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2021 Films

Suspension (2019) – Matt Langley

Suspension (2019) charts a journey of human folly in the face of an unrelenting natural world and an unreliable government. It follows the conception and attempted construction of the Mocoa – San Francisco Bypass from 1991 to the project’s indefinite suspension in 2017. Director Simón Uribe Martínez tells the stories...

Elder’s Corner (2020) – Matt Langley

Elder’s Corner (2020) follows the mission of British Nigerian musician and filmmaker Siji Awoyinka as he seeks to regain the lost voices of his rich musical heritage. Charting the movements of High Life music during colonial rule, and the nationalistic push for independence to joyous Juju and the pioneering of...

The Two Lives of Li Ermao (2019) – Lucy James

For my first solo interview it was fair to say that I was extraordinarily nervous, not wanting to create an awkward atmosphere or say the wrong thing, but the second Kiki Yu popped up on my zoom screen, those nerves flushed away. Her kind presence instantly put me at ease,...

A Colombian Family (2020) – Harriet Crisp

A Colombian Family (Tanja Wol Sørensen, 2020) charts the difficult relationship of Yira and her politically-active mother Ruby against the backdrop of the conflict between the FARC rebel movement and the government in Colombia. Ruby is faced with a tough dilemma as Yira pleads with her to leave Colombia, a...

VHS Diaries (2020) – Harriet Crisp

Niyaz Saghari’s 2020 documentary, VHS Diaries, is the tale of a defiant cinephile subculture that pursued their passion for cinema despite strict government restrictions and the threat of imprisonment in post-revolution Iran. Saghari collates diaries she wrote during the era of video censorship and her personal VHS film archive, alongside...

A Palimpsest of the Africa Museum (2019) – Harriet Crisp

The Oxford English Dictionary defines a palimpsest as “a manuscript in which a later writing is written over an effaced earlier writing”. In Matthias De Groof’s sharp and subtle 2019 documentary, Palimpsest of the Africa Museum, the museum is manuscript and the earlier writing its colonial narrative.  The subject of...

Hengdian Dreams (2020): Living on Dreams Alone

Yijie Zou (Anthropology – College of William & Mary) Yijie Zou reviews director Shayan Momin’s short work, Hengdian Dreams, streaming in our NYU Culture & Media Program at 30 Years sessions. Hengdian Dreaming attends to rural migrant workers who live in Hengdian, Zhejiang, China, the world’s biggest movie studio city....

Lula Wattam on Half Elf (2020)

The film Half Elf (2020) is a piece of cinematic genius, managing to negotiate between lighthearted sweetness and the intense processes of ageing. It sucks us into the raw landscape, chilling us with the brutal waves and craggy rocks, bleak yet hauntingly stunning depictions of the Icelandic town. These aesthetic...


Browse the RAI Film Festival 2021 programme.

A warm welcome to the RAI Film Festival 2021 – online edition. We are pleased to share a rich, engaging and varied event that brings together the leading voices in the field of visual anthropology to interrogate cutting-edge documentary film practice.

Over the course of a jam-packed ten days this festival will treat you to prize-winning films, panel discussions, a conference, workshops, as well as Q&As with filmmakers.

The move to an online format

These are exceptional times, and we’ve had to move with them. The RAI Film Festival 2021 blends pre-recorded content with live discussions and events.

All our films, conference panels and talks (bar very few exceptions) are available in a pre-recorded format on our dedicated viewing platform. They are accessible 24 / 7, worldwide, 19-28 March 2021 to anyone with a Festival Pass. A handful of films are available only in select countries, check the list here.

At the same time, we will be running a rich programme of LIVE Q&As, conversations and discussions on Zoom, 19-28 March. The full schedule is here.

The Festival Pass will give you full access to all pre-recorded events. The live events are free and accessible to all.


Racial justice and anti-racism feature prominently across the festival programme.

  • Zacharias Kunuk, and his film One Day in the Life of Noah Piugattuk (2019), receives the RAI President’s Award. This masterful film is set on North Baffin Island in 1961. This is a tense but at times humorous drama of translation and (mis)communication tells a tale at the heart of Canada’s forced resettlement policy of First Nations people.
  • The Global Racialisations strand, curated by Yasmin Fedda and Ethiraj Gabriel Dattatreyan, explores the material effects and shared histories of race/racism across geographies.
  • The Decolonising the Archive strand addresses the politics of historical media collections and how they are mobilised in the present.
  • The Anti-racist Filmmaking workshop is hosted by Elena Guzman and Miasarah Lai of the EthnoCine collective (to apply to take part in the live workshop please click here.

The film festival conference has doubled in size since last time in 2019. Following the successful feedback on our academic panel presentations in our previous festival, we have created more space for sharing work, learning from peers, discussion and networking. Conference presentations will be pre-recorded and available for watching throughout the festival. All the live discussion sessions will last 50 minutes to encourage lively exchange.


In her address, Faye Ginsburg (NYU) draws on her work with First Nations/Inuit media makers in Canada and Australia to consider the media archives they have created. Stephanie Spray (USC-Dornsife) will speak to the importance of “maintenance” to creative work during our time of crisis and how maintenance work helps sustain life and relationships that enable the possibility of social transformation.

An expanded shorts strand We have expanded our popular offerings of short films and have curated 10 thematic programmes that bring the most exciting and innovative work in short- and medium- form ethnographic filmmaking.

RAI Film Lifetime Achievement Award We take special pleasure in presenting this award to André Singer, a filmmaker, anthropologist and producer who has, over the past five decades, made an enormous contribution to the field and to the RAI Film Festival. We celebrate his career throughout the festival: look out for the conversation between André and Angela Piccini that traces his work as an anthropologist and filmmaker, and catch three of his films in the film library, most notably his latest project as producer, Fireball (dir. Werner Herzog and Clive Oppenheimer, 2020).

Thank you

The RAI FILM Festival can only exist thanks to the support and hard work of a large number of individuals and institutions. We greatly appreciate our international jury of anthropologists and filmmakers who are judging the 66 films competing for 6 prizes and awards.

A prestigious line-up of academic institutions have partnered with us to deliver this edition of the RAI Film Festival. We are grateful for the support and collaboration of our partners: Antwerp University; University of Bristol; University of Edinburgh; Emory University; Falmouth University; Goldsmiths; Granada Centre for Visual Anthropology; NYU; University of Oxford; SOAS; University of Sussex; USC Dornsife.

Supporters The RAI Film Festival is made possible by the contributions of individuals who give their time and expertise to the festival in a number of capacities. A heartfelt thank you to each one of you. We truly couldn’t do it without you.