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RAI Film Webinar 


Thursday 3 December 2020 at 2-4pm (GMT)  

A video of the event is available here

What can we learn from children about ethnographic filmmaking?  David MacDougall, Indian children and documentary film.

Dr Stephen Hughes (RAI) 

In this seminar I will present material from the video making workshops that David MacDougall conducted with Indian children over a five-year period as part of his research project, “Childhood and Modernity: Indian Children’s Perspective”.  For more than 50 years David MacDougall has been one of the leading and most prolific of ethnographic filmmakers and for the last 25 years he has made an impressive series of films about Indian children in a wide variety of educational settings- notably at the Doon School and Rishi Valley School and street children (Gandhi’s Children).   
In this context the video workshops with Indian children represented an important shift in MacDougall’s filmmaking. He has been writing and experimenting with participatory and collaborative filmmaking styles since the 1970s, but empowering children to make their own films MacDougall provocatively flips the script.  One might argue that this shift was, perhaps, in part a logical extension of what he has called an unprivileged camera style that de-emphasised his role as a filmmaker as the all-knowing agent with seamless control over the film’s content in relation to film subjects’ agency in the filmmaking encounter that is always characterized by the unknowable and uncontrollable circumstances of chance and coincidence.  In this way these films ask us to take children seriously as filmmakers and force us to consider what we can learn from the ideas and perspectives of Indian children through research conducted by the children themselves about their social worlds.