Films: A-level Anthropology Unit 2

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The following films have been selected from the RAI’s ethnographic film library for their suitability in dealing with subjects covered in the Anthropology A-level curriculum. They are also excellent resources for the International Baccalaureate (IB) and other A-levels such as sociology, geography and religion. These films are available for hire or purchase. For more information please contact the RAI’s Film Officer Susanne Hammacher at  02078370455.

3.2 UNIT 2 Becoming a Person: Identity and Belonging

3.2.1. Personhood

Directors: Anna Straube, Gregor Gaida, Miren Artola, Saskia Warzecha
Release: 2009
Length: 39 minutes
Location: Berlin, Germany
Language: German w/English subtitles

Breeding Cells is a film from the laboratory of reproduction. A fertility clinic is a place where human reproduction is separated from sex and anatomized into bio/technological components. There fertilization is made visible and is manipulated at a cellular level while the couples themselves seem to become marginal participants in a process that involves a large number of different professionalized agents and technologies.
Recorded in the ward of reproduction medicine at Charite Hospital Berlin, this documentary approaches a scientific environment with an experimental ethnographic gaze. The filmmakers meet an open and quite unexcited “fertility team”, who consider themselves simply ãassistants of nature. But what is nature in a hospital environment that is highly regulated by procedural methods, doctors conventions and conservative laws? Closely describing the routines and moral concerns of the medical staff, the film is portraying a transition time, when biotechnological science fiction is turning into everyday life.

3.2.2. Becoming a Person

Granada Centre for Visual Anthropology Student Film
Director: Rebecca Savage
Release: 2006
Length: 22 mins
Location: Mexico
Ethnic Group: Nahuatl
Language: Spanish w/English subtitles

The ‘Quinceañera’ celebration is a lived illusion. A day dream shared by the whole community of Tetlanohcan, a rapidly urbanising agricultural town in Tlaxcala, Central Mexico. The dream is shared even by those living and working in the USA. ‘Tiempo de Vals’ mixes observational footage and testimonials from three generations of women to analyse the meaning of the celebration in the context of the massive social and economic changes in this part of Mexico over the last 40 years.



Granada Centre for Visual Anthropology Student Film
Director: Ellie Ford
Country/Production: UK
Release: 2004
Length: 29 mins
Location: Columbia
Language: English and Spanish w/English subtitles

Cali in Colombia is celebrated for salsa music and beautiful women and is also the base of the Internet Bride agency, ‘Latin Best’ with 900 women on its files. Accompanying the British and American men who arrive at the agency, the film-maker meets the potential brides and discovers their motivations for leaving the past behind and following the dream of a life elsewhere.


Director: Simon Chambers, Delwar Hussain
Release: 2007
Length: 63 mins
Location: London/Bangladesh / Europe
Ethnic Group: Bangladeshis
Language: English, Bengali w/English subtitles 
Winner of the RAI Film Prize 2007

Director Simon Chambers follows the lives of young Bengali sisters – and close personal friends of his – as they travel from London to Bangladesh to undertake the arranged marriages that have long been planned for them. Although apparently reluctant to submit to the agreed arrangements, the sisters nonetheless seem unable or unwilling to ultimately escape their traditional destiny.




Director: Kim Longinotto, Jano Williams
Release: 2000
Length: 106 mins
Location: Japan / Asia
Ethnic Group Japanese
Collection: Kim Longinotto
Language: English and Japanese w/English subtitles

A film about courage, transformation and dreams in the extraordinary world of Japanese women’s wrestling. Gaea Girls focuses on the hopes and fears of the beleaguered Gaea Japan squad, whose reputation hangs by a thread after a series of setbacks in the ring. There is the spindly 16-year old who spent three years persuading her parents to let her join, the new recruit who ran away but has returned begging for a second chance, and the rookie desperate to make her debut in the ring. At the centre of the film is the tough but popular trainer who – with her own very particular philosophy and personal history – rules the girls, trying to fashion them in her own image.


Director: Kim Longinotto, Jano Williams
Release: 1997
Length: 54 mins
Location: Japan, Tokyo / Asia
Ethnic Group: Japanese
Language: English and Japanese w/English subtitles

A film about love and gender. This film is set in the New Marilyn night club in Tokyo where all the hosts are women who have decided to live as men. They make their living by working in a club with other ‘onnabe’ like them. The young women who come there often have relationships with them but the underlying fear is whether such a relationship can withstand the pressures on a girl to get married and have children.



