Listen to part of a lecture in an anthropology class. The professor is discussing ethnography.
Since ethnography is all about the descriptive study of an individual culture, film has proved to have great value as a tool for anthropologists in their research.
Let's look at a particularly effective approach to ethnographic filmmaking, which was developed in the 1970s.
This particular style of ethnographic filmmaking is called the community-determined approach.
The intent of the community-determined approach is to achieve a kind of, um, shared authorship.
See, in this approach, the goals of the project and how the information will be used are discussed ahead of time,and so a culture...a community is not just the focus of the film,they are, actually, equal participants in the whole ethnographic process.
In this way the film revolves around the actual values and concerns of the individuals in the community, and it honors an individual's ethical right to control how he or she is presented in the media.
Several of these films were made in Alaskan communities in the 1970s.
So, how does it work, you know, the community-determined part?
Well, it takes a lot of preparation.
First, way before filming begins, the filmmakers visit the community and meet with the village council,who are the decision makers of the community.
A film, if available, is shown to the village council, so that they get an idea of the experience of another community.
After the meeting, the filmmakers leave and the village council is given all the time they need to think about what was discussed.
Later, if the village council members are interested, they send a letter or call.
There's no follow-up meeting?
Not unless they want one.
See, this helps remove any pressure to say yes-the social pressure from the filmmaker's presence.
So if they agree, then what?
Then the filmmakers start living in the community.
See, another major point in the community determined approach...It's very important that the filmmakers plan to stay in the community for an extended period of time.
Not weeks, but months...And, really, there are several reasons for this:Any ideas?
The filmmakers could get a more realistic sense of the pace of life in that community.
Uh, its daily rhythm.
Correct. And it allows the filmmakers to shed some of their assumptions, so that they better interpret what they see.
I bet it also takes the mystery out of the filmmaking process-you know, everyone has time to get used to the filmmakers and their equipment.
Exactly! Trust is established and relationships are built first.
Wow, this seems like a long process. It must cost a fortune.
It does. Even with a small film crew, any project as involved as this is bound to.
OK, so who decides what goes into the film?
Well, such decisions are made by general consensus within the community.
So, for instance, the community, not the filmmakers, decide who is to be interviewed for the films.
Control of the interview is in the interviewee's hands.
If the person being interviewed says to stop at any time, the recording stops.
He or she states where they wish to be filmed,and when and what topic they wish to speak about.
The community members review the footage both midway and at the end of the filming, and if they want any scene deleted, it gets removed.
That's the level of respect ... and regard for the interviewee's preferences, and those of the community in general.
So, then...what language is everything filmed in?
Excellent question! Language is culture, isn't it?
So the native language, rather than a dubbed voice-over in the filmmaker's language,is the primary language of the film.
This way, a speaker's emotions and manner of expression really come through,even if we don't know their language.
Subtitles are placed, in a secondary position, at the bottom of the screen.
[a little disappointed] And the subtitles probably give only the gist of what's actually being said...
Yeah. A word-for-word translation could become too complicated...or it'd go by too fast on the screen.