Humanities Research XVIII, 1: Perspectives on Ethnographic Film released

Humanities Research XVIII, 1: Perspectives on Ethnographic Film released
Thursday 6 December 2012

Perspectives on Ethnographic Film edited by Natasha Fijn and Pip Deveson was released by ANU E Press on 22 November. This special edition of Humanities Research (Vol XVIII. No. 1. 2012), the journal of the Research School of Humanities and the Arts, is intended to highlight the place of ethnographic filmmaking within the Australian National University and recognise the contribution of the university's internationally renowned filmmakers to the discipline of anthropology.

Perspectives on Ethnographic Film is available online in a range formats or as a printed publication from ANU E Press.

As Fijn and Deveson argue in the Preface, "The [included] papers … present the perspectives of a diverse range of filmmakers, ranging from early career academics to well-established practitioners with decades of experience and international reputations. As will become clear when reading this issue, they have many connections and have influenced each others’ approaches to filmmaking. The impact of key ethnographic films, which has inspired the filmmakers to push boundaries and to try new, innovative techniques, is also evident. The papers and discussions focus on key films made by each filmmaker, and clips of relevant film excerpts are made available as ‘associated media files’ on the ANU E Press web site.


Preface: Perspectives on Ethnographic Film. … Natasha Fijn and Philippa Deveson

Becoming a Visual Anthropologist. … Howard Morphy

The Ethnographic Filmmaking of Ian Dunlop in a Decade of Change. … Philippa Deveson with Ian Dunlop

Discussion between Gary Kildea and David MacDougall about Celso and Cora.

Discussion between David MacDougall and Gary Kildea about Doon School Chronicles.

A Multi-Species Etho-Ethnographic Approach to Filmmaking. … Natasha Fijn

Beyond all Utterance: Reflections on the making of the films Memoirs of a Plague and Locusts: Creatures of the flood. … Robert Nugent

Knowing Stillness. … Penelope Moore


Howard Morphy

Professor Howard Morphy is a visual anthropologist and author of many influential books on Aboriginal art in Australia. Howard Morphy co-edited one of the key visual anthropology texts, Rethinking Visual Anthropology (1997, Yale University Press). He worked collaboratively with Ian Dunlop, initially during fieldwork in Arnhem Land, but has also drawn upon Ian Dunlop’s films from the Yirrkala Film Project within his own work. Howard has continued this engagement with ethnographic filmmakers at The Australian National University through his role as Director of the Centre for Cross-Cultural Research and now the Research School of the Humanities and the Arts.

Philippa Deveson and Ian Dunlop

Philippa Deveson has worked extensively in ethnographic film, with long-running collaborations with colleagues who are featured in this volume. Philippa worked with Ian Dunlop on the Yirrkala Film Project and is still undertaking research and multimedia projects based on this and other film collections. Ian spent over thirty years making films for the Commonwealth Film Unit (later Film Australia). He is one of Australia’s foremost ethnographic filmmakers. He made the classic People of the Australian Western Desert Series; an epic film, Towards Baruya Manhood (1969), in Papua New Guinea; followed by the long-term Yirrkala Film Project in northeast Arnhem Land, consisting of twenty-two films shot over a period of twelve years. Ian’s films have won many awards—most notably the prestigious Royal Anthropological Institute (RAI) Film Prize, which he shared with Philippa Deveson, for Conversations with Dundiwuy Wanambi in 1996. Ian has built up long-term relationships with the communities in which he has filmed and his films continue to be a valuable resource to them.

Gary Kildea

Gary is an internationally recognised ethnographic filmmaker, known particularly for classic films such as Trobriand Cricket (1974) and Celso and Cora (1983). When Gary first began making ethnographic films, he spent seven years living and working in Papua New Guinea with a core group of internationally recognised Australian filmmakers, including Les McLaren, Dennis O’Rourke, Bob Connolly and Robin Anderson. More recently, he won the Royal Anthropological Institute (RAI) Film Prize for Koriam’s Law (2005). In 2006 Gary received an American Anthropological Association Lifetime Achievement Award for his contribution to visual anthropology.

David MacDougall

David MacDougall’s work has been highly influential within ethnographic film as a genre. David is internationally recognised for both his ethnographic films and his writing on visual anthropology and documentary cinema. David’s first film, To Live with Herds (1968–72), won the Grand Prix ‘Venezia Genti’ at the Venice Film Festival in 1972. It was one of the first films to subtitle the dialogue of its subjects, giving people from another culture their own voice. In 1997 David began the now famous Doon School Series (1997–2004) in India. His independent ethnographic films consistently win awards at the Royal Anthropological Institute (RAI) International Festival of Ethnographic Film and he continues to be an innovative ethnographic filmmaker.

Natasha Fijn

Natasha Fijn is a Research Fellow in the College of the Arts and Social Sciences at The Australian National University, with a background in ethology and natural history filmmaking. She learnt ethnographic filmmaking techniques from the filmmakers featured in this volume. Natasha completed her PhD at The Australian National University, including a ninety-minute ethnographic film as part of her thesis, Khangai Herds (2008). She subsequently published her monograph as a book, Living with Herds (2011, Cambridge University Press), incorporating online video segments as key examples throughout the text.

Robert Nugent

Robert Nugent has a different background from the other filmmakers in this volume, although he acknowledges a strong influence from them, particularly from David MacDougall and Gary Kildea. Robert completed an MA at the Australian Film Television and Radio School in Sydney then set up an independent company, Viafilm—Visible Impact Assessment. His observational documentary End of the Rainbow (2007) followed the relocation of gold mining operations from Indonesia to a remote area of Guinea in West Africa. It has won international recognition with awards at festivals all over the world, including the First Appearance Award at the 2007 International Documentary Film Festival in Amsterdam.

Penny Moore

Penny’s most recent film, Being Daisy, was an integral part of her doctoral thesis, entitled ‘Living a musical life: musicians, music-making and the creation of space in Vienna’. She completed both a masters and a PhD in visual media at the Granada Centre for Visual Anthropology. Her research is concerned with social, sensual and participatory practices of music making through which she explores links and relationships between making and being. She is passionate about a practice-based, ethnography-centred anthropology.


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» School of Archaeology and Anthropology

» Research School of Humanities and the Arts publications

» Humanities Research Vol XVII. No. 1 2012: Perspectives on Ethnographic Film

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