My Take on the History of Visual Anthropology Films

The various excerpts watched in class today really helped me get a better understanding of the actual transition and evolution underwent in the process of film and its relation to anthropology, more specifically the changes that underwent the creation of visual anthropology. One really important thing that I thought was kind of an overarching theme was this idea of converting from written ethnography to visual as a means to better expose the masses to anthropology through the use of visual media. There was also the use of maps and long introductory text within the films at the very beginning that served as an indicator as to the visual medium being an anthropological film.

nanook-of-the-north-poster The first film or excerpt that we watched by Robert Flaherty entitled “Nook of the North” was actually really compelling. I enjoyed watching it and part of the reason why would definitely be the fact that it was like a picture book, with text then the video. The boat scene in particular was very amusing and the fact that there was no talking or sound but just the music kind of reminded me of a Charley Chaplin movie and again was amusing and compelling to watch. Yet one has to keep in mind that he did in fact have staged events and scripted scenes but they were that of the Eskimo’s everyday lives.

Another film that struck out to me was the one by Margret Mead called “Bathing Babies in 3 cultures”, which I thought was a great concept to compare 3 different cultures with regards to one single act. I really enjoyed the comparative approach between cultures and the way in whichmargaretmead she used her voice to give analysis and observation especially with regards to the treatment of babies and the connection to their mothers. It clearly emphasizes the strong cultural differences. Yet, I feel like there seemed to be a little bias in the way in which she referred to other cultures as opposed to the American, especially in the African case.

 

The other piece that really stood out to me was the “Reassemblage” by Trinh T Minh Ha in which she uses sound and cuts in an exaggerated manner which made the entire piece feel more like a sort of collage or art piece as opposed to a documentary. It gave off a minhhamore artistic vibe like “poetry on screen” with the disoriented scenes that she intentionally wanted to do in order to criticize documentaries. It really guided the focus on her as the creator as opposed to the entire film, which was greatly due to the fact that the audience was not presented to a linear narrative but rather chunks with her voice over.

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