In Santiago, Mapuche communities have been organising and adapting spaces for cultural and political manifestations, ceremonies and exchanges of knowledge. A strong connection to the territory in the south of the country is maintained through travelling and visiting relatives or participating in the activities of the community of origin. However, despite the large indigenous population living in the Chilean capital, there is no clear territorial identity linked to the city and represented in clothing and/or jewellery, as is the case for traditional identities in the ancestral territory. Specific jewellery designs are linked to particular places, according to geographical and genealogical characteristics, becoming testimonial portraits of cosmogonic spirituality and political organisation. Yet in Santiago, there is no specific design of jewellery, but rather a mixing style (champurriado) mirroring heterogeneous and multiple identities. This chapter elaborates on the artwork Sonidos bajo el cemento (Sounds beneath concrete), proposing an imagined Mapurbe jewellery design based on conversations with Mapuche youths in Santiago.
This chapter provides an overview and guide to the methodology, theory, practice and ethics of ethnographic filmmaking. Examining in turn the various uses of film in anthropology, the differences between anthropological writing and anthropological films, and the kinds of knowledge produced by each, it proceeds to discuss the practical concerns of the anthropological filmmaker: questions of point of view, method and different approaches to the construction of films. It considers the pros and cons of teamwork and single-author filmmaking, aspects of film aesthetics, relationships with the subjects of films, the filmmaker’s behaviour in the field and different modes of camera use. Finally, it addresses the different practical strategies possible for this kind of filmmaking, including a focus on individuals as subjects, the uses of narrative, and thematic approaches. Also considered is the filmmaker’s relation to the viewer, and ways of making the filmmaker’s intentions and practice more evident within the film.
The anthropologist George Marcus wrote that cinema helped to inspire the use of montage-like juxtapositions in ethnographic texts. In this chapter, the author argues that the emergence of a cinematic imagination, which imagines the world constructed around the viewer, had more effect on anthropological writing than the presence of films themselves. Concern about how the construction of documentary films represents reality probably preceded similar concerns by anthropologists about the writing of anthropological texts. In the nineteenth and early twentieth century, anthropologists conceived of images as a source of knowledge, but this waned as they turned to less visible aspects of culture. Interest in visual anthropology revived only after the Second World War, with the work of Jean Rouch and John Marshall. Rouch pioneered a form of intense, immersive cinema, and Marshall employed filming and editing strategies that placed the viewer imaginatively within the three-dimensional field of the scenes filmed. This tended to counteract the perceptual and conceptual ‘flatness’ of earlier representations of culture. Malinowski’s and Evans-Pritchard's writing had contributed to a more immediate and rounded view, but ethnographic cinema confirmed it, making a significant contribution to anthropology as a whole.
This chapter argues that written and spoken language do not accurately convey how we actually think, or even how language presents itself in our minds. The ways images are organised in films also fail to represent accurately how we see and how we process mental images. The conventions of language and film are partly responsible for this, but the author argues that it is sometimes possible for individual artists to break the rules, bringing films closer to portraying the realities of conscious experience. For example, filmmakers such as Flaherty, Godard and Hitchcock are able to construct new and distinctive ways of looking at the world. Referring to the work of the anthropologist and filmmaker Ivo Strecker and art critic Norman Bryson, the chapter closes with a discussion of the uses of the short and long take in nonfiction cinema, comparing these with the glance and the gaze in human perception.
Research in the sciences, including the social sciences, is usually supposed to be conducted in a systematic way, working from research questions to the gathering of empirical data, to conclusions. But in an analogy drawn from the art of fencing, the author argues for an alternative approach in visual anthropology. Films look at the world differently from the ways we conventionally see, and these differences have optical, social and structural origins. To overcome these differences, filmmakers may have to voluntarily ‘dislocate’ themselves in order to put themselves in a position to view their subject from a different perspective, and so uncover new knowledge. The argument is supported by a discussion of the realities of ethnographic fieldwork, the processes of filmmaking, and the role of play and improvisation in the arts and other human endeavours.
