Our world and the rich variety of its clashing cultures are an infinite source of discoveries and knowledge to be learned. Without filmmaking, this exploration could hardly advance at its current pace. Let's embark on a journey into the world of ethnographic documentaries which introduce you to "the others" – distant cultures which we long to understand so much.
Soon after the invention of motion picture, Robert Flaherty shot his 1922 Nanook of the North documentary which confronted the professional public with a pressing question: "Can film capture the world and foreign cultures in a way that enables us to truly understand their lives?" Since then, filmmaking has made a substantial progress and the advances in film technologies and the documentary boom of the 1960s boosted the ethnographic film genre to its full potential. Let's take a look at how today's filmmakers see distant reaches of the world we live in.
Female filmmaker Ksenia Okhapina will take you to a remote village in Northern Caucasus, Chechnya. In her Come Back Free documentary, she focuses on a group of gravediggers from a war-torn village, who encounter death on a daily basis even long after the fighting is over. On the other side of the Asian continent, female director Xu Hongjie followed the events in the local school of a mountain village called Gulu in China. The school of the village which had no electricity or road connection with the outside world until 2004 welcomes a new teacher named Bao who arrives full of Utopian visions and ideas for improvement. On the Rim of the Sky depicts the process of change in a closed community and a hidden face of contemporary China. A journey to Cameroon, Africa awaits you in the Tinselwood documentary by French female director Marie Voignier. Just as in her previous works, the director travels to a post-colonial country to capture the slowly disappearing traditions of the local population. Even Europe harbors much interesting documentary material as seen in Kalès, a film by Belgian director Laurent van Lancker, which captures the daily life of immigrants in the French port town of Calais.
This special program offers films by directors who specialize in ethnographic documentaries (Stephanie Spray, Steffen Köhn, J. P. Sniadecki) as well as works of world-renowned directors who often use ethnographic elements in their works (Jørgen Leth, Peter Mettler).
This program has been prepared in cooperation with Pavel Borecký, who is a social anthropologist and an audiovisual ethnographer.
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