(…) Early in the film a close male friend, Ngimare, and Lorang’s wife’s sister, Naingiro, and his senior wife tell us how Lorang became the man he now is. However, although there is a certain amount of ‘forward movement’ produced from the accounts given by these individuals, other sequences have the quality of our eavesdropping upon conversations which have not been stimulated by the film-makers’ questions or interests. These two rather different sorts of material are blended with musings from Lorang himself about his life, or Turkana custom more generally. There is no specific time-frame established, even by implication. It is not that LORANG’S WAY needs any specific time-referents – it manages quite well ‘in the present’, although references are made to Lorang’s own past.

The film starts with a dust-storm, out of which comes a voice which curses the dust and wishes it would stop. It is striking, enigmatic, and oddly unconnected to what follows. Lorang’s voice – over more dust, animals and landscape – states that he has been in many places, and wherever he has been people have asked him to stay, to settle down with them. His remarks also make it clear that as a young man he left Turkana under some kind of a cloud and was conscripted into the King’s African Rifles. Questions are put to him, through an interpreter, and some of these appear on the screen as superimposed captions. They imply that he has become successful. Lorang’s sister explains that on leaving the army he used his severance pay to buy animals. In one early scene his friend Ngimare is asked how Lorang became wealthy, and he responds in a highly emphatic manner, with much hand-play, repetition, dramatic pauses. The camera is very near him, so that when he gestures towards, it he practically touches the wide-angle lens. Because most viewers are unfamiliar with Turkana senior male speech at this point, it is hard to know if Ngimare is a bit of a ham, ‘talking up’ his friend to impress the film-makers, or whether this is a characteristic speech-mode. By the end of the film we will be somewhat better placed to answer such a question, but no authorial comment is made in such matters.

(…) There is continuing discussion of the changes in the wider society. Lorang defends himself for having refused to learn to read, but one of his sons replies that reading is genuinely useful. Stories are told about evading police censure, either from intelligence or having a knowledge of the law. At one point Lorang says »Life is changing.… We are told we must forget our past ways«, but he seems unconvinced. One of his sons says that some who started out with no animals now have large herds, and vice versa. He also knows that nakedness is disapproved of. When asked about his own future he says, »I’ll marry. I’ll go raiding. I’ll get cattle. I’ll have children. I’ll grow old«. As he tells it, pastoral life will go on much as usual. But later there is talk about government taxes, and there is an amusing shot of a landscape over which voices are heard to utter imprecations against government as if it were an epidemic: »Sickness! May it go away!« Once again, we are allowed to see that this is no pastoral idyll. 

Lorang’s comments on Europeans include the thought that »the Europeans will extract our knowledge drop by drop from us … but they will never choose to live like us. Their knowledge is their livestock, but I tell you it is more important to them than livestock are to us.« This comment qualifies as highly perceptive, as a statement about European society in general. I assume it is also supposed to a sour moment upon the film-makers and their activities. 

LORANG’S WAY is a combination of Lorang’s character, viewed as a »success story«, and current themes in Turkana life. By implication, Lorang’s way’ is a way most Turkana men would hope to follow. It has »representative quality« as a model for success. If it is not »typical« in the statistical sense, it makes explicit an»actors model« in the Levi-Straussian sense. For some viewers, and I speak for myself particularly here, Lorang may seem a disturbing person. His face seems cruel, unyielding, his manner harsh and authoritarian. He rarely smiles. His strength is, of course, undeniable. Here is a man who would die rather than yield. Since many biographical films are fairly bland, and present their subjects in a highly positive light, the portrait of Lorang has subtlety which is both unusual and instructive. The film might get us to think about the adequacy of liberal values if transposed to a pastoral setting. In Turkana »nice guys« would inevitably »finish last« if they managed to finish at all. The point is signalled in a brief sequence in which one of Lorang’s sons speaks casually about having had a wounded man of another tribe in his powers so that »I could have beaten him to death« but a few moments later is shown fondly playing with a naked baby. It implies to me that the hard men of Turkana direct their hardness outside their groups, part of the very outlook which in a difficult environment nurtures and protects their own people. Such is »Lorang’s way«, and, we are meant to infer, Turkana life more generally. 

Auszug aus: Innovation in ethnographic film – from innocence to self consciousness 1955-1985, S. 7376, Loizus Peter, Manchester University Press 1993
Der Autor Peter Loizus unterrichtet an der London School of Economics in Social Anthropology. In dem herangezogenen Buch analysiert er fünfzig ethnografische Filme aus den Jahren 1955-85, und arbeitet deren jeweiligen Stellenwert innerhalb der visuellen Anthropologie heraus.