Films: Anthropology A-level Unit 3

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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.

3.3 Unit 3 Global and Local: Societies, Environments and Globalisation

3.3.1. Movement of people, ideas and objects: causes and consequences

Granada Center for Visual Anthropology Student Film
Director: Gabriel Merrun
Country/Production: UK
Release: 2009
Length: 27 mins
Location: Ceuta, Morocco
Ethnic Group: African refugees

On the North African coast in Ceuta, illegal migrants wait and hope to eventually continue onto the Spanish peninsula where they can attain asylum. Whilst waiting there, they are caught between the borders.

Granada Centre for Visual Anthropology Student Film
Director: Kieran Hanson
Release: 2011
Length: 29 mins
Location: Sierra Leone
Ethnic Group: Krio

A decade since Sierra Leone’s devastating civil war, from the ashes rises a new dawn of creativity in audio-visual media. Inspired by Jean Rouch’s ‘shared anthropology’ and ‘ethno-fiction’, Shooting Freetown follows three people forging their way in film and music in the nation’s capital, facing the constant struggles with vision and resourcefulness. By incorporating collaborative video projects, their stories give a fresh image of post-war Freetown – presented to the world through their own lens.


Director: André Hörmann
Release: 2006
Length: 16:30 mins
Location: India
Ethnic Group: Punjabi
Language: English

“Business Process Outsourcing” is the fastest growing industry in the world. In India, approximately 350,000 people are currently working in call centres to maintain the contact between western companies and their customers. Vikhee Uppal is one of them. From a busy office in Calcutta, he pretends to be a guy named Ethan Reed and calls Americans, Brits and Australians to try and sell them cell phones and subscriptions. Vikhee hopes to make it in this sector. On the bulletin board, we see that he and his colleagues keep track of who sells the most. The Americans are the most impolite: they yell at the salespeople and hang up on them. The English, on the contrary, are the most willing to listen to their sales pitch. Even though Vikhee pretends to be a westerner at work, Indian traditions remain very important for him. He wants to get married to a girl from Punjab, and if he doesn’t` t succeed, his family will find a bride for him. At work, Vekhee gets tutored in English. Each night, he watches English soccer matches to see what the people on the other end of the line actually look like.

Director: Rahul Roy
Release: 2003
Length: 78 mins
Location: Sunder Nagri, India
Ethnic Group: Indian
Language: Hindi w/English subtitles

Sunder Nagri (Beautiful City) is a small working class colony on the margins of India’s capital city, Delhi. Most families residing here come from a community of weavers. The last ten years have seen a gradual disintegration of the handloom tradition of this community under the globalisation regime. The families have to cope with change as well as reinvent themselves to eke out a living. The City Beautiful is a story of two families struggling to make sense of a world, which keeps pushing them to the margins. Radha and Bal Krishan are at a critical point in their relationship. Bal Krishan is underemployed and constantly cheated. They are in disagreement about Radha going out to work. However, through all their ups and downs they retain the ability to laugh. Shakuntla and Hira Lal hardly communicate. They live under one roof with their children but are locked in their own sense of personal tragedies.




Granada Centre for Visual Anthropology Student Film
Director: Austin Paterek
Country/Production: UK
Release: 2008
Length: 30 mins
Location: USA
Language: English

For the past 10 years the shrimping industry in United States has been on a steady decline. Estimates show that only 15 percent of the original fleet is still in operation, due to overseas competition and escalating fuel prices. ‘The Shrimpers’ follows the crew of the Capt. Drew fishing vessel, highlighting the social aesthetics of life on a shrimp trawler, and also delving into many of the troubling issues surrounding this industry and why these men continue to persevere in a dying industry.




Director: Arthur Howes
Release: 1999
Length: 87 mins
Location: Kenya, USA
Language Dinka, Arabic and English

Years of war and ethnic conflict in the Sudan have created a generation of young men, known as the “Lost Boys,” who have spent more years in refugee camps than in their home communities. This intimate film recounts the story of Benjamin and William Deng, brothers joined in the struggle of a seemingly never-ending exile, who are then separated when one is accepted into a United States resettlement program while the other remains in a Kenyan refugee camp




Director: Judith MacDougall, Kathy Zhang
Release: 2007
Length: 60 mins
Location: VL ChinaPRC, Kunming / Asia
Language: Chinese, English

Photography is known in China as the “Art of Regret”. In the rapidly changing city of Kunming, people are ambivalent about whether they want photography to be a medium of preservation and evidence, or of transformation and fantasy. While old photographs are cherished, digital technology can now make old people look young again. At computerized stalls in department stores, faces and clothing can be instantly transformed. An old-established studio digitally enhances the images made on their wooden 19th century portrait camera. Choices about how to regard history, reality, and material culture constantly confront everyone in contemporary China.


3.3.2. The local perspective  

SIN TIERRA NO SOMOS SHUAR (Without Land we are not Shuar)
Granada Center for Visual Anthropology Student Film
Director: Stacey Williams
Release: 2009
Length: 23 mins
Location: Ecuador
Ethnic Group: Shuar
Language: Spanish w/ English subtitles

Shuar traditions and land are intimately tied to another. This film explores how the traditions and relationships change when foreign mining companies enter their territory.


Granada Centre for Visual Anthropology Student Film
Director: Veera Lehto
Release: 2004
Length: 25 mins
Location: Ghana, Africa
Language: Ghanaian and English

In HIV testing, the second red line is the indication of a positive result. This film follows two volunteers working with HIV & Aids sufferers in the Buduburam Refugee Camp in Ghana. In the absence of medication, the only thing the volunteers can offer is care, compassion and religious faith.


Director: Laurent van Lancker, Robin Shuffield
Release: 1998
Length: 52 mins
Location: Ivory Coast, West Africa
Winner of the Basil Wright Film Prize 1998

Winner of the (RAI) Basil Wright Film Prize 1998 Ymako Teatri, a theatre company based in Ivory Coast, uses street theatre to question some contemporary West-African problems. Their originality consists in using the ‘invisible theatre’ method in order to surprise the public and thus make it react itself to its own problems. This documentary shows how a local theatre company efficiently uses fiction to critically reflect on today’s African reality. This film presents two performances, one criticises the current proliferation of religious sects, the other deals with the awakening of villagers towards AIDS. Ymako, in Bambara, means ‘our concerns’.


Disappearing World Series
Director: Leslie Woodhead
Anthropologist: Pierre Maranda
Release: 1982
Length: 52 mins
Location: Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands / Pacific
Ethnic Group: Lau

Pierre Miranda and a team from Granada Television have made a fine film exploring the trouble realities of the people of the lagoon in the 1980s. B. Shore This film focuses on the people of Lau lagoon in the Solomon Islands who live on artificial islands near the island of Malaita. These islands are built of coral rubble and the people moved to them in an attempt to escape the dangers of malaria and enemies, and to find better fishing. The film focuses on change and conflict. The concept of `custom’ is vital to the islanders’ identity, yet this is being eroded, particularly by Christian missionaries. The conflict between Christian and Pagan now pervades daily life, creating divisions in families and eroding knowledge of traditional life. Two `custom’ priests recently committed ritual suicide, one by swimming under a canoe containing women and the other by deliberately making a mistake in a ceremony. Within weeks, both priests physically died. The despair in the ability of `custom’ to continue that these priests must have felt is presented visually throughout the film. Few of the islanders remember more than a fraction of the hundreds of traditional spirits and the young are turning more and more to the traditions and commodities of Western culture. This theme is a common one makes it no less powerful or relevant. Spurred by the presence of the Disappearing World camera crew, the islanders built a house in which to store their traditional and ritual objects. A commendable act of preservation on the part of the islanders, but at the same time the implications of their act are saddening. They are taking their ritual things out of the sphere of living, daily tradition and placing them in the realm of objective history. The Lau is recommended for courses in anthropology, sociology, development, culture change, Melanesia, religion, and ecology.



Director: Suzette Heald
Release: 2010
Length: 64 mins
Location: Kenya, Africa

In 1998, a new movement swept through Kuria, in S.W. Kenya with dramatic effect. Cattle raiding fuelled by the increasing presence of guns had led to a situation of total insecurity, with all in fear of the thieves. In April of that year, a group of men in just one location, Bukira East, effected a new organisation merging ideas from the Tanzanian vigilante movement, sungusungu, with their own indigenous assembly, the iritongo. Within a year the movement had spread throughout Kuria and the District as a whole was at peace. This film revisits the iritongo movement ten years later. In telling the story of its origin, and its current operation, it reveals a broad contrast between the areas where the iritongo still operates, though with some difficulty, and those where it has faltered and died. In these latter areas there has been a revival of clan raiding and warfare. The film is observational in style, with the situation described through the words of the participants, emphasizing their agency. There is, thus, extensive use of sub-titles.

Director: Martine Journet, Gérard Nougarol, Gabriel Chabamier
Release: 2002
Length: 84 mins
Location: Indonesia, Sulawesi / Asia
Ethnic Group: Wana
Language Wana w/English subtitles

The small ethnic group of the Wana Wewaju live in Indonesia in the eastern part of Sulawesi (Celebes Island) among the dense equatorial rain forest of the Tokkala Mountains. The film documents the traditional healing practices of the Wana shamans. This film is the result of fifteen years of research and constitution of ethnocinématographic archives about the shamanism of Wana People from Sulawesi (Indonesia) See as well the companion film GODS AND SATANS, 87 minutes, 2005.


Director: Martine Journet, Gerard Nougarol
Release: 2005
Length: 87 mins
Location: Indonesia, Sulawesi / Asia
Ethnic Group: Wana

Among the Wana people, semi nomads from the Indonesian (Sulawesi) forest, Indo Pino is a shaman recognized by everybody. Her Nephew, who is also a shaman’s son, converted to Christianity some months ago and is now preaching the visions. And for him, if the visions come from God, the visions of the shamans inevitably must come from Satan. Through the Christian concepts of sin and original fault, good and evil notions are revised, the traditional healing practices of the shamans are heavily under attack. Under our eyes a fight between two worlds of religious conceptions is taking place.