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Posts tagged ‘documentary’

28 Days on the Moon on Turkish TV

June 7, 2012


From Visual anthropology Classroom to  Turkish  TV

MPhil student Eda Elif Tibet’s documentary will be first broadcast on the Turkish documentary channel, İZ Tv,  on the 8th June at 10.15pm. She writes about the origin of her documentary, the process of its making,  and how her film was discovered on Facebook.

It was right after one of my first lessons in Visual Anthropology at Kent that I decided to realize my dream documentary project on Cappadocia. After many visits to the field site since 2007 and a long research period that took almost two years, I was just getting ready to try my first documentary. I did not have a budget, and there were no other crew members other than myself. I was excitedly getting ready to film, when my father passed away.

A beekeeper in Cappadocia.

I abandoned everything for a while with deep sorrow and grief. But, not so long after, I realized that perhaps to continue working on this film could make me understand some of the mysteries of life and what it is to be human, in a more humorous way. My mother bought me a HDSLR, the Canon 7 D, and I bought myself a mono microphone that could be placed on the top of the camera. In the field Dr. Andus Emge and his wife Gülcan Yücedoğan Emge, who also feature in the film,  were a great support. They hosted me several times in their wonderful guesthouse . I had friends all over Cappadocia, I was never alone and as I talked about my documentary idea , people seemed to be really engaged and supportive throughout the filming. The people who agreed to be filmed were more than informants to me. They were amazing characters that guided me with their light and friendship throughout the most difficult time of my life.

I shot the film in 28 days, because that was the time I had been given to complete the rest of the fieldwork and discipline myself as a first time visual anthropologist. I called Cappadocia the moon for its breathtaking moonlike landscape and also as a reference to its’ people who I thought were not quite understood; the secluded, conservative yet very friendly and hospitable cave dwellers.

I did not just want to make a film that was academically interesting but was also understandable for the people I encountered in Cappadocia. After filming enough for a rough cut I was lucky to meet with Tufan Bora, a very talented editor who has helped me a great deal. Without his assistance and great ideas on building the narrative flow for the film, I wouldn’t have achieved what I have now.

For the soundtrack of the film, I was also fortunate to be given the screening rights of  wonderful songs by the inspiring musicians Alain Blessing, Ozan Musluoglu and Tunç Tandoğan. I also got the opportunity to screen the film to visual anthropologists from around the world at the Intimate lens visual ethnography film festival in Italy, to students at Massey University in New Zealand, and in a mainstream student film festival in Abu Dhabi. In January of this year I drew on the feedback I was give to edit a final version and create a short trailer. With great luck, the trailer was recognized by an editor from IZ TVon facebook. After they watched the whole film, they asked to broadcast it for a year. Iz Tv is Turkey’s first and only documentary TV channel and was founded by leading photojournalists, independent documentary film makers and media professionals of the country. In  2007 they were awarded a Hotbird TV award. Iz TV remains a highly rated national documentary channel, featuring a wide range of documentary films on issues that are vitally important for the country.

One of the closing scenes of the film.

The commissioners at IZTV told me that they really appreciated the film and were curious to know more about visual anthropology (my film is the  first work of its kind to be screened on Turkish TV) pointing out that they need more films on cultural heritage and tourism that communicate local perceptions.  The editor who watched the whole documentary, commented: “ as a TV channel covering socio-political issues, tourism management and the protection of cultural heritage sites in Turkey  are among the weakest links in the country” They also found the film cinematographically compatible and engaging as it discusses a serious topic in a humorous way . They also pointed out that for the last two years they have shot all their documentaries on HD SLRs. Having it in HD, they said, was a good asset for TV broadcast.  The first of many broadcasts is on the 8th of June at 22:15pm.

Eda Elif Tibet

What is visual anthropology? Video compilation of some of our projects

February 23, 2012


Compilation of photos from visual anthropology

Ever wondered what visual anthropology is all about?  What does it include, and what sort of research is conducted by visual anthropologists?  We thought you might, so we’ve put together a short video compiling some of the work from the MA programme at the University of Kent, UK.

The programme teaches students a range of visual techniques to allow students to explore the world of anthropology – techniques ranging from still photography, to digital video making, to social media.  With a number of external experts teaching on the course (for example the photographer James Kriszyk, the editor Alan Miller, campaign filmmaker Zoe Broughton to name but three examples), as students on this course we learnt a huge amount, not just about the academic applications of visual anthropology, but also how it can feed into the wider world at large, and ultimately therefore a more publically engaged anthropology.  As a result our final projects have ranged from exploring life within a community of people with and without learning disabilities in Kent, to documenting threatened traditional medical systems in Ladakh, to looking at the impacts of their work on human rights workers, and much more besides.  But enough from me: watch the video and explore what visual anthropology is all about yourself.

