Posts tagged ‘ethnofiction’
Reflexion– expression without words; a remark expressing careful consideration; a calm, lengthy, intent consideration.
Inter– Between, among; mutually; reciprocally
Marlowe Lecture Theatre 1, University of Kent, Tuesday, 3rd June, 1-7pm
This year’s screening and exhibition of third year visual anthropology projects was titled Inter-Reflexions. The organisation of the screening programme made more explicit how our students’ projects speak to each other as much as they do to the wide issues they engage with. They testify to the processes of collaboration and feedback they followed and inspiration they took from teaching in visual anthropology theory in the Autumn term.
In this yearly event we celebrate our students commitment to creative use of photography and video that takes visual anthropological methodologies into engagement with the issues and interests that inspire and fascinate them.
For the screening we started with the body’s most symbolised extension into the space that surrounds us in Matthew Neale’s Hair, a critical exploration of the meanings of hair and hair products. The student experience also featured strongly in Hollie Goman’s intimate enquiry into what university means to students, in The Art of Growing Up. In an altogether more imagined and playful space of magic and alternative use of university spaces, Jake Conley and Chelsey Jacobs, entered into the games of the Harry Potter inspired university club, The Hogwarts Society. By contrast, Liam Dorr took us off campus in an ethnofiction inspired film on one student’s plan for the perfect party. Ongka’s Big Moka was the inspiration, but Joel’s Big Party is a lot funnier.
From the student ‘hair’ and the now we moved to the theme of eternity and longevity in shorts that tackled religion, activism and laughter. Christiane Howe deepened our appreciation of arranged and sometimes fortuitous marriages in The Unification Movement. Annabelle Spooner travelled to South Korean churches in the UK to see the challenges they face in Yeswhonim.
In Of Families and Eternity, Robert Malin delivered new insights from behind the doors of the Mormon church. In fighting for the continued use of their skatepark on the Southbank, the activists that Henry Worger collaborated with in Culture with a Capital U, also desire a sense of continuity and longevity. Troy King’s The Act of Laughter delved deeply into the challenges of being a stand up comedian and found strong links with anthropology.
Dr Oliver Double, who starred in Troy King’s film, dropped in to contribute further insights into stand up comedy.
In the break we had the opportunity to look at the photographic exhibition. It covered similarly wide-ranging topics, exploring a range of photographic techniques within anthropology as well as diverse visual subjects. From the performance of gender and sexuality, to the effect of moving into a retirement home, to the emotional journey of a mixed-martial arts fighter as he prepares for, and takes part in, the biggest fight of his career, the photographic projects asked how, as researchers, we can explore and depict the encounters with life that make up the human experience using photography. This year’s photographers were: Alice Keegan, Lewis Batterham, Jamie Baird, Ayla Jay, Joanna Jones, Sarah Graham, Thomas Lindsay, Rebecca Scutcher, Keira Henderson, Daven Nijran-Talwar, Lydia Hill and Monique Dray.
We returned from the break to the themes of home, place and identity, linked in a series of shorts that travel from Cornwall to Canterbury’s Good’s Shed, to London protests against homelessness, to a novel exploration of the idea of stress and ending with one man’s fight with mental illness. Jesse Tomlinson tested claims for Cornish identity in Ve Bos Kernewek in a short in which he was also tested. In Localised, Oliver Seary took us to the heart and soul of local produce, through evocative visual portraits of traders from the Good’s Shed. Experimental in format with a challenging message, Mike Cadby, delivered a novel framing of the challenge of homelessness in Life’s a Beach. Scott Skinner addressed the question of how the idea of stress effects us using a key TED talk as a vehicle propelled by anthropological interest in the reception of media. A Stressful Perception aims to transform the audience’s perceptions. In Fragments of a Life, Simon Schwarz took us into the home of one man and their journey of facing mental illness through the camera.
Our final group of films shifted more deeply into the theme of reflection. In A Journey Into Landscape & Tourism in Aljezur, Alex Woodcock, journeyed to Portugal to meditate on a village where most of the population now live in cities.
