TORRES STRAIT

Alfred C. Haddon
Great Britain 1898 | 4 Min. | Video
Q&A with:
Markus Banks

This is the ear­li­est loca­tion-shot ethno­graph­ic film, and indeed one of the ear­li­est films ever made. The four brief scenes were shot during the anthro­pol­o­gist A.C. Haddon’s famous 1898 expe­di­tion to the Torres Strait Islands and show a dance sequence from the Malu-Bomai cer­e­mo­ny, a dance sequence on a beach, fire making, and a group of vis­it­ing Aus­tralian Abo­rig­i­nals danc­ing. The qual­i­ty of the film is not high, and with­out the con­text pro­vid­ed by the expedition’s reports and Haddon’s other writ­ings it is hard to make much sense of the con­tent. The his­tor­i­cal impor­tance of the mate­r­i­al, how­ev­er, is as great to anthro­pol­o­gy as the Lumiere broth­ers’ work is to cinema more generally.