In this session we present four ethnographic films made by filmmakers from different periods and countries that represent an attempt to disarticulate some of the ethical and formal conventions of objectivist, scientistic ethnographic cinema. These are critical, reflective works that openly experiment with voice-over, fiction and editing; works that don't limit themselves to looking at the Other but allow this Other to look directly at the camera, thereby challenging and questioning the position of the anthropologist.
Les tambours d'avant: Tourou et Bitti is a short film by Jean Rouch, one of the great names in ethnographic cinema. Rouch experiments in this work with what he himself calls a "first-person" voice-over, which moves away from the conventions of the "scientific commentary" accompanying many previous anthropological films. Through a single sequence shot, Rouch invites us to think about the relationship between filmic time and ritual time, as well as the power of fiction to understand and transform reality.
Trinh T. Minh-ha's Reassemblage, filmed in rural Senegal, focuses on the power of the filmic representation of the Other and the construction of anthropological discourse. In an original but critical way, the author dissects the ethical and aesthetic canons of ethnographic cinema, doing so from a manifestly feminist, post-colonial perspective. This is an unclassifiable work of ethnographic cinema which has had a great influence on later filmmakers.
Há terra! by Brazilian artist Ana Vaz is a poetic, reflective exercise that invites us to rethink the place of ethnographic cinema in relation to the traces of colonial violence. Vaz approaches this film as a game of mirrors between the filmer and the filmed; in other words, as a direct and even disturbing encounter with that "ethnographic Other" that has often been erased from anthropological films. By disassociating the image and voiceover, as well as the use of subjective camera, Há terra! takes us on a journey that's both fragmentary and painful, into the forgotten corners of historical memory.
In Coupé/Décalé, Camille Henrot introduces us to a ritual of passage on the island of Pentecost, in the archipelago of Vanuatu, recreated for a group of tourists. Through a literal and figurative split of the film, the author questions the ethical and epistemological dimension of the ethnographic gaze, and confronts us with the slippery slope of aspiring to represent the Other.
Reassemblage, Trinh T. Minh-ha, United States, 1983, 16 mm, 40', subtitled in Spanish
Coupé/Décalé, Camille Henrot, France, 2010, 35 mm to digital, 5', no sound
Les tambours d'avant (Tourou et Bitti), Jean Rouch, France, 1971, 16 mm, 12', subtitled in Spanish
Há Terra!, Ana Vaz, Brazil, 2016, digital, 15', subtitled in Spanish
Digital projection. Copies of Reassemblage and Há Terra! from Light Cone. Coupé/Decalé courtesy of the artist and Kamel Mennour Gallery. Copy of Les tambours d'avant from the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (France).