Trinh T. Minh-Ha is a Vietnamese born filmmaker who was born in 1952. She studied music and French literature at the University of Illinois and teaches in the Gender and Women Studies department at the University of California, Berkeley. She made films from the 80s to the early 2000s. Sone of her most famous films is Reassemblage which was released in 1982. Her films and lectures deal with feminism and post-colonialism (Trinh Minh-Ha 2005). Her ethnographic film Reassemblage was her debut film and was shot in rural Senegal. It was a critique of traditional ethnographic film and colonialism. She tried to make a film without the imposition of her own preconceptions, or the traditional preconceptions of Senegal. She was not claiming to show what life in Senegal is like, but instead critiquing the idea that an outsider could. The opening sequence has a blank screen with drumming and whooping heard in the background and then a short, silent montage of fragmented images before Minh-Ha begins her narration. The sounds and images were deliberately confusing to show how, without a narrator or translator to provide contextualization, outside audiences would be unable to understand anything about Senegal. Immediately after that sequence she refuses to provide clarification and says, “I do not intend to speak about. Just speak near-by (Reassemblage 1:30).” She was an onlooker in the film- she was never seen and only narrated in short statements that were not necessarily related to the images being shown. She filmed and edited the images though, and her interpretation was necessarily imposed on her film subjects. In an interview with Nancy Chen a decade after Reasslemblage was released she acknowledges that the critique in Reasslemblage, “is not simply aimed at the anthropologist, but also at the missionary, the Peace Corps volunteer, the tourist, and last but not least at myself as onlooker (Chen 84).” She was asserting that no ethnography can ever show the true reality of a community.
Please watch the first two minutes of the film.
“Trinh T. Minh-ha.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 19 Nov. 2005. Web. 05 Sept. 2016.
Nancy N. Chen. (1992), “Speaking Nearby:” A Conversation with Trinh T. Minh–ha. Visual Anthropology Review, 8: 82–91.
Trinh T. Minh-Ha. “Reasslemblage.” Youtube. Uploaded by Visual Anthropology, 10 July, 2016, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J7atQb7Z5YM