Disappearing World Series
Director: Chris Curling
Anthropologist: Melissa Llewelyn-Davies
Release: 1974
Length: 52 mins
Location: East Africa
Ethnic Group: Masai

The Masai are cattle herders living in the East African rift valley: they grow no crops and are proud of being a non-agricultural people. Cattle are the all-important source of wealth and social status, and Masai love their cattle, composing poems to them. However, it is the men who have exclusive control over rights to cattle, and women are dependent, throughout their lives, on a man – father, husband or son – for rights of access to property. A woman’s status as `daughter’, `wife’ or `mother’ is therefore crucial and this film examines with depth and sensitivity the social construction of womanhood in Masai society, concentrating upon women’s attitudes to their own lives. The film details a series of events in women’s lives, from their circumcision ceremonies which mark their transition from girlhood to womanhood, to the moment when they proudly watch their sons make the transition to elderhood in the eunoto ceremony.

Disappearing World Series
Director: Chris Curling
Anthropologist: Melissa Llewelyn-Davies
Release: 1975
Length: 52 mins
Location: East Africa / Africa
Ethnic Group: Masai

This film was made after Masai Women and in the same area. Together the two films provide a vivid view of Masai men and women and their place in Masai society. The Masai are pastoral nomads in the East African rift valley with a social system which differentiates sharply between men and women and between age-sets. A particularly crucial distinction is made between men who are moran (`warriors’) and more senior men classed as elders. After circumcision men live in the forest on the fringes of Masai society as moran debarred from marriage and excluded from crucial decision-making procedures. The film is focused on the life of the moran and on the dramatic eunoto ceremony which marks the important transition from warriorhood to full social maturity and the responsibilities of elderhood. The moran are given an opportunity in the film to talk about warriorhood and they sensitively strive to explain their ideals to the anthropologist. Their words are effectively translated in sub-titles. There is much valuable information in the film on the events leading up to the eunoto ceremony – including a fascinating sequence on the joking abuse directed by the moran at their mothers – and on the ritual procedures involved in the rite de passage itself.


Director: Esther Maagdenberg
Release: 2010
Length: 33 mins
Location: Jamaica

Made in Trenchtown is the product of a collaboration with three teenagers from Trenchtown – a ghetto in Kingston, Jamaica, controlled by drug lords. As Philomena, Diamond and Stephan hold the camera, we get to know their friends, family, talents and dreams for their future. The collaboration allows us to get to know the teenagers on their own terms, while the reflexive nature of the film shows us the political reality of the area.


Director: Karen Waltorp and Christian Vium
Release: 2010
Length: 54 mins
Location: South Africa
Language: Afrikaans & English
Winner of the 2010 Basil Wright Film Prize

Manenberg is a coming-of-age story about two young ‘Cape Coloureds’ struggling to make sense in the ruins of a post-apartheid South African township. Manenberg is a suburb outside Cape Town, which was constructed during the apartheid-regime to house coloured families with low incomes. Today it is a worn-down and overpopulated ghetto-area with enormous social problems, where the chances of becoming a gangster are greater than the chances of creating something new in the ruins of the past – but it is also an area with strong ties between the inhabitants in the claustrophobic houses. Based on 5 years of ongoing anthropological research in the area, the film invites the audience behind the headlines and into the lives of Warren and Fazline and their families. It is an intimate film about coming of age amidst difficult surroundings, about families, about life and its conflicts. It is a film about everyday life and dreams of the future.


Director: Christian Suhr Nielsen, Ton Otto, Stephen Dalsgaard
Release: 2007
Length: 59 mins
Location: Papua New Guinea
Ethnic Group: Baluan
Language: Tok Baluan, Tok Pisin, English 

A film about how anthropological knowledge is developed through active participation in traditional exchange ceremonies on the small island of Baluan in the South Pacific. The film follows the anthropologist Ton Otto negotiating his way through a myriad of kin relations and family conflicts in order to study but also to find out which ceremonies should be carried out after the death of his adoptive father, Ngat. The film deals with the dilemmas of a participating researcher, who is both social actor and anthropological observer, and gives the viewer a close look at the way Baluan people contest and negotiate their social reality: their kin relations, mortuary traditions, and also the participating anthropologists.

What does it mean when anthropologists claim to study the cultural traditions of others by participating in them? This film follows the Dutch anthropologist Ton Otto, who has been adopted by a family on the island of Baluan in the South Pacific. Due to the death of his adoptive father he has to take part in mortuary ceremonies whose form and content are however forcefully contested by different groups of relatives. Through the ensuing negotiations Ton learns how Baluan people perform and develop their traditions and not least what role he plays himself. The film is part of long-term fieldwork in which filmmaking has become integrated in the ongoing dialogue and exchange relations between the islanders and the anthropologist.




film still pink saris copyright Kim LonginottoPINK SARIS  
Director: Kim Longinotto 
Release: 2010
Length: 100 mins
Location: India
Language: Hindi w/English subtitles  

Pink saris are worn by the Gulabi Gang, a group of women vigilantes in Northern India. From the untouchable caste, they resist being condescended to as the lowest social class. They have a champion in the form of the formidable Sampat Pal, who takes up their cases of social injustice and domestic abuse – often perpetrated by their husbands’ extended families, with whom they’re forced to live.





