Filming Culture and Issues of Representation. A Filmmaking Workshop.
(Taught by Thomas John, FU Berlin & WWU Münster)
In audio-visual anthropology we use film to represent other people’s bodies, emotions, social practices, relationships and interactions, political opinions, or day-to-day lives based on field research and participant observation. Students have one semester of time to achieve this.
This course is a highly practical workshop. Students are trained to produce in small teams or individually an anthropology-informed short film. These are usually documentary films but not necessarily, as also a fiction film or a performance might be a representation of an anthropological field research. The department offers a limited number of film equipment and editing facilities and students will be trained using these. However, students might also rely on their own resources. Recently, also smartphone video projects became increasingly interesting, as this offers the opportunity to also let our protagonists film easily materials on their own to contribute to a shared authorship or participatory video project.
In this course we assume that audio-visual representation shall be based on our own inter-subjective relationship we develop with people. Doing films about other people’s lives is an ethically serious matter, especially considering recent claims for participatory and decolonial approaches in academic institutions and the representation of ”Others”.
Students produce an audio-visual ‘anthropology at home’ as most in of the time film production and research takes place in and around Münster. However, Münster might not be ‘home’ for many of our students and likewise films might involve people in Münster but originating from else where, or films might depict a topic entangled with social media or other forms of transnational connectivity.
Documentary films speak and portray other people’s lives meanwhile giving insights into their subjective experiences and feelings. In social anthropology informed film we have specific takes on representing people and their ‘cultures’. However, the classic ‘ethnographic film’ has been transforming considerably in the last decades and has been criticised strongly for being western voyeuristic exoticism of mostly ‘brown bodies’. Considering recent theoretical perspectives and ethical considerations filmmakers may take into account arguments from decolonial thinking, feminism, and collaborative attempts of doing anthropological film representation. Therefore, in this workshop we attempt to be thoughtful, self-reflexive and to develop a sensibility to people and their social reality, instead of pointing a camera at them in the first place.
-You have to present a film & research idea in class at the first seminar day. Describe the topic, develop a knowledge interest, elaborate on how your film might look like, sound like and feel like. Think about different layers of your film, such as conversation, interview, other audios, visual materials etc.
-Students have to read for the first seminar weekend:
Barbash, MacDougall, Taylor,MacDougall J. 1996: Reframing Ethnographic Film: A "Conversation" with David MacDougall and Judith MacDougall
Lawrence, Andy 2020: Filmmaking for Fieldwork (first chapter)
Grasseni, Christina & Thorsten Gieser 2019: Skilled Mediations
Access to the readings: