Re-edited

The First version of our film lacked a voice of its own. Firstly because of over narration of the cafeteria owner, it became a promo video than an ethnographic one . It was my fault . I made that video because I couldn’t break out of the ethnographic seduction spell he had cast upon us( Mina & Me) while filming with free food and drinks. I  consciously and naively chose to put the video sequence and narration in a non ethnographic way( If i may call it that way) to satisfy the Owner . He had requested me to show him the final version and also expressed his apprehension about the unwanted side , he didn’t want me to represent int he video. And secondly I found  the lack of a clear flow and connection between all the elements in cafeteria in the first version and the other clips I did not add. The mistake was pointed out by several people and as well as to defend our grade in the class, I reedited the video.  The new version is longer and I believe the voice of the subjects are represented in the correct context without any extra narration.

I would appreciate if anyone feel like giving any critical feedback if you find it interesting or boring.

Epilogue

Visual Anthropology as a discipline that I have practiced over the past few month while videotaping the everyday activities of the cafeteria produce certain specific ideas about film epistemology and methodology in general and how I should methodologically navigate myself through the field. A certain amount of excessive observation finally materializing into a short film, which is the essence of documentary film making was acquainted through this process .The combination of the course and the exercise helped to how to understand the requirements and skill necessary regarding how to observe and develop an ethnographic film. My prime focus of minimizing certain construction and aestheticism have partially been successful, although I cannot judge my actions and choices . But while editing the film, i came across these choices in the form of essential overlooking and underlooking aspects,choices of foundational and aesthetical in character regarding positioning the film and my incomplete knowledge about the mainstream technical side of film making. but as mentioned before I cannot make a judgment about the film I have made and also I do not wish to label it as experimental so as to have a bail out plan. What was really intriguing was about the way the people I filmed behaved in front of the camera. I assumed that since my field was also under constant surveillance there would not be much turbulences regarding how the subjects in the field shall react to my presence in the filed. However my experience in the field were different as people behaved in peculiar ways. The camera is a dagger, it intimidates and provokes people. I had picked up this idea from some reading which postulated that some indigenous community is some part of the world thought that videotaping and photography were indeed parallel to stealing their soul and body. This was the same experience I encountered. What amused me was how people in my field wanted to position themselves in front of the camera. From feel highly excited and motivated to punching me on my face, these were the experience I encountered in the field. The influential agents in the field were essential as gatekeepers, but  I wish to emphasize on the extend of ethnographic seduction and deliberate field influence by those influential agents of the field.  My initial plan for an  open ended and inconclusive film focusing on the live action and  became impossible to film since the gatekeepers wanted to control the films path. Im not sure if this was caused because I was filming a closed institution within a larger institution. The access was entirely through a reciprocal and subtle agreement which we as filmmakers had with the key people in Authority in the place where were studying. This subtle talk made us feel comfortable because of the temporary authority which were delegated to us for the temporary period of filming but we encountered some friction with filming as the authority we exercised in the field collided with that of a chef who hated our presence. Apart from that as previously mentioned the position of the proprietor was also crucial in deciding the direction of the film. We had more than 9 visits to the field , but at several instance there were problems regarding our presence and the people ones who opposed us in several ways. So in order to solidify our effort , we had to stick to the grace and guidance given by the proprietor and in turn we were ethnographically seduced into making a promo video for his cafeteria. Several ideas which the proprietor shared with us during the pre-filmmaking process were later unavailable to be included. And there was a huge problem in the way the narration went and the way our footages stood as evidence. Here at this point the element of manipulation was pulled in to bring in the presentable part. The presentable are the refined yet recognizable footage for the sake of making a close to being coherent film with finer a observational quality.

ARE WE ALL PRODUSERS NOW? :Shifting focuses and the Anthropological standpoint.

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The discussion centers around how the interaction of people , who are spread in different temporal and spatial dimension represent something new that can be studied. The Mediated culture with the infrastructure provided by web 2.0, RSS and XML , the environment has drastically changed creat

ing multi directional access to any information and constructed realities. The Advancement in technology gave de-hegemonised and decentralized the power for being the  potential producer of  any genre of video. The Platform provided by youtube, Vimeo, Flikr, Dailymotion and several other on-line video platforms are immensely changing the kind of videos that are being uploaded, the quality and quality of the video is another aspect altogether but the most interesting criteria is about the thinning line between producer who has certain “traditional” and  “organic” power which are negated by new discourse of thinning the barrier. The question of power and control become central to the new dimensions. The new imbalances in the hegemony is supposedly posing a threat to the essentialist viewpoints because the “Internet Savvy” new generation producer can do counter the established practices. The Audience of the new generation producer consumer dialectics are not passive and docile entities, they have taste and preference and access to technology. It pose a big challenge. Firstly they are seen as active audience . The intertextuality( Bird, 1992) are the paradigmatic shifts in the way the audience are able to be a part of the , larger discourse.  How the mass media is utilized. The producer / produsage comes into play when we analyze the preconditions that make these ventures a reality.The emergence cloud computing , open source software and massively multiuser platforms have changed the way in which people interact and group .

Jenkins’s equation of produsage as an overdetermined dialectics shows the reciprocity of the way in which both discourses are looked into . How the participants formulates the why in which something is understood.I think the problem lies when the power to create a certain discourse is decentralized and the question of legitimacy, authorship, privacy and reliability forms a convoluted whole to the face of a new type of discourse. The Fandom, the Fan base , these are subscribers who have been given put under a  particular spell of valorization which causes the extremely active ones among the fans to actively engage in promoting the idea and sale behind the it. This is a way of cultural reproduction, where the ideal is to interpellate and excite more potential audiences. The idea behind Internet activism, armchair activism are presumably offshoot of this trend. But from an academic point of view , the positive part about this massive participation is about how large number of people becomes the part of this network and contribute to knowledge creation. According to Costello and Moore(2007)’ on line fan communities have the potential to produce unified centers of resistance to influence the global industries of cultural production’  The massive You tube subscriber fan base , commentary and video responses are few part of this discourse. There is always a counter moves against the established , by promoting and demoting a film or art piece the show their united prowess.

Ridly Scott and Scott free productions are pioneers in the realm of extraordinary film making. With numerous benchmark films and creating cult genre’s Ridley Scott also produced Kevin Macdonald directed film called Life in a Day, which was a like a massive filmmakers conglomeration spread across the world trying to come up a film about the world in a multi linear world, more like the idea of statistical normal distribution being recorded .However there is an over determination of the everyday life of the individual although the individual is not the part of the massive exhibitionism. Yet the film is about certain exhibitionism. The point approaching it from a non exhibitionist point of view, the film is an excellent piece of group work. The scripts were not for a single protagonist. It was a Geo-spatially rooted and chronologically arranged sequence of many events shot by the film-makers themselves about their surroundings. To conclude one can say that , with the intermeshing of the world into a single unified and connected system would give rise to new forms of art , communication and media . And for an anthropologist dealing with this de-territoriatialized Group will be a challenging.

The anthropological television of Melissa Llewelyn Davies!

Anna Grimshaw’s book ethnographers eyes features a chapter titled “The anthropological television of Melissa Llewelyn Davies. The opening lines of the chapter pitches lack of domination among the esoterically locked out Anthropologist and their positiionality failing to be a object of contention and attraction in public discourse. The oblivious  “Anthropologists, too, have shared this wariness and suspicion, remaining largely aloof from engagement with television’s presence in the worlds they seek to investigate and rejecting, almost by instinct, its potential as a medium of ethnographic communication.” The question that arises is whether the reality that evolved through anthropologies non intervention with public sphere be considered as a grateful or ungrateful? Can we imagine a the a world of anthropology being represented in the mass media through the various forerunners in theoretical and empirical anthropology. Another question is the paradigmatic shift that frequently occurred in anthropology that splintered the subject into finer schools which were both polemical and agreeable. Anthropology was used as an ethnographic tool to understand the colonized parts of the erstwhile British Empire. The similar stands taken by Mead, Strauss and Prichard are considered to be the early stand taken by anthropologist who wanted to educate the public, which were considered as providing a “critical perspective about the world”. From Grimshaw’s chapter examining Llewelyn Davies’s life work , methodological stand points and pragmatic elements show how responsible and critical an anthropologist can be with the use of these “tool” ie Visual, followed with critical thinking and certain practices that have evolved the discipline to what it is today. although “ For, over more than a decade, there has been a sustained critique of scientific ethnography, the paradigm around which modern anthropology was consolidated; and with it, there has been a loss of confidence in many established ideas and practices. This moment of critical reflection in the discipline has been a creative one. It has stimulated experimentation in ideas, methods and forms of communication, linking today’s work with the innovative spirit of inquiry which marked anthropology’s modernist birth at the turn of the century”.

The idea of exploiting the already existing world of Television as a means through which anthropology can make a more , effective , dramatic and impacting landfill. The so-called idea which is considered to of certain ingenuity  is pitched through a certain realization that ” Anthropologists, too, [..]remaining largely aloof from engagement with television’s presence in the worlds they seek to investigate and rejecting, almost by instinct, its potential as a medium of ethnographic communication”.

The process was expected to be something that encapsulated the ” scientific ethnographic methodology” , at least in expectation. 
As justly pointed out the question is more about ” the problem […] characterized by the academics as involving a conflict between their grasp of the detail and complexity of ethnographic realities, and the drive for simplicity which they accorded to the television producers”.
The question was largely ending in a certain antagonism , conflict between the Television – Media epistemology and aesthetics conflicting with the Anthropological style. The question about the style of analysis, Emic and etic and I presume the list goes on but the bottomline is how a  pragmatic wedging of various positions being facilitated that gave space for ethnographic films in the larger discourse of visual communication.

 

Stéphane Breton- Them and Me (Eux et mois)

Stephane Breton, essentially encapsulates the ideal form of field work and videography in a very pragmatic and engaging way. The film take a mentionable stance and worth of certain attention and criticism as it very well satisfies the esoterically boundaries created by anthropology. The beginning of the film is a well taken tracking and establishing frames of the tribal hamlet of the highlands of Irian jaya, where the Wodani people live. The ethnographic film features the paths taken by the Anthropologist to approach the people of the community to accept him, which is a process of enculturation, socialization and how he internalized their idiosyncrasies and their language. The first observations that I made were very premature and untimely to judge the piece. But those judgments were invoked by the cliché narration and the certain otherness through a certain methodology he employs to get close to the subjects through a peculiar exercise of distributing money to the people and even to small kids who from my assumptions did not know what the bills were for, the question is why such framing were depicted within the documentary? Was the money for the natives who were de-weeding the back and front yard of this wooden cottage? The sequence puts you in a strange feel about what to expect. Yet with the narration by the filmmaker doesn’t clear the certain apprehension but it furthers this apprehension. The Idea of a civilized west, through the representation of the anthropologist as the flagship emissary is very much idolized in the film when the Wodani makes certain redundant statement about this anthropologists credibility but the reason why it could be a deliberate staging is when you inspect more into the causality which culminated into the framing of these statements. Although it might be legitimate from a methodological point of view and ultimately it would not be a naïve judgment. From a better studied perspective and away from the over judgmental naivety of the exoteric audience the ethnographic film is a way or a multilevel triangulation-combination of methodology packed in terms of content, selections, construction, reflexivity , ethnology and audio-visual testimony of the field. The strange experience escalated when the filmmaker was in a process of ordering the Natives. But that assumption could be overstatement. But once the use of “Kipe(cowry)” is established I alters the perspective in a big way to understand the purpose of all the action which the anthropologist carefully executes .

The kipe is used as a means of payment in all kinds of exchanges, from bride wealth hand blood
price to compensation for ritual services, as well as more mundane transactions such as the
purchase of pigs, salt, manufactured objects, and sometimes even labor”

The Dynamic and struggle in formulating the narrative is the crucial elements in this films various since the film maker/ anthropologist uses money as tool to construct the narratives and indulge in a certain process of acculturation which lands him into dealing with the “kipe” with the influential community members who exercises certain reciprocity in the process of dealing and exchange. The anthropologist is this able to enter into the heart of the community. The whole approach is a methodological enquiry into the structural and functional style of demystifying and the ethnographic field site.

Chronique d’un été – Jean Rouch

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Jean Rouch was is propagator of desultory and digressing style of film making who tried to counter the hegemony and style of Jean –Luc Godard, François Truffaut, and Andre Bazin (Film Critic) Associated with Cahier Du Cinema if I may extrapolate his position and draw a hyperbola around that era’s French Film industry apogee . In Chronicles of summer, Jean Rouch teams up with sociologist Edgar Morin to create a seemingly free flowing, yet highly constructed, scripted, and framed documentary/ film. The film portrays different actors who are supposedly considered to be lay people who are surviving in the 1960’s France. Rouch’s construction of the screenplay centers around the several opinion questions grounding in the condition of the cosmopolitan French society of that era. The question about “whether they are happy” seems to marquee all throughout the film. It is presented as the alibi of “oppressed” people’s psyche, who was living under the convoluted life of unhappiness and stress relating to everyday life at work in offices, factories, and Artists of post war France. Jean Rouch has indeed stitched up his script with the intend to portray the action of diverse players by very accurately representing the politically important and socially vital stories of struggling factory works, migrants, students, women workers, Africans student from colonial French ruled states in Africa. Jean Rouch’s defensive approach in labelling his style as cinéma- vérité and associating himself with Veritov’s Kino Pravada style of film making created an arena where he could comfortably experiment. Jean Rouch employs the idea of relationality and causality in Film style in order to create a holistic approach to understand dynamics of the society. His style and notion of film is positioned in between the usual cinema and the present day ethnographic film. In the film Chronicles of summer, I find the representation of certain Urban semiotics as he scripts his film through the normative and idealized urban rhetoric with the opposing ideas of freewill and agency of the actors involved, yet the question arises regarding how much of it is a construction ? And can we consider this as an ethnographic film. In certain way it is aligning with the New wave of French neo-realist films of that epoch. Another perspective that arise is whether we see this as a pragmatic structuralist film, yet at the end of film Rouch’s interaction with the actors make my opinion even more ambivalent. The bottom line is to consider Rouch as substantial contributor to the Ethnographic film maker’s hall of fame in order to understand the historical transformation of ethnographic films.

Forest of Bliss

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“Forest of Bliss is intended as an unsparing but ultimately redeeming account of the inevitable grief’s and frequent happiness’s that punctuate daily life in Benares, one of the world’s most holy cities. The film unfolds from one sunrise to the next without commentary, subtitles or dialogue. It is an attempt to give anyone who sees it a wholly authentic though greatly magnified view of the matters of life and death that are portrayed”- Gardner

Forest of Bliss stands out as an interesting piece of work when you look the mysticism. The subtlety and lack of tacit ideas from the viewer’s point of view and symbolic knowledge propagation in the movie can be tantalizing yet very loathsome. The absolute lack of narration, subtitle, and other dialog makes absolutely mysterious. The numerous shot involving orphic symbols and ritual give an unfathomable depth to the everydayness of Benares in the banks of river Ganga, India’s Holy River that take away your sins with a dip full body dip and a river that would lead you to the path of reincarnation. The river has numerous purposes ranging from being a catalyst of liminality and Moksha for the few 100 million Indians who follow the Hindu way of life and Hindu metaphysics. Gardner’s aesthetic realist style can sickeningly deconstruct the normative image of Benares to the audience. But the bottom line is the realism and the portrayal of the people and their activity. Most frames are about the economy dealing with death, funeral ceremonies, and its accessories. Gardner goes under the stage to see the dark unattended structures with the banks of the Ganga who provide for the customers in a special way. This hyperrealism is ideally a pure form of anthropological enquiry. There are many thing that’s cannot be demystified and interpreted in the western viewpoint without a breaking a sweat and this is one such mystical place. Indian sociologist M.N. Srinivas coined concept of sanskritization , which is defined as the process whereby the lower castes and those castes who are below the level of twice born caste of the Hindu society mobilizing themselves to follow the ritual practices of the upper castes in order to achieve ritual purity and caste upliftment in their next reincarnation. Their present metaphysical condition is the result of sins of their previous life. Hence every caste group consisting of practicing Hindus those who believe in reincarnation, irrespective of their hierarchy flock themselves in Benares to take part and witness this rituals. And the idea of dying in Benares is considered to be a saving grace for a person’s soul. Now coming back to Gardner’s portrayal, I believe that it’s a very graceful (Rauch) framing of perspectives ranging from the portrayal of the trivial street dogs to the holy cow among animals and from infants to dead bodies. The most shocking could be the clips of dead bodies floating in the river which appeared three times in the film. Finally it’s the portrayal of the most bliss place for attaining certain euphoria as the title suggests hence Gardner brilliant portrayal is combination of splendid acts of people and time with a brilliant narrative style.