American Ethnographic Film and Personal Documentary: The by Scott MacDonald

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By Scott MacDonald

American Ethnographic movie and private Documentary is a severe historical past of yankee filmmakers the most important to the advance of ethnographic movie and private documentary. The Boston and Cambridge quarter is outstanding for nurturing those methods to documentary movie through associations similar to the MIT movie part and the movie research heart, the chippie heart and the visible and Environmental reports division at Harvard. Scott MacDonald makes use of pragmatism’s specialize in empirical event as a foundation for measuring the groundbreaking achievements of such influential filmmakers as John Marshall, Robert Gardner, Timothy Asch, Ed Pincus, Miriam Weinstein, Alfred Guzzetti, Ross McElwee, Robb Moss, Nina Davenport, Steve Ascher and Jeanne Jordan, Michel Negroponte, John Gianvito, Alexander Olch, Amie Siegel, Ilisa Barbash, and Lucien Castaing-Taylor. by means of exploring the cinematic, own, relationships among those complete filmmakers, MacDonald indicates how a pioneering, engaged, and uniquely cosmopolitan method of documentary constructed over the last part century.

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Here, he discovered the dramatic changes that had occurred in his absence. ai, among the most frequent participants in his films, had a role in Jamie Uys’s feature. ai became the focus of Marshall’s shooting (fig. 4). Kung Woman opens with a sequence revealing the inhumane conditions on the reservation: the Ju/’hoansi can no longer gather or hunt and are sustained only by “mealy meal” (a kind of cornmeal porridge). ai, who is still very beautiful, speaking to the camera, as a visual motif (her comments are presented in voiceover translation by Letta Mbulu).

20 Our ability to hear the voices of the women, who talk very quietly, Lorna and John Marshall 29 figure 2. From John Marshall’s A Group of Women (1961). Courtesy Documentary Educational Resources. adds an audio component to the intimacy established by the in-close cinematography, and our reading the subtitles—while it does interrupt our view on the women—engages us within this quiet moment in a way that Marshall’s voice-over in The Hunters does not. Marshall’s films have nearly always been subsumed within the category of ethnographic film, the assumption being that their primary, if not only, function is to provide a useful adjunct to anthropological investigations of an indigenous group, and particularly, an indigenous group whose way of life is under threat from modernity—as represented, of course, by the camera itself.

42 For Marshall, whatever satisfaction the artistry of Bitter Melons (or for that matter, the artistry of Oukwane and the other musicians and dancers in the film) gave him, and whatever pleasure audiences might take from his film, were rendered pointless, once one understood the historical realities within which this film was made. And, rather than ignore those historical realities any further, Marshall committed the remainder of his filmmaking life, or at least that portion of his filmmaking life that had to do with the peoples of the Kalahari, to a direct engagement with them.

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