Participatory Video, Community & Learning Disabilities

November 4, 2011


Using steady wings Sarah films Eddie and Malcolm in the kitchen of Cana House

The use of visual research methods is often celebrated as a useful method in participatory research.  But what happens when the research centres on vulnerable people, including people with quite profound learning disabilities?  How can you conduct participatory research in these communities?  Are visual methods appropriate?

During the research for my MA dissertation I had to confront all of these issues.  I spent the summer of 2011 with the community of L’Arche Kent as part of the research for my MA thesis.  My research explored concepts of home and community, and how it is within these structures that the community enables an environment of acceptance and equality for people with learning disabilities that is so rarely achieved in the wider society.  The final product of my research was a dissertation in two parts: the film Living Together (above) and a written thesis (read it here).

Filming with Sarah at Cana House

Who are L’Arche Kent?

Part of the wider L’Arche International community (5,000 people in over 130 different countries), L’Arche Kent is a community of over 100 people with and without learning disabilities living in six houses across Kent.  The severity of disability in the community varies from mild with only minimal support needs to profound with intensive one-to-one, or sometimes two-to-one 24-hour support needs.  The ages in the community range from 0 – 60 something, and right now there are people from 17 different countries in the community.

Evidently, if I wanted to conduct inclusive research in such a community I had to use a method which not only cut across age barriers, but which was also understandable to people from different countries as well as accessible to people of many differing abilities.  Which meant I needed a very accessible research methodology, something that would enable participation by even the most disabled people.  And so I decided upon video.

Why Video?

Video lent itself to this research because of its flexibility and the number of ways it encourages participation between the researcher and the people they are collaborating with.  It also meant I could produce a final version of the research which was accessible to the community.  Video really lets people take part in a way that more traditional research methods do not.  This is especially true with people who are non-literate and / or non-verbal, or with learning disabilities of varying degrees, who may not be able to undergo long conversations or interviews.

Video still from ‘Living Together’ – Geoffrey cooking

Cameras, video and TV are a part of everyday life here in the UK, and as such are understood and understandable to the majority of people.  Add to this the flexibility that filming provides  and we start to see some of the advantages of using this method: I had people filming me, filming themselves, filming each other, putting on plays for the camera (alone and in groups), directing me and each other, interviewing me and each other, helping in the editing, taking part just by being in the room and occasionally shouting suggestions.  People borrowed cameras to film their own lives; some people simply enjoyed watching what was going on.  The beauty of a camera (both still and moving) is the number of people who want to take part.  And because people were having fun it made my research really easy  – I had no issues with access, no problems with getting people to take part and most importantly no issues of people feeling disconnected and therefore exploited by the research.  This also meant that the community  had equal ownership of the project.  All of these meant that most people within the community wanted the project to succeed as much as I did, which made a huge difference, and helped balance the ethnographer – informant relationship in their favour.

Using Steady Wings to improve accessibility

Using steady wings Sarah films Eddie and Malcolm in the kitchen of Cana House

Using Steady Wings, Sarah films Eddie and Malcolm in the kitchen of Cana House

One of the major factors helping make video accessible in my research was the use of Steady Wings.  Designed by filmmaker Leonard Retel Helmrich, Steady Wings are an amazing piece of equipment which offer a range of filming possibilities outside of the traditional norms.  You can see them in use during Sarah’s portions of Living Together – nearly all of her filming was done using this equipment.  In my research they helped make a camera easy to use for less mobile people, and less intimidating for many others – having the camera mounted on a set of Steady Wings allowed people to easily hold and move with the camera, pass it amongst themselves, or simply explore different angles and views – offering different views of the world, smoother movements, and the freedom to play without worry.  They took the worry out of handling unfamiliar equipment and made it fun, and ultimately led to a much greater involvement by some of the disabled members of the community than I originally imagined possible.

Video still from ‘Living Together’ – Caroline showing me her room

Of course as with any research there are some aspects of using film that need care and consideration: informed consent was a concern; ensuring people understood what was happening was sometimes challenging, although not as challenging as managing the expectations of some members of the community who thought they were going to become famous Hollywood stars following my time in the community, and the one problem that I did not forsee was the difficulty in getting back some of the borrowed cameras at the end of the research period!  Whilst some have argued that any research with vulnerable people is exploitative, I personally believe that so long as proper care and consideration is taken, these issues are no more complex in conducting research with people with learning disabilities than with any other group, and in fact film offers quite the reverse, allowing people to speak for themselves, rather than have others speak for them.

