Beyond observation



Beyond observation: A history of authorship in ethnographic film. A discussion with Paul Henley. More than just introducing the best in new ethnographic films, the RAI FILM Festival also aims to take stock of major new works of scholarship in the field of visual anthropology. For the 2021 RAI Film Festival, we feature Paul Henley’s Beyond Observation (2020). Henley delivers a grand tour: from the birth of cinema in 1895 up to (nearly) the present day. In his expansive work Henley challenges us to reconsider how we tell and teach the story of ethnographic film. Whether we agree with his vision or not, this book is sure to serve as a new point of reference in a field that is continually looking to reinvent itself. One of the most important contributions of Beyond Observation is the re-examination of the “canonical” underpinnings of ethnographic film. This panel discussion uses this book to pose broader questions: What is the canon of ethnographic film? Who decides? What work might an ethnographic film canon do? And: Do we really need one? Panelists: Paul Henley served as the Director of the Granada Centre for Visual Anthropology at the University of Manchester from 1987 until 2014. Trained in documentary at the UK National Film and Television School he has since made numerous films. His many academic publications include The Adventure of the Real (2010), a major study of the work of Jean Rouch. He is currently co-editor of a new series of monographs published by Manchester University Press entitled: Anthropology, Creative Practice and Ethnography. And he was a Director of the RAI Film Festival five times over 25 years. P. Kerim Friedman is an associate professor in the Department of Ethnic Relations and Cultures at National Dong Hwa University in Taiwan. His research explores language revitalization efforts among indigenous Taiwanese, looking at the relationship between language ideology, indigeneity, and political economy. An ethnographic filmmaker, he co-produced the Jean Rouch award-winning documentary, Please Don't Beat Me, Sir! about a street theater troupe from one of India's Denotified and Nomadic Tribes (DNTs). Kerim is also a co-founder of the anthropology blog anthro{dendum} (formerly Savage Minds). Harjant Gill is an Indian documentary filmmaker and teaches visual anthropology at Towson University, USA. His research and films explore the intersections of gender, sexuality, religion, citizenship, transnationality and notions of belonging with a particular focus on Indian and diasporic masculinities. He also serves on the board of directors of Society for Visual Anthropology (SVA) and has co-directed the SVA Film and Media Festival (2012-14). He is the co-editor of "Multimodal Anthropologies" section of American Anthropologist. Shilyh Warren teaches film and aesthetic studies at the University of Texas at Dallas, USA. Her research takes up debates in film history, feminist theory, documentary studies, and film theory. Her first book, Subject to Reality: Women and Documentary (University of Illinois Press, 2019) examines two key periods in the history of women's documentary filmmaking: the 20s-40s and the 1970s. The book explores the ethnographic strain of documentary in particular and makes the argument that women's nonfictional filmmaking has always struggled with the problems of realism and the politics of race.

The panel is moderated by Stephen Hughes, Festival Director, RAI.

In the 2021 RAI Film Fest