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Ours/Others, Africa and Urban Indigenous Peoples: Guide to the ‘Days of Ethnographic Cinema’ Festival

A woman from the Mursi tribe in Africa, which will be the subject of one of the films shown at the festival

A woman from the Mursi tribe in Africa, which will be the subject of one of the films shown at the festival

Seeing life in other countries in a way that even seasoned travellers cannot see it, discussing endangered urban cultures, and understanding the reasons of nostalgia for the ‘good old days’ will be possible at the ‘Days of Ethnographic Cinema’ festival that will be held from September 24-30 by the Higher School of Economics together with the Russian State Humanitarian University and the Gerasimov Institute of Cinematography. This guide covers the events worth following for specialists and curious non-specialists alike.

What this festival is about

Anthropology in the 20th century experienced a unique fate in that it had an audience. This was due to the fact that anthropologists began using photo, film and video cameras in their work. After all, it is far easier to show a shaman than to describe him in a European language, which more likely than not lacks the necessary concepts. Soon came the first public showings of footage, which were followed by dedicated anthropological film festivals.

As a rule, scholars tend to make shorter versions of their films for festivals, which usually last 20-30 minutes so that they will be of interest to non-specialist audiences.

5 days of a different reality

Event: Main film screenings programme

Audience: For anyone who wants to better understand the world around

The ‘Days of Ethnographic Cinema’ festival will show 47 films by filmmakers from countries as diverse as Russia and Peru. These filmmakers are attempting to ascertain – Who are we? Who are we among ‘our own’? Who we are among ‘others’? Where are ‘we’ and where are ‘others? Here the most unexpected stories and characters will be found - from the ‘Elleshdīrmeh’ Turkmen wedding custom to the socialization of three Colombian prisoners with the help of hip-hop, from a small family circus in Italy to Palestinians working as gravediggers at the largest cemetery in Jerusalem, from the inhabitants of a Moscow Khrushchev-era apartment block destined for demolition, to the Swiss village that refused to accept the Gregorian calendar and celebrates the New Year on January 13.

Films are grouped into thematic blocks, with a discussion planned after each block with one of the directors. All the films will be screened in their original language with English subtitles and simultaneous translation into Russian in the hall.

Time: September 24-28, daily starting at 12.00

Venue: screening room at the Multimedia Art Museum, Moscow (16 Ulitsa Ostozhenka). Advance registration is required.

Complete Programme (in Russian)

A Look Back

Event: Lecture ‘Heritage and the Politics of History: A Comparative and Anthropological View’ by Michael Herzfeld, Professor of Anthropology at Harvard University

Audience: For anyone who wants to understand why we look for ourselves in the past

Most modern societies base their identity on the events of the past. For example, the Great Patriotic War for Russian society is an event when ‘our’ grandfathers won ‘our’ victory. The same thing happens in small social groups (e.g., minorities, diasporas, and subcultures). Each of them has its own ‘narrative of the past’ – the story of victories or defeats that they rely on now.

What are the reasons behind this ‘memorial boom’ and nostalgia for a ‘golden age’? What are the mechanisms by which such collective identity is built? These questions will be the subject of a lecture by Professor Herzfeld. The presentation will be simultaneously translated into Russian.

Time: September 26, 17.00-20.00

Venue: HSE main building at 20 Myasnitskaya Ulitsa, Room 101

If you need a pass to enter HSE building, please send your name and affiliation to vchistyakova@hse.ru.

Details (in Russian)

The Genius of Place

Event: Workshop ‘The Anthropology of/in Urban Life: Methods, Problems, Concepts’ by Michael Herzfeld, Professor of Anthropology at Harvard University

Audience: For students and teachers – specialists in urban studies, culture, economics, sociology, etc. In short, for all those who are interested in how the modern city and its problems can be studied.

In the centre of Rome is the Monti district, which not long ago was inhabited by people whose families had lived here for centuries - taxi drivers, shