ASA10: The Interview - theory, practice, society

Queen's University, Belfast, 13/04/2010 – 16/04/2010


Ethnographic film programme

Location Seminar Room 10
Date and Start Time [TBD] at [TBD]


Jonathan Skinner (University of Roehampton) email
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Short Abstract

There will be four films showing in parallel with the panels.

Long Abstract

The film stream has four films which will be shown in parallel with the panels. The film-makers will be present to introduce their work, answer questions, and lead discussion afterwards.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.


Sewa Mwadale, the Feast for the Collective Dead (30 min)

Author: Patrick Glass  email
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Short Abstract

Wed 14th Apr, 09:30

Mwadale,the feast for the Collective Dead, in Sewa, Normanby Island, PNG,

is extraordinary for its 18 large yam houses, mwadale, and huge platform built over the village centre, gamwana (stomach). The film explores the functions of the feast, which includes masking.

Long Abstract

Mwadale is the feast for the collective dead in Sewa, Normanby Island, Papua New Guinea. Eighteen tall yam houses were built in a circle in Biabiaunina village centre, the gamwana (stomach), the traditional burial ground. The yam houses, mwadale, are likened to birds, hornbills (binama), and are also seen as vulval and phallic. The spirits of the recently dead are called back to the village gamwana and oversee the feast.

The feast has broadly four main functions. First, it celebrates the recent collective dead; after the mwadale the spirits will return to Mount Bwebweso forever. Second, it represents closure, the real and final 'joining', on all the marriages of the village - divorce is very difficult for any couple after a mwadale has been made for them. Third, it's the one opportunity for ayai, outsiders to the village, to say what they really think about their in-laws. And lastly, mwadale epitomises the Sewa's strong resistance to the cultural dominance of their neighbours, the Dobu. Dobu is the lingua franca of the area. Though the Sewa have been converts to Christianity for about seventy years, the majority of them still hold to their traditional beliefs and customs.

Masking is generally thought (wrongly) to be absent from the Massim; and it is here examined. Before the handing down of the gifts of pork from the large central platform, which is built over the gamwana, two 'witches' - masked men - engage in mock battle

Sermiligaaq 65°54'N, 36°22'W (2008, 63 min)

Author: Sophie Elixhauser (University of Augsburg)  email
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Short Abstract

Wed 14th Apr, 14:30

Co-director: Anni Seitz

A family and village portrait in East Greenland.

Long Abstract

The Iivit (Inuit) in East Greenland inhabit a small string of coastal land at the edge of the biggest island of the world. Long winters have always shaped daily life here, a life that has gone within a few generations from earth house to modernity, complete with helicopters, satellite TV and alcohol. This documentary shows East Greenland today, the village in summer and winter, family life between seal hunting and computer games. It lets us experience in clear and poetical scenes normality in an extraordinary world, quietly observing events, faces, gestures that combine to form a portrait that is at the same time strange and strangely familiar.

Wiley-Blackwell Student Film Prize at the 11th Royal Anthropological Institute Festival of Ethnographic Film, Leeds, 2009.

The Crocodile, the Cobbler, and Bob (2009, 20 min)

Author: Jonathan Roper (University of Tartu)  email
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Short Abstract

Thu 15th Apr, 09:30

A portrait of Bob Lewis, a 73-year old former agricultural engineer, and singer of traditional songs.

Long Abstract

This film depicts Bob Lewis, a 73-year old former agricultural engineer, and singer of traditional songs, primarily by means of interviews.

Such a "talking heads" approach, though it diverges from the observational aesthetic current in ethnographic films, allows the subject's voice (in every sense) to take centre stage, and express the meaning of song in general, and two particular songs in particular ('The Cobbler' and 'The Wonderful Crocodile') have had and continue to have for him. There are parallels here with the relative (and mistaken?) values assigned to participant observation and interviewing in fieldwork more widely.

I would also be glad to expand on the tensions and rewards involved in showing this film as part of two larger events (one academic, the other a gig) at which the subject of the film was very much present.

The Way of the Road (2009, 60 min)

Author: Ben Campbell (Durham University)  email
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Short Abstract

Thu 15th Apr, 14:30

A film that uses interviews mostly in the Tamang language to gauge the response of villagers to a road being built through their valley in Nepal to the Tibet-China border.

Long Abstract

A road is being built into Tibet to help relieve poverty in Nepal's northern districts, funded by the Asian Development Bank. The film journeys through the Tamang communities who will be most affected, to hear their reflections on whether the road will benefit them. It is a turning point for these communities, who have occupied a land of cross-overs - in trade, in religion and languages on the border zone between south and central Asia. The Tamang speak of mythological travellers, perform dances of warring armies, and discuss uncertain livelihoods, as this people of the border now face the momentum of globalisation with some scepticism.

The interviewees' use of the film for rhetorically registering how the road will affect the conditions of their lives, and their future possible relationships to others, presents many questions to the anthropologist, including their understanding of the power of film to communicate to others beyond the interviewer.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.