In Transient Reflections, Becci Geach translated the experience of being human in moving trains into a visual aesthetic that linked us to fellow passengers. Piano Talk, focused on the destination. Helen Peek explored the reasons why people come from far and wide to play the pianos in King’s Cross Station. Naomi Webb’s Running Monologue, was a strikingly personal portrayal structured by a powerfully moving motif. Sam Parsons’ gravity defying film, Leave it on the Ground, opened up the social and personal motivations of sky divers and concluded our afternoon.
This concluded the screening part of the day.
This year we welcomed back Professor Hugh Brody to award the prize in his name. We were also excited to learn how the Tracks Across Sand project has developed since last year. Tracks Across Sand is a major video project that looks the history of the first indigenous land claim in Africa. Last year he started a major fundraising initiative to fund the dissemination of the film and to create an online resource. This year he confirmed that he has got funding to screen the film all over the African continent and to set up an archive at the University of Cape Town.
This year we also welcomed a new judge for the screening to award the David Pick Documentary Prize. In a career spanning more than three decades, David Pick produced and directed hundreds of television programmes in the UK, mainly for ITV. From science magazines (The Real World) to religious/ethical affairs documentaries (The Human Factor); from a twice-weekly live soap opera (Together) to filmed family comedy (Worzel Gummidge); from documentaries like The Tigers’ Tale, chronicling the excavation of The Channel Tunnel, to The Hannibal Test, which followed Ian Botham and elephants on a charity trek across the Alps.
Are Mothers Really Necessary?, a seven-part series for Channel 4 on the work of the controversial child-psychiatrist, Dr John Bowlby, was focused on three of his major studies: Attachment, Separation and Loss. The filming presented many practical and ethical challenges to the documentary-maker: in a residential unit for children suffering the effects of severe emotional and/or physical abuse; in day-care centres for babies and toddlers; in a preparatory boarding school; in the mother-and-baby units of British and American prisons; in the cancer wards of children’s hospitals; and with grieving parents in a children’s hospice. Since retiring from TV, David has studied Creative Writing, taking two modules of a part-time BA at UKC before joining the MA programme at Christ Church Canterbury, where he gained a distinction. His first novel, Mrs May: A PsychoSexual Odyssey, tells the story of a primary schoolteacher’s mission to redeem a teenage thug, once a delightful child in her reception class. Mrs May is available as a paperback or e-book on Amazon.
In the dialogue between Hugh Brody and David Pick we hoped to find the creative tension and possibilities between the increasingly blurred boundaries of ethnographic and documentary filmmaking.
The photography prizes were judged by Glenn Bowman and Maria-Paz Peirano. Maria-Paz Peirano is a PhD student researching Chilean cinema. Glenn Bowman is a reader of social anthropology at the University of Kent, Director of the Liberal Arts programme and a visual anthropologist who uses photography extensively in his research in Jerusalem and the Occupied Territories of Palestine, Macedonia and Cyprus.
To see photos of the day please click on our Flickr photostream.
Photography prizes went to the following:
Most innovative use of photography: Sarah Graham for ‘Threads of History’
Anthropological Vision: Jamie Baird for ‘The evolution of Murals in East Belfast’
Best overall photographs: Joanna Jones for ‘Timberlina: an anthropological case study of a contemporary drag artist’
The photography exhibition can be viewed online here.
David Pick Prize –Fragments of a Life – Simon Schwarz
Peter McCulloch, the key protagonist and collaborator in Simon’s film received the prize in his absence.
David Pick Runner Up- Localised– Oliver Seary
Special Commendation- The Unification Movement– Christiane Howe
Hugh Brody Prize –Running Monologue–Naomi Webb
Hugh Brody Runner Up Prize- Joel’s Big Party – Liam Dorr
Audience Prize-Fragments of a Life–Simon Schwarz
Photographs by Caroline Bennett and Mike Poltorak.
