Accepted paper:

The dynamics of "assemblage": an analysis of Perrault multiple uses of editing in "The Land Without Trees or the Mouchouânipi"


Noemie Oxley (American University of Paris)

Paper short abstract:

Through concepts of "assemblage" and "intervals", we will explore the multiple uses of editing in Perrault's 1980 documentary. It expresses the dynamics of the Quebecois research on native history, as well as the cultural and territorial dispossession of the Naskapi.

Paper long abstract:

As a filmmaker, making use of the spoken word and "shared anthropology", Perrault imposes a "harmonic" form of editing in his movies that creates a powerful dynamics. This encourages the existence of a "collective enunciation" ( Michele Garneau). He explores the polyphonic nature of popular voice and identity of the "Quebecois" through editing. "The Land without trees… " follows the quest of three scholars on the trail of a vanished caribou hunt that brought together Naskapi on the shores of Lake Mouchouânipi. The soundtrack, which is an assembly of testimonies, interviews and comments from the scientists, creates a continuous underlying tension with the images : archive photos, archeological excavations; interactions and maps showing the limits of native's lands in Quebec. The documentary raises the question of the fragmentary nature of scientific and cinematographic research, by nature based on limited information, about a past which cannot be recreated. An aesthetic analysis of sequences demonstrates the anthropological issues lying behind the editing. Zooms and reframing inside one shot, as well as editing across different shots express the interactions and "co-presence" between the scientists and the natives. The « assemblage » of images and sound reveals the dynamics of Quebecois research, based on shaky documentary sources. Four century later, the native people's history is being taken into account. The "intervals" created by the editing permits reflection about territorial and cultural dispossession. While Fragmented, the interviews are integrated into a wider historical framework. It gives the impression of an "absence-presence" of the contemporary indigenous voice.

panel W086
Transcultural montage: the uses of filmic montage in conveying diversity and mutuality