The 16th RAI Film Festival will take place 27-30 March 2019 at the Watershed in Bristol (UK). Alongside this, the Royal Anthropological Institute is pleased to stage an accompanying conference.

Brief info is available below, but you can read the full Conference Programme with abstracts here. 

Expanding the Frame: Ethnographic Film and its Others

What is ethnographic film? Anthropologists have failed – or declined – to agree on what ethnographic film is or should be. It is a gloriously unstable category. Rather than being chained to the “classics” or a “canon”, visual anthropology always itself, undoes itself, and carves new approaches. We witness – and celebrate – this push for innovation in the films programme at the RAI Film Festival.

This conference brings together anthropologists, film scholars and practitioners to explore the boundaries of ethnographic film today, and chart the new paths that are being forged. In particular, we will look at the productive relationships between anthropological filmmakers and their fellow travellers, including indigenous, diasporic, intercultural, African/black cinemas and experimental/art film. We’ll consider the relationship between ethnographic film and other filmmaking endeavours that are – or have the potential to be – constructive critical interlocutors. To what extent can ethnographic film practice creatively engage with other film traditions yet still retain its scholarly roots and aims? Does it need to?

The conference includes the following panels:

The University of Southern California Panel
Pedagogy & Public Anthropology: Legacies of Marshall’s and Asch’s Ethnographic Films

Convener: Nancy Lutkehaus (University of Southern California)

This panel reflects on the role of ethnographic film in pedagogy and public anthropology past, present, and future. It explores the introduction of ethnographic film into school curricula in the 1960s, the emergence of institutional centres in the 1970s (such as Documentary Educational Resources (DER), founded by filmmakers John Marshall and Timothy Asch), the establishment of the first university programs that sought to teach and research ethnographic film in the 1980s (such as Center for Visual Anthropology at the University of Southern California, led by Asch until his death in 1994), the impact of increased access to digital video from the 1990s, and the landscape today, in which there are many graduate and undergraduate programs that incorporate ethnographic media production.

Hosted in collaboration with University of Southern California Dornsife, with the participation of Alice Apley (Documentary Educational Resources), Jennifer Cool (University of Southern California), and Nancy Lutkehaus, (University of Southern California)

The University of Kent Workshop
Ethnographic Film and Mental Health: Transformations and Impact

This interactive workshop explores the challenges and possibilities that emerge when visual anthropologists engage with ideas and experiences associated with mental health – and, in particular, when they seek to realise transformation and generate impact. Using examples of contemporary ethnographic films about mental illness, this workshop will consider the effects on both protagonists and audiences.

This workshop is hosted in collaboration with University of Kent

Sat 30 March / 11:00

The University of Sussex Panel
Engaging/Empowering Image-Voices

Conveners: Raminder Kaur (University of Sussex)Mariagiulia Grassilli (University of Sussex)
How can anthropologists and filmmakers engage with and empower marginalised individuals and communities? Since the 1950s, ethnographic filmmakers and theorists have advocated for participatory methods. By considering a range of case studies, this panel will explore how anthropologists and filmmakers today are continuing to use audio-visual, performative and multi-media strategies to ‘visibilise’ social lives in collaboration with communities, and to provide creative ways to pursue social justice. Case studies include young Mozambican’s ethnographic musical films, drag culture, asylum-seekers/refugees’ films and considering the movement of film from the margins to mainstream media.

Hosted in collaboration with University of Sussex with the participation of Thomas Austin, Karen Boswall, Catherine Donaldson, Lauren Greenwood, Joe Ellefsen, Charles Brownlow, Poppy Bennett, Vitoria de Souza, and Harry Candlish.

Sat 30 March / 13:30

Panel 01: Indigenous Cinema: past, present and future
Convenors: Renato Athias, PPGA/UFPE & Rodrigo Lacerda, CRIA / NOVA FCSH / ISCTE-IUL
Indigenous cinema is a very diverse and global category with more than fifty years of history. The panel seeks to analyze the past, present and future of indigenous cinema, including case studies that allow us to think about the general framework, or broad reflections applicable to different contexts.