November 9, 2010
In 1955, filmmaker and anthropologist Jean Rouch made Les Maîtres Fous, considered the first film of the ethnofiction genre. Ethnofiction, a branch of Docufiction, blurs the line between documentary and fiction, using actors and scripts (or, in some cases, improvisation) to portray and represent ethnographic issues. Although it is sometimes a difficult genre to define, according to Wikipedia (often a useful source in defining such contemporary terms), it can refer to “any fictional creation with an ethnographical background.”
The other week, we were lucky enough to be given a talk by a prominent figure in the study and making of ethnofiction films, Johannes Sjöberg. Working at the University of Manchester and focussing on the overlapping of Anthropology, Media and Drama, Sjöberg discussed his recent ethnofiction film, Transfiction. After 15 months of fieldwork in São Paulo amongst transgender communities, Sjöberg asked Fabia Mirassos and Savana Meirelles to use improvisation to act out scenarios that they felt represented transgender identity in São Paulo. As the film’s website explains, although Transfiction is a fiction film, “it is made as an ethnographic documentary where story and dialogue are created in the moment.”
Hearing Johannes Sjöberg speak and learning about ethnofiction reminded me of an article I read a few weeks ago, David Samuels’ Alien Tongues. In this article, published in the book E.T. Cultures: Anthropology in Outerspaces, Samuels speculates on what an alien language would sound like, whilst also revealing a lot about human language. As anthropologists often try to describe the “other” – or “alien” cultures – Samuels believes it would seem appropriate to discuss the anthropological aspects of the belief in real aliens. Suddenly, science fiction films such as Blade Runner, Planet of the Apes and District 9 came to my mind. I realized that many films (including science fiction films) can, to some extent, be regarded, as works of ethnofiction. Indeed, at times, some of the most powerful critique of present day culture can be found in fiction, where filmmakers create whole worlds, stories and characters based on the issues of today. Perhaps the genre of ethnofiction is wider than we imagine…
As well as being a pioneer of Cinéma Vérité (the genre to which his most famous work, Chronique d’un été, belongs), Jean Rouch is also widely regarded as one of the forerunners of the French New Wave movement. Therefore, we can compare, for instance, Rouch’s Chronique d’un été with Jean-Luc Godard’s New Wave classic Breathless, which depicts a realist 1960s Paris. Jean Rouch and Jean-Luc Godard were even friends, often exchanging ideas and critiquing each others films. French New Wave, in turn, was heavily influenced by the Italian Neorealism movement of the 40s and 50s, which includes a favorite film of mine, Vittorio de Sica’s Umberto D. This film follows the elderly Umberto, as he copes with poverty and desperation in post-war Italy. Typical of Italian Neorealist films, it aimed to reflect the difficult economic and social conditions of every day life, whilst also using non-professional actors and on-location filming. More recently, we have films such as City of God, which draws upon these traditions of the French New Wave and Italian Neorealism, depicting organized crime in Rio de Janiero and using actual residents of the favelas as actors. This brings us nicely back to Sjöberg’s Transfiction.
To briefly sum up, as Jean Rouch points out in his article The Camera and Man, there has been a close link between anthropology, ethnography and film since the very dawn of cinema itself. And, since 1895, when Felix Regnault used “time sequence photography” to study the movement of the human body in motion, it is clear that this link has evolved in countless ways. Many anthropologists, such as Jay Ruby or Marcus Banks, claim different, sometimes quite narrowminded, definitions of what they call “ethnographicness” in film and photography (Ruby, it should be pointed out, believes only an anthropologist can make a true ethnographic film). But, in my opinion, “ethnographicness” is not even something found exclusively in documentaries, although these are, perhaps, the only types of films where “ethnographicness” is intentionally made explicit. Many films, whether we realize or not, may contain aspects of ethnofiction and, to varying extents, use fiction to deal with anthropological issues. I think the genre, if we can call it that, really is wider than it seems.