Anthro­po­log­i­cal film­mak­ing: Lessons learned

As young novice in Anthro­pol­o­gy in the field, I made draw­ings of people and asked chil­dren to do the same thing; I also took pic­tures and shot 16 mm film mate­r­i­al. This was in East­ern Niger 1970. When I went home, I was full of expec­ta­tions and looked for­ward to convey all my impres­sions and images from people’s lives in Niger to people in Norway. I did not at all expect the trou­ble I got into: how­ev­er beau­ti­ful a woman was on my pic­ture or in my photo, my Nor­we­gian audi­ences only showed pity.

I met the same chal­lenges that Jean Rouch and Edgar Morin strug­gled with in their film work during the fifties and six­ties. When Rouch screened his film LES MAITRES FOUS, about the Hauka rites in the forest of the Gold Coast in Paris, the French audi­ence inter­pret­ed the film in a way that made them think that the Africans were wild and that they behaved like ani­mals. Rouch’s super­vi­sor Marcel Gri­aule told him not to screen the film in France, and later on, the French author­i­ties pro­hib­it­ed the film.

Edgar Morin has said that doc­u­men­tary films are ‘lying’ and manip­u­lat­ing since they pre­tend to convey the real­i­ty, the truth, which fic­tion films do not. On the one side, the film­mak­er edits his films; on the other, it is the audi­ence itself, which frames his films. (…) In spite of the traps you may fall in, I also learned that visual sto­ries have an unimag­in­able poten­tial for the build­ing of cross-cul­tur­al under­stand­ing. Through my entire career, I there­fore have con­tin­ued to strug­gle and exper­i­ment with ways to visu­al­ize people’s lives cross-culturally.

In my Mas­ter­class, I want to talk about how I have used my expe­ri­ences in my anthro­po­log­i­cal films by relat­ing how my think­ing about nar­ra­tive strate­gies devel­oped cumu­la­tive­ly from film to film.

African Mirror

Mischa Hedinger
Switzerland 2019 | 84 min | engl. subtitled

Fri, 31-May-19 01:30 PM

Sun, 02-Jun-19 02:00 PM
For decades, Swiss trav­eller and film­mak­er René Gardi (1909-2000) explained the African con­ti­nent and its inhab­i­tants to us. In books, tele­vi­sion pro­grams and films, he waxed poetic about the beau­ti­ful … read more

Thinking like a Mountain

Alexander Hick
Columbia, Germany 2018 | 93 min | engl. subtitled

Fri, 31-May-19 03:30 PM

Sat, 01-Jun-19 10:00 PM
The Arhua­co live in the high­est moun­tains of Colom­bia. They wear their tra­di­tion­al white clothes as they have for many cen­turies and main­tain their cul­ture and spir­i­tu­al­i­ty, which is tight­ly … read more


Lisbeth Holtedahl
Norway 2018 | 85 min | engl. subtitled

Thu, 30-May-19 01:30 PM

Fri, 31-May-19 05:30 PM
Alha­jji Ibrahim Gonji is an Islam­ic schol­ar. For 46 years, he has served as judge at the Sul­tanate of Ngaoundéré in North­ern Cameroon. The film fol­lows Alha­jji during the last … read more


Emmanuel Gras
France 2017 | 96 min | engl. subtitled

Fri, 31-May-19 07:30 PM
Emmanuel Gras says that the idea for his film was quite simple. Kab­wi­ta, his pro­tag­o­nist from Kol­wezi in the south of the Congo, makes a living from char­coal burn­ing. Nor­mal­ly, … read more


Robert Müller
Switzerland 2017 | 93 min | engl. subtitled

Fri, 31-May-19 10:00 PM
In Switzer­land, tra­di­tion­al char­coal burn­ing is still a trade. Each summer, smoke rises out of the char­coal piles, or kilns. The pro­ce­dure takes five weeks. The metic­u­lous stack­ing of the … read more