I really enjoyed my time with L’Arche Kent.  As well as being integral for my MA thesis, the filmed work has enabled me to produce a number of shorts which L’Arche Kent are using on their website, and I continue to be involved in the community.  My findings on home and community made a contribution to the literature, but in the end the learning I will take away from this was that research in difficult circumstances becomes, if not easy, then at least possible, if you use a method that allows people to be involved as much as possible and to feel really involved.  I’m not sure there is a better method than video for this, but that point remains open to debate.

Hosts, Guests & Visuality in Ouzoud, Morocco

October 6, 2011

Reuben Ross

Ouzoud is a village undergoing rapid change. Once a quiet Berber community in the foothills of the Atlas Mountains, the last 10 years has seen it become one of Morocco’s major tourist destinations, receiving between 70,000 and 80,000 visitors a year. The main attraction: the Cascades d’Ouzoud, a spectacular set of waterfalls in the centre of the village, mentioned in popular guidebooks and advertised in Marrakech tour company windows. Two years ago, in the sweltering heat of mid-July, I traveled three hours from Marrakech in the back of an old Mercedes taxi to visit a Dutch friend who had recently bought a guesthouse there. But, upon my arrival in Ouzoud, I was surprised by what I saw. The waterfalls were beautiful and the landscape was impressive, but what about the large pile of smoldering rubbish? What about the dirt tracks that villagers used as roads? Surely, this was not typical of a major tourist destination that seemed to promise tranquility and natural beauty. I began to wonder how I can answer these questions and how I can better understand the complex relationship between tourists and locals. So, I returned to Ouzoud this spring to conduct fieldwork and produce a short documentary film as part of my MA dissertation project in Visual Anthropology, allowing me to explore these issues in further detail.

My film, entitled Ouzoud, addresses many of these issues in the anthropology of tourism, complementing the written dissertation. But, it was also conceived as an experiment in ethnographic cinema, to find an engaging and appropriate technical, aesthetic and theoretical form that such a cinema could take. I began with the premise that all films, including documentaries, are “created, structured articulations of the filmmaker and not authentic, truthful, objective records.” Just like tourists seeking some form of visual authenticity and, at times, perhaps even believing they have found it, documentary film often pretends to show the truth when, in fact, it is portraying a heavily mediated version of reality.  By making full use of thematic and dramatic editing techniques, I deliberately brought out the contradictions of tourism and the irony of many statements made by participants. I edited the film to reveal, through a variety of interviews and scenes of Ouzoud, the hosts’ and guests’ differing conceptions of tourism (at times echoing the ironic undertones Dennis O’Rourke uses in Cannibal Tours). Imagery such as a young child riding a donkey as a modern car drives next to him and Doug exiting his shiny Land Rover followed by a shot of a beggar, combined with engaging music and dynamic editing create a film that makes powerful comments on the nature of tourism. Ultimately, I share Jean Rouch’s enduring belief that ethnographic films should not be confined to the “closed information circuit” of academia, but that, ultimately, “ethnographic film will help us to ‘share’ anthropology,” through the use of such techniques. Hopefully, the film has done that.

Hamid, a young tour guide from Ouzoud, describes the effects of tourism on his village, with the waterfalls behind him. “If there are big hotels in the village, and after there is another one and another one, then maybe we are going to have factories and we are going to have a lot of pollution,”Hamid ponders. “I like to see everything traditional, everything as it was in the past. I mean, we would like some development, but not something other.”

In the end, Ouzoud finds itself as a village at the frontiers of mass tourism, where a problematical course of change is currently unfolding before our eyes. Scattered with holiday homes, guesthouses and campsites, its markets sell souvenirs and postcards, while countless restaurants serve couscous and tagine to tourists. Even now, just months after leaving Morocco, I have learnt of a new, Western-style supermarket being built in the center of the village. But, most importantly, Ouzoud is just one of thousands of villages like it, undergoing similar changes all over the world. It is now up to visual anthropologists and other social scientists to document, interpret and present these changes in new and effective ways. Throughout my written dissertation, I asked how tourism in Ouzoud can be defined, how it broadly affects the village community and how hosts and guests perceive one another. Meanwhile, if tourism really does have the potential to catalyze such immense global change then, through the film, I have explored whether a more visual, even cinematic, study of tourism will help illustrate that.

Watch the film below or on Vimeo here!

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