This chapter provides a critical overview of the history of documentary cinema, which gradually lost sight of its early inspiration in the cinema of the Lumière brothers, adopting many of the features of fiction film production and modelling itself increasingly on didactic texts and journalism. In the sound era, British documentary films made under the aegis of John Grierson, despite his celebration of the ‘actual’, turned towards mass education and an idealised vision of collective humanity, and away from recording events in human lives. Italian Neorealist fiction films and changes to camera technology in the post-war period inspired a return to these objectives, but television remained firmly fixed on journalism, entertainment and public issues. Reactions took many forms, including experimental documentaries, social advocacy, biography and autobiography, and films exploring the relationship of film to reality. The rise of observational films promised a return to the more modest aim of giving audiences shared access to what the filmmaker had witnessed, despite the challenges of manipulative ‘reality’ television and designer-packaged documentaries. The essay refers to a host of influences and commentaries, including those of Edward Said, Bill Nichols, Dai Vaughan, Robert Flaherty, Jean Rouch, Errol Morris, Colin Young and Grierson himself.
Taking the problem of filming children’s lives as a focus, this chapter explores how environments in cinema both condition and reflect the inner life of the film subject, citing films by Rossellini, De Sica, Ozu, Antonioni and several documentary filmmakers. For the author, the experiences of filming children at a school and at a juvenile detention centre in India raised important questions about the relation of physical and social environments to an individual’s consciousness, and how this could be conveyed by cinematic means. One solution was to focus specifically on the concrete objects and surroundings that shaped the children’s perceptual world. The chapter concludes with a discussion of the difficulties of accurately portraying children’s lives in modern society, caused by parental fears and the increasing idealisation of childhood innocence. These factors may even increase the risks associated with portraying children’s lives in documentary films.
Colour plays an important part in the aesthetics of everyday life. It has psychological effects as well as carrying symbolic meanings, both religious and secular, and it is an important marker of cultural identity. This chapter explores the role and uses of colour at the Doon School, an elite boys’ boarding school in India where the author made a number of films. In this highly controlled community, the social aesthetics of the institution becomes imprinted on the consciousness of its inhabitants. It is intimately associated with the students’ activities, social relationships and sensory experiences. It defines their status and shapes their lives. The uses of colour at the school are also consistent with a wider social aesthetic emphasising restraint, logical thought, and the training and presentation of the body. Many of these values can be seen to have their origins in the school’s colonial history and postcolonial aspirations. The author argues that we can understand the full implications of such sensory patterning in society only through more extensive research in social aesthetics.
The introduction describes the book as a set of essays based on the author’s practice in ethnographic and documentary filmmaking. The essays attempt to close the gap between the experiences of the filmmaker and of the film viewer, moving from personal observations to more theoretical essays on film construction and reception, and finally to the role of documentary film in anthropology and public discourse. Two key themes of the book are the relations between filmmaker and film subject, and between filmmaker and viewer, in particular with regard to how much access the viewer is given to the realities of the filmmaking process – a major concern of the new documentary cinema of the 1960s. Another concern of the book is the power of film to evoke physical sensations, an important element in recent ethnographic filmmaking. However, the author cautions that this power should not simply become one more method of manipulating the viewer.
The looking machine calls for the redemption of documentary cinema, exploring the potential and promise of the genre at a time when it appears under increasing threat from reality television, historical re-enactments, designer packaging and corporate authorship. The book consists of a set of essays, each focused on a particular theme derived from the author’s own experience as a filmmaker. It provides a practice-based, critical perspective on the history of documentary, how films evoke space, time and physical sensations, questions of aesthetics, and the intellectual and emotional relationships between filmmakers and their subjects. It is especially concerned with the potential of film to broaden the base of human knowledge, distinct from its expression in written texts. Among its underlying concerns are the political and ethical implications of how films are actually made, and the constraints that may prevent filmmakers from honestly showing what they have seen. While defending the importance of the documentary idea, MacDougall urges us to consider how the form can become a ‘cinema of consciousness’ that more accurately represents the sensory and everyday aspects of human life. Building on his experience bridging anthropology and cinema, he argues that this means resisting the inherent ethnocentrism of both our own society and the societies we film.