwork to a rural Japanese celebration; and in Wayana Travel Diary an Hungarian anthropologist hosts and represents the visit of his Wayana informant to Budapest.

In addition to representing a range of contemporary travel experiences which are in themselves of anthropological interest, as documents these films also raise some important issues: to what extent do western filmic documents represent a 'western' version of inter-cultural contact? is it even possible to step beyond such western or anthropological frames to consider, for example, the way(s) Iban make tourism meaningful? whose is the Wayana Travel Diary? how does Kaira Streckner's account of learning to live with/like Hamar combine a loyalty to the expression of experience with descriptions of Hamar practice to produce a valuable anthropological document? Other tourist experiences are represented in Sunday's JVC Professional Student Film Prize screenings: in Looking for Man of Aran an investigation centred on the vintage anthropological film leads us to a contemporary context where if forms part of the local packaging of tourism. Similarly, in Saturday's Special Screenings, Stonehenge, a high profile location which is woven into tourist experience is also the site of dispute in Set in Stone.

Updated 20-8-96 Steve Wilson