Director: Gary Kildea, Jerry Leach
Release: 1974
Length: 50 mins
Location: Papua New Guinea, Trobriand Islands / Pacific
Ethnic Group: Trobriand Islanders

The film documents the transformation by the Trobriand Islanders of the game of cricket, first introduced by British missionaries into a highly distinctive political ritual. Shot in 1973-1974, shortly before the independence of Papua New Guinea, the film was made with the active co-operation of the Kabisawali Movement, a local political organisation.The film has been enthusiastically received by anthropologists, television audiences, film festivals and (most important, perhaps) by the Trobriand sponsors. However, much of the film’s political dimension is related to the way in which it was made, the type of co-operation between Trobriand sponsors and makers, and its role in Kabisawali propaganda, factors which are not explicitly part of the film’s content.



Granada Centre for Visual Anthropology Student Film
Director: Dan Bruun
Country/Production: USA
Release: 2006
Length: 32 mins
Location: New York, USA
Ethnic Group: West Indian
Language: English

This film deals with the culture of Jamaican dancehall music as it exists in New York. It follows one young dancehall participant who makes his living performing and promoting dancehall music.





Director: David and Judith MacDougall
Release: 2011
Length: 75 mins
Location: Andhra Pradesh, South India
Language: English

Filmed in South India, Andhra Pradesh, at Rishi Valley School, founded by the 20th Century Indian thinker Krishnamurti, Awareness explores the sensibilities of two groups of young Indian teenagers, a group of girls in their dormitory and a group of boys in theirs, as they live out their daily experiences at the school. The two groups were filmed separately by David and Judith MacDougall during their stay at the school over a period of several months.



3.2.3 Drawing boundaries and defining groups


Director: Charlotte Whitby-Coles, Amin Hajee
Country/Production: UK
, India
Release: 2008
Length: 84 mins
Location: India
Language: Gujarati, Hindi and English

A once unremarkable site of multi-faith pilgrimage to a Sufi Saint has been transformed and its local history rewritten – the film documents the journey of Charlotte, a student undertaking her PhD research in India, who, whilst researching religious pilgrimages, stumbles upon the politicisation of a pilgrimage site in western India. The research suggests that the pilgrimage site of Kalo Dungar or Black Mountain, situated in the Rann of Kutch, Gujarat, provides a micro-example of current political issues in India today, where by the ‘unity in diversity’ of the country is slowly being broken-down destroying any hope of communal peace.


Director: Rosella Schillaci
Release: 2011
Length: 75 mins
Location: Italy
Ethnic group: Somali and Sudanese refugees
Language: English, Italian

What happens to African migrants once granted political refugee status? In Turin, a northern Italian city, an abandoned clinic has been squatted by more than 200 refugees since December 2008. Khaled, Shukri and Ali have been travelling through hell in order to arrive in Italy. They crossed the border and are determined to have a normal life. Their hopes are dashed and they find their lives ‘suspended’. The film follows their stories over the years, showing life in the clinic, including the inevitable internal problems until the evacuation of the former clinic. Three characters guide us through a story that reveals, intimately, a collective  history, an emblematic tale of all European countries today and their respective immigration policies and the changes occurring in the social fabric of European cities.



Director: Dirk Dumont
Anthropologist: Philip Hermans
Release: 2003
Length: 52 mins
Location: Belgium, Brussels/ Europe; Marocco / Africa
Ethnic Group: Moroccan
Language: French (English subtitles)

When they emigrated to Europe in the 60’s and 70’s, Moroccans brought with them their culture and their “diseases” ( caused by the the jinn that inhabit some of them). In Europe, most North African families will include someone who is undergoing this kind of disorder, with diverse manifestations (asthma, paralysis, epilepsy, “crises”, sterility etc.) which, if left untreated, may be extremely serious and destructive, causing suffering and delinquent behaviour. In the film we follow two Moroccan women: Hind and Fatima who are looking to solve their problems caused by invisibles. They are visiting healers in Europe and Morocco. The healers “negotiate” with invisible forces and are using therapeutic rituals.



Granada Centre for Visual Anthropology Student Film
Director: Tom Rice
Release: 2001
Length: 23 mins
Location: Manchester, UK
Ethnic Group: English
Language: English

For Jack and Stan, two men from Manchester koi carp have become something more than an obsession. Not only have their pets become a source of fame and distinction, but of affection and mutually fulfilling relationships. For these men, koi are not the half-living ornaments of garden centres, but an altogether more human kettle of fish.


Granada Centre for Visual Anthropology Student Film
Director: Karlia Campbell
Release: 2010
Length: 25 mins
Location: UK
Language: English  

Raised by Humans follows two dogs with difficult life histories as volunteers from the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals try to find families to adopt them in Stockport, England. The film explores emotional relationships people have with animals.