Undergraduate Degree




DF2006 Ethnographic Film

[Studio Contact Hours: 39 hours; Pre-requisites: NIL; Academic Unit: 3.0]




Academic Unit


3 AU

Course Description


Learning Objective

To introduce students to the classics of ethnographic film by means of their screening and careful interpretation in light of the best and varied writings of them over the past half-century. To teach the students the many problems involved in engaging with a multiplicity of cultures different in beliefs, developments and ethics.


Ethnographic Film is one of the many ways we look at culture. This course surveys its historical development and showcases those regarded as its master-makers and it concentrates on the close and careful analysis of the films. 

Topic will include: their construction based on research and fieldwork; the access and control of materials; the authors' and participants’ voices; the role of interviews; the seeming conflict between narrative and observational styles; and the basics of shooting, sound and editing. 

This course explores the principles of Visual Anthropology and introduces its associate critical literature. It calls special attention to its central problematics: the notions of "truth" (objectivity) and the filmmakers' subjectivities; the representation of culture, collaboration with the films' peoples; films made for television and personal experimental works; ethical and moral dilemmas; and the issue of ethnocentrism and national hegemony (imperialism).


Course Outline




• Robert Flaherty Nanook of the North, 1922, 55 minutes

• Asen Balikei and Guy Mary, Netsilik Eskimoes, 1963, 60 minutes, Rousseliere


• Sergei Eisenstein, Mexican Film (Que Viva Mexico!), 1932, 120 minutes


• Basil Wright, Song of Ceylon, 1934, 40 minutes


• Jean Rouch, La Maitre Fous 1954, 35 minutes, 

• Jaguar, 1967, 93 minutes


• Robert Gardner, Dead Birds, 1965, 83 minutes

• Forest of Bliss, 1986, 90 minutes


• John Marshall, The Hunters, 1958, 73 minutes

• Nai: Portrait of a Kung Woman, 1980, 59 minutes

• Timothy Asch and Napoleon Chagnon, The Ax Fight, 1975, 34 minutes,


• David Hancock and Peter Murray, Herbert de Gioa, 1975, 50 minutes

• Naim and Jabar, 1974, 50 minutes


• James Blue and David MacDougall, Kenya Boran, 1974, 66 minutes


• David and Judith MacDougall, To Live with Herds, 1974, 70 minutes, 

• Lorang's Way, 1977, 63 minutes


• Terry Turner, Kayapu: Out of the Forest, 1989, 53 minutes


• Maya Deren, The Divine Horsemen: The Living Gods, 1951, 54 minutes

• Peter Kubelka, Unsere Afrikareise, 1966, 13 minutes


• Gary Kildea, Trobriand Cricket, 1979, 53 minutes

• Celso and Cora, 1983, 109 minutes


• Sarah Elder, Uksuum: The Drums of Winter, 1988, 90 minutes

Learning Outcome

Students will acquire the ability to experience, understand and interpret the cinematic documentation of culture as it has changed in practice and theory since its inception, and to be aware of, and attentive to, the problems involved in the impulse to record and represent "the other" in their own and other groups.

Student Assessment

  1. Final Assessment: 50% Final Assessment component will take the form of a long essay due at the end of the semester.

  2. Continuous Assessment: 50%

Continuous assessment components will include:

  • Participation: 15%

  • One long essay (mid Semester): 35%


Required Reading:

  1. Beate Engelbrecht, ed., Memories of the Origins of Ethnographic Film, 2007

  2. Peter Lang: Frankfurt am Main

  3. Anna Grimshaw, Amanda Ravetz, Observational Cinema: Anthropolgy, Film, and the Exploration of Social Life, 2009, Indianapolis: Indiana University Press.

  4. Paul Hockings, ed., Principles of Visual Anthropology. l995, Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter

  5. David MacDougall, Transcultural Cinema, 1998, Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press