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Ethnographic Film Essay

In making Ethnographic Film Essay ethnographers will inevitably be
confronted with conflicting values and will be forced to choose to uphold
some while neglecting others. The situation is complicated further when
the films are intended for television screening and the audience is the
general public; the ethnographic filmmaker then faces the task of producing
something that is simultaneously ethnographically competent, entertaining,
accessible to general audiences and ethical. Here I will examine two
ethnographic made-for-TV programs: Masai Women and Kayapo Out of the
Forest. In each of these programs the filmmakers were confronted with
ethical decisions requiring them to uphold one value while excluding
another. It is my intent to show that in ethnographic film making there
can be no set formula for which filmmakers can prioritize ethnographic
values and human ethics; each decision to uphold one value over another
must be made in regard to the specific social and political context in
which it is being made.

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Masai Women’s filmmakers were confronted with two conflicting values
when treating several aspects of Masai culture. On one hand the film was
meant to be an ethnographic documentary and as such had its own set of
ethnographic goals. These include portraying whole people and being as
objective as possible. On the other hand, the filmmakers had to be
cognizant of their audience, the general (British) public. Knowing that
their audience was the general public had both advantages and
disadvantages: while it gave them a unique opportunity to reach a wide
range of people it also created a certain responsibility, since the film
wasn’t being shown in the context of any anthropological discourse on the
subject. This isn’t to say the filmmakers were limited because their
audience were the ignorant masses but rather that they were dealing with a
diverse audience.

The film, to be successful, could assume neither that the
viewers were educated nor uneducated; a successful television program
appeals to many sensibilities.
While depicting Masai culture these values came into conflict in
treating several subjects. First and most striking was the subject of
female circumcision: the topic was completely glazed over. In narrating
the topic Melissa Llewelyn-Davies describes female circumcision as a joyous
occasion, a rite of passage for Masai women, “the equivalent to a white
wedding in British society.” The filmmakers’ reasoning behind this
decision to not dwell on the subject was essentially a decision to adhere
to one of the values described above, to be responsible and respectful in
portraying a culture to “open” audiences; ethnographic filmmakers certainly
do not want to create disdain for a culture based on practices that may
seem adverse to western society. In adhering to one value however they
were forced to abandon another, ethnographic completeness.

In a film about
Masai women, a female-centered film about the lives of women, the issue of
female circumcision seems to me to be very pertinent and an important topic
to explore. For instance, the girl’s screams are edited out, clearly in
violation of ethnographic principle. Lleweyn-Davies also says that “the
practice is the female equivalent to male circumcision.” It most certainly
is not. If practiced on men female circumcision would amount to one-half
to three quarters removal of the penis. Here, the point is that the issue
is glazed over and made benign for the purpose of not offending the
“average” western viewer.

One topic more difficult to avoid in a discussion of Masai women’s
experience is the practice of polygyny. Here, the same conflicting values
were confronted as are discussed above: on one hand the filmmaker wants to
produce a film that is ethnographically whole in its description of
cultural institutions, yet on the other hand the filmmaker must keep in
mind the composition of the audience. In this instance Melissa Llewelyn-
Davies chose to explore the topic at length in favor of the former value.
She does however explore the topic with great sensitivity, choosing to ask
the subjects how they feel about the practice themselves, rather than
narrating .
In making Kayapo: Out of the Forest, Terrence Turner faced a somewhat
different dilemma, yet it was a dilemma of conflicting values nevertheless.
The Kayapo project arose out of a relationship between the Kayapo and
various anthropologists.

READ:  LEGALIZATION Essay

Anthropologists introduced as early as the 1950′ s
western technologies such as tape recorders and this history culminated in
the late 1980’s when the ethnographic made-for-TV documentary was made, in
part by the Kayapo themselves. The documentary depicts certain aspects of
Kayapo culture but mainly highlights their struggle to preserve their land
and way of life, threatened by plans to build a dam which .

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Ethnographic Film Essay
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In making Ethnographic Film Essay ethnographers will inevitably be confronted with conflicting values and will be forced to choose to uphold some while neglecting others. The situation is complicated further when the films are intended for television screening and the audience is the general public; the ethnographic filmmaker then faces the task of producing something that is simultaneously ethnographically competent, entertaining, accessible to general audiences and ethical. Here
2019-02-12 07:50:25
Ethnographic Film Essay
$ 13.900 2018-12-31
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