Speakers will include: Sneha Mundari, in conversation with Ricardo Leizaola (Goldsmiths, University of London) and Martha-Cecilia Dietrich (University of Bern).

Wed 27 March / 13:30 – 15:00

Panel 002: How to frame a poem in a film with others? Experiences of translation between different languages, poems, pictures and borders
Conveners: Roseline Lambert (Concordia University), Rachel McCrum (Mile End Poets Festival)
This panel aims to discuss the realisation of film-poems in a context of intercultural artistic collaboration. The idea of this panel comes from the recent experiment of the project Moving Pictures and Borders, an international writing and film project matching writers with filmmakers across six countries.

Speakers will include: Eric Bent (Artist and Animator), Annie Watson (Sheffield Hallam University), Katharine Cox (Sheffield Hallam University).

Wed 27 March / 15:30 – 17:00

Panel 003: Precarious landscapes: forensics and decolonial futures
Convener: Toma Peiu, University of Colorado Boulder
This panel explores the practicalities and ethics of producing images and sound in vulnerable landscapes. Work coming from ethnographers and media artists researching border areas, diasporas and environmentally, politically or economically exposed geographies is expected to challenge notions of centrality and subalternity.

Speakers will include: Clarisse Destailleur (University of Leipzig), María Fernanda Carrillo Sánchez (UACM), Snezana Stankovic, Viadrina Center (Humboldt University of Berlin), Pavel Borecký (University of Bern), Pegi Vail (NYU)

Double session
Thu 28 March / 09:00 – 10:30 and 11:00 – 12:30

Panel 004: Indigenous California: A Forum on Collaborative Archaeological and Ethnographic Visual Media Projects
Conveners: Teri Brewer (Archaeoikon), Sue Giles (Bristol City Museum and Galleries), Wendy Teeter (Fowler Museum at UCLA).

In recent years there have been an increasing number of productive visual media collaborations between indigenous Californian scholars and regional or international scholars, curators and filmmakers from a number of disciplines. This forum will explore several ongoing museum and archaeological collaborative projects including Unearthed, one of the a planned multimedia outcomes of the Windwolves Archaeological Project, The Pimu Catalina Island Archaeological Project, and Donation to the Museum, a film and research collaboration with the Bristol City Museum and Galleries.

Speakers will include: David Robinson (Lancaster University), Cindi Alvitre (CSU Long Beach), Desiree Martinez (Cogstone Archaeology).

Thu 28 March / 09:00 – 10:30

Panel 005: Haptics and Visual Anthropology – Audio-Visual Dialogues and Non-Verbal Forms of Knowledge Construction
In this workshop, filmmakers and researchers Sharma and Høgel explore how haptic approaches may provide the means to address nonverbal and embodied forms of knowledge through film. They will outline the techniques they use in their own practice as a prompt for further discussion of how haptic audio-visuality can be applied within ethnographic film.

Thu 28 March / 11:00 – 12:30

Panel 006:Expanding Ethnographic Film: Multimodality?
Conveners: Mark Westmoreland (Leiden University), Janine Prins (Leiden University)
This panel seeks to investigate the expansion of ethnographic film practices in cases where a combination of different practice-based methodologies led to a multimodal approach. To what extent does multiplying creative methods improve the anthropological enterprise?

Speakers will include: Mihai Andrei Leaha (University of Sao Paulo), Simon Robinson (Ravensbourne University London)

Thu 28 March / 13:30 – 15:00

Panel 007: From the Field to the Screen: Reflexive Practices and Collaborative Methods in Ethnographic Film.
Conveners: Angélica Cabezas Pino (University of Manchester)Mattia Fumanti (University of St. Andrews)
This panel includes contributions from visual anthropologists and filmmakers of contemporary ethnographic films that explore the challenges and opportunities of collaborative and/or reflexive methods, and the limits of these practices when presenting that cinematic work to an audience.

Speakers will include: Onyeka Igwe (University of the Arts London), Ines Ponte (ICS-ULisboa), Sophie Schrago (University of Manchester), Robert Eagle (University of the West of England), Hugo Montero (Université Lumière Lyon 2)

Double session
Thu 28 March / 13:30 – 15:00 and 15:30 – 17:00

Panel 008: Golden Wing, Silver Wings: Filmic representations of the autobiographical ethnography of Lin Yueh-hwa [Lin Yaohua]
Conveners: Gary Seaman (USC), Zhuang Kongshao (Yunnan University)
This panel will focus on the legacy of the famous Chinese anthropologist Lin Yueh-hwa (aka Lin Yaohua), who authored what would now be characterized as an “indigenous ethnography” of his native village in Fujian Province, southeastern China. Short films produced by the conveners will be screened for discussion.

Speakers will include: Ming He (Yunnan University), Liang Zhang (Yunnan University), and Yueping Wang (Yunnan University) Zhonghao Xie (North Seattle College).

Thu 28 March / 15:30 – 17:00

Panel 009: We Three: Apparatus, Subject, Society
Conveners: Timothy P. A. Cooper (University College London)Vindhya Buthpitiya (University College London)

Departing from the tripartite relationship between apparatus, subject, and society this panel invites reflection on issues of exclusion, consent, cinephobia, cinephilia, censorship, archival absences, informal circulation, piracy, sharing, pre- and post-cinematic entertainments and the efficaciousness of films as categories of knowledge.

Speakers will include: Özde Çeliktemel-Thomen (METU), Till Jakob Frederik Trojer (SOAS), Domitilla Olivieri (Utrecht University), Igor Karim (Goethe-Universität Frankfurt am Main), Naï Zakharia (University College London), Adeel Khan (Cambridge University) and filmmaker Hammad Khan.

Double session
Fri 29 March / 09:00 – 10:30 and 11:00 – 12:30

Panel 010: Youth-centred frames: visual collaborations and participatory techniques in the research with young people
Conveners: Camilla Morelli (University of Bristol)Flavia Kremer (University of Manchester)

This panel explores the use of participatory visual methods (film-making and beyond) in the research with young people who live at the margins of technological and economic progress, and it considers how collaborative visual anthropology can open up a forum for them to express their challenges and gain wider representation.

Speakers include: Matteo Gallo (University of Verona), Zhongquan Hu (Nanning Normal University), Meghanne M Barker (University of Chicago), Natalie Nesvaderani (Cornell University), Valentina Bonifacio (Ca’ Foscari University), Alison Macdonald (UCL), and Sally Dennehy.

Double session
Fri 29 March / 09:00 – 10:30 and 11:00 – 12:30

Panel 11: The material mediation of the ‘non-normative’ body
Conveners: Cathy Greenhalgh (Central Saint Martins, University of the Arts London), Catalin Brylla (University of West London)

This panel considers filmmakers who seek to work with and represent ‘non-normative’ bodies that are traditionally stereotyped and portrayed as “the other”. The aim is to explore innovative or experimental approaches that highlight the materiality of practices in the pursuit to challenge, bypass or reconfigure tacit audience dispositions towards alternative bodies. This exploration assumes a methodology focussed on the mediation between filmmaker, participants and spectators.

Fri 29 March / 13:30 – 15:00

Panel 12: Transforming theory in and through film
Mattijs van de Port (University of Amsterdam), Janine Prins (Leiden University)

This panel seeks to expand theoretical ambitions in visual anthropology. We explore audio-visual modes of report that speak about existential issues via the minutiae of life-as-lived. We invite visual anthropologists to bring video fragments that provide examples of theorizing in and through film.

Speakers will include: Anja Dreschke, Michaela Schäuble (University of Bern), Eda Elif Tibet, Maisa Alhafe (University of Bern), Barley Norton (Goldsmiths, University of London), Ektoras Arkomanis (London Metropolitan University), Ricardo Leizaola (Goldsmiths College, University of London), Judith Aston (University of the West of England), Paolo Favero (University of Antwerp).

Double session
Fri 29 March / 13:30 – 15:00 and 15:30 – 17:00

All conference sessions are open to those with Day or Full Festival Passes. Passes are available to buy here.

Please direct any questions or queries to the RAI Film Officer: