Posted by: | 7th Apr, 2015

8th International Festival of Film

Main Screen Features. April 12, 2015. AnSo Building, rm 207.

10:15 OIL & WATER is the coming of age story of two boys as they each confront one of the world’s worst toxic disasters, the prolonged contamination of the Ecuadorian Amazon by Texaco and other oil companies. Hugo comes to America to fight for the survival of his tribe, the Cofán, while David goes to Ecuador to launch the world’s first company to certify oil as “fair trade.” Can Hugo become the leader his tribe so desperately wants him to be? Will David clean up one of the world’s dirtiest industries? Eight years in the making OIL & WATER is a shocking and inspiring David and Goliath story.

11:30 JIKOO, A WISH. The inhabitants of Bakadadji, a village located in a Senegalese national park, are trying to finance fencing to secure their fields from protected species of animals that ruin their crops year after year. In doing so, these farmers are claiming recognition for their rural way of life, to which they are deeply attached. Reflecting the village’s everyday reality, this film talks about a meeting that does not actually take place, as well as how we view rural society, whose voice is barely heard.

13:00 THE WEIGHT OF GOLD. Ten million artisanal small-scale gold miners in 70 countries around the world. I had never heard about their existence, yet my father devoted his career as a Mining Engineer trying to help them. Ten years after his death in a car accident in Bolivia, where he was working on a project to reduce mercury contamination caused by artisanal small-scale gold miners in the Amazon, I embark on a journey to understand the flip side of his numerous work trips. I discover the man my father actually was, through the every day lives of Bolivian miners working and dreaming to the rhythm of the international gold price. They are the actors of this modern gold rush, a reality that is feeding the economic instabilities of our times.

14:30. TAIGA. The Mongolian economy is growing because of a mining boom, ancestral traditions and values are evolving as new relations develop between man and nature. Like most nomadic shepherds in Mongolia, Purejav is a hunter. Tempted by easy money and by revenge, he declares war on a pack of wolves constantly harassing his herd. But the old man becomes aware that he is violating an ancient pact between man and nature…

15:30. TOKYO BLUE, The place beside the river. About twenty years ago, a tent city of about fifty homeless people took root on a small green space next to the River Arakawa in Tokyo. They call their home Kasenjiki, the place beside the river. They have all adapted to this way of life, far from “normal” Japanese. But it is coming to an end. Kasenjiki is going to disappear…Takeda-san has gone away. He could not stand the idea of being expelled from what was his home, a tent in Kasenjiki. Before disappearing, he left me a letter asking me to make a good movie. I can only hope to have fulfilled his wish…

Balikbayan: Return to the Nation (2011) from Dada Docot on Vimeo.

Posted by: | 28th Apr, 2011

Travel and Displacement

The idea of travel captures our imagination; it opens up possibilities of change, adventure, and perhaps even personal growth.  But this is travel that is planned, intended, and carried on for fun.  What happens when we are compelled to travel or find ourselves displaced within our own homeland?  Three films in this year’s international Festival of Anthropology Films take up the question of travel and displacement.

The Strangers of the Inca Trail takes us into the world of youthful trekkers – Australians, North Americans, Europeans, coming together to form a brief and tenuous community as they walk along the ancient Inca Trail.  As they go a traveling they sing, play, dance, and explore their personal relations.  This is a pause from their normal lives, which they will return to.

How very different is the story of Faith Kim (alias) a North Korean woman who travels through China, Thailand, Laos to eventually arrive in Syracuse, New York in the film Voice Unknown.  Her journey takes years, not the days of the young trekkers.  It is a life-changing journey through which she too comes face to face with the nature of her personal relations.  Yet, the enormity, decisiveness, and irrevocability of her travel is so fundamentally different as to question the reasonableness of comparing her travel with that of the young trekkers.  But perhaps what is the same in these two journeys is Faith’s attempt to enter the same place, the same social and cultural place, within which the young trekkers live; a place in which travel for pure pleasure is a reality and not simply a dream.

The story of Guests of Space involves a different type of travel.  Here we are looking more at a sense of displacement.  The indigenous Nukak Maku find themselves transformed into strangers in their own home.  It is as though they have been compelled to move, to leave their home.  This is a persistent issue for Indigenous peoples; that is, to find themselves displaced from their own homes by people (perhaps people such as Faith or the young trekkers) who are re-imagining the social landscape in ways that erase history and culture.

These films screen May 1, 2011 at the Old Barn Community Centre as part of the 5th International festival of Anthropology Films

Guests of Space screens at 11:50 am.  Voice Unknown 1:00 pm.  Discussion to follow.

The Strangers on the Inca Trail screens at 1:40.

Posted by: | 27th Apr, 2011

Death and Social Custom

Issues of death and associate customs have been on the minds of many people who live in the University Neighbourhoods areas of UBC.  The University’s longstanding attempt to bring a hospice for the near to death onto campus ran up against the cultural values and sensibilities of a group of residents living in a high rise complex called Promontory.  This wasn’t, however, the first time the hospice has faced opposition from campus groups.  Previously, UBC students, allied with the Wreck Beach Preservation Society, raised concerns about the first planned location for the hospice – near to St. Johns College and the Marine Towers Residence on Marine Drive. The students and their allies were concerned that having dying people near them would extend what they called UBC’s Campaign Against Fun into their front yard and student residents would find themselves under the control of the silence police – late night parties and other sophomoric celebrations would need to be curtailed.  So the university retreated, regrouped, and then relocated the hospice to a site literally under the shadow of Promontory in the Hawthorn Place Neighbourhood.

The issue for Promontory residents involves more than a recreational annoyance – but strikes to the core of cultural sensitivities – both of these mainly new Asian immigrants AND of well established settler/immigrant communities.  This issue also picks up longstanding racialized antagonisms and themes that have dogged BC politics since the early days of settlement.

But what is it about the issue of death and the way we deal with it that evokes such strong responses from human beings?  In an amazing book about death in Brittany, anthropologist Ellen Badone talks about how death was medicalized and separated from daily life in rural Brittany through the 20th century.  In her account, something was lost by hiding death away in sanitized medical institutions that looked more like factories than places for people to live – even if they were soon to be dead.

Amongst north west coast Aboriginal peoples there is a strong sense that the dead must be treated with respect.  Along the north coast of our province the dead were placed on platforms in trees or, if a person carried a strong or potentially dangerous spirit, in caves on cliff faces or on islands placed at some remove from the village.  Yet, the dying did so amongst family in their homes – not in isolation or seclusion.

Two films in the 2011 Film Festival feature social customs around death and dying.  A Japanese Funeral brings us on an intimate journey with the family and friends of a young man who passed away suddenly in his sleep.  In Loving Memory brings us into the sitting rooms of a series of Irish women who talk about and show us their collection of memory cards received and given at the occasion of the death of a family member or friend.  These are two very different worlds  -one Japan, the other Ireland, yet they are united by a concern with how one lives with death and remembers the ones who have passed away.  Despite the differences in place and culture we grow in our understanding of the importance of living with death as a part of life.

These films screen May 1, 2011 at the Old Barn Community Centre as part of the 5th International festival of Anthropology Films

In Loving Memory screens at 11:00 am.  A Japanese Funeral at 11:25.   Discussion to follow.

The ethnographic film unit at ubc has formally been in existence since 2005 and informally since 2001! We had our start in research-based videography and have long since morphed into a full-time digital video production unit.

We host an annual international festival of anthropological film co-hosted with MOA, an occasional new film series, and an evening film and discussion series.  We also teach a course in ethnographic film production, ANTH 478.

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Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 2.5 Canada
This work by The Ethnographic Film Unit is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 2.5 Canada.