Search results

Recent films of David and Judith MacDougall

As originally conceived by Colin Young and subsequently worked out in practice by David and Judith MacDougall and various other film-makers, the praxis of Observational Cinema in its classical form involved very much more than observation: not only was it a particular ‘way of seeing’, it was also a particular ‘way of doing’ ethnographic film-making. Central to this praxis, as described in earlier chapters, was a collaborative relationship with the subjects, the adoption of an ‘unprivileged’ perspective in both shooting and editing, and a low

in Beyond observation
Open Access (free)
A history of authorship in ethnographic film

Beyond Observation offers a historical analysis of ethnographic film from the birth of cinema in 1895 until 2015. It covers a large number of films made in a broad range of styles, in many different parts of the world, from the Arctic to Africa, from urban China to rural Vermont. It is the first extensive historical account of its kind and will be accessible to students and lecturers in visual anthropology as well as to those previously unfamiliar with ethnographic film.

Among the early genres that Paul Henley discusses are French reportage films, the Soviet kulturfilm, the US travelogue, the classic documentaries of Robert Flaherty and Basil Wright, as well as the more academic films of Margaret Mead and Gregory Bateson. Among the leading film-makers of the post-war period, he discusses Jean Rouch, John Marshall and Robert Gardner, as well as the emergence of Observational Cinema in the 1970s. He also considers ‘indigenous media’ projects of the 1980s, and the ethnographic films that flourished on British television until the 1990s.

In the final part, he examines the recent films of David and Judith MacDougall, the Harvard Sensory Media Lab, and a range of films authored in a participatory manner, as possible models for the future.

Open Access (free)
The principles of Observational Cinema

The third Author whose contribution to the praxis of ethnographic film-making we consider in this part of the book is very different from the other two. Colin Young was both the original intellectual architect and also the initial practical enabler of the approach to ethnographic film-making known as Observational Cinema, which since the 1970s has been one of the most influential in the English-speaking world. However, although he may have shot some ethnographic footage now and again, he has not been a practitioner in the active sense of Jean

in Beyond observation
Open Access (free)

David and Judith MacDougall have developed the practice of Observational Cinema; in Chapter 15 , I explore in what ways certain film-makers of the Sensory Ethnography Lab (SEL) at Harvard have taken on the legacy of Robert Gardner, while in the final chapter, Chapter 16 , I consider a number of films that draw on the participatory praxis that informed Jean Rouch's concept of shared anthropology Central to all three chapters is the argument that has been a guiding thread through the book as a whole, namely, that in order to make films that are

in Beyond observation
Open Access (free)
Authorship, praxis, observation, ethnography

looking in some form. But in this book, I use the term in a more restricted sense to refer to modes of film-making praxis in which film-makers do not seek to direct the subjects, but rather content themselves with filming the subjects as they go about their business according to their own agenda or whim. However, even when used in this restricted sense, ‘observational cinema’ covers a range of different praxes, depending on the nature of the relationship between observer and observed. At one extreme, there is a mode of ethnographic film-making in which the film

in Beyond observation

Caught in a Web , a series in three parts, each a single television hour in duration, which compared and contrasted life in a traditional village in rural Dorset (or more strictly speaking a cluster of small hamlets) with life in Villes-sur-Auzon, a village of Haute Provence in France. The director was Toni de Bromhead, a film-maker trained at the NFTS where she had been greatly influenced by Colin Young and his ideas about Observational Cinema. Prior to attending the NFTS, de Bromhead had also studied social anthropology at the London School of

in Beyond observation

occasionally on Channel 4. In 1991, this channel broadcast a four-part series, Nomads , three of which were based on the work of academic anthropologists. From time to time, the ecology-oriented strand, Fragile Earth would also include a film of this kind. In 1993, it broadcast Survivors of the Rainforest , a film about the Yanomamɨ of Venezuelan Amazonia. This was directed and shot by Andy Jillings, a film-maker trained in the Observational Cinema approach at the NFTS

in Beyond observation
The films of David and Judith MacDougall in Africa and Australia

. This synthesis by the MacDougalls (along with various other film-makers connected with the Ethnographic Film Program) of the long-standing interest of English-speaking ethnographic film-makers in observation with the more participatory Rouchian praxis would give rise to ‘Observational Cinema’ a distinctive approach to ethnographic film-making that I consider at length in Chapter 10 . As they were among the first students to go through the Ethnographic Film Program, it fell to the MacDougalls to produce a number of the most important early

in Beyond observation

ethnographic film were extremely limited: in contrast to France and the USA, British museums did not support ethnographic film-making to any great extent, nor did British research councils or universities. Nor were there any leading individual film-makers, such as Jean Rouch in France, or John Marshall and Robert Gardner in the USA, whose personal example might have served as an inspiration to others. Colin Young, who acted as the initial enabler of Observational Cinema, as described in Chapter 10 , was still based in UCLA in the late 1960s and it would be some years before

in Beyond observation
Open Access (free)
Sharing anthropology

provoke his subjects into revealing answers and Rouch's use of the camera to provoke his subjects into revelatory performances. 18 Indeed, one could take the analogy further and say that in the same way that Griaule's proactive fieldwork methods contrasted with the more passive methods of his English-language contemporaries in anthropology, so too did Rouch's proactive cinematographic methods contrast with the more low-key methods of Direct Cinema and Observational Cinema as practised by his English-language film

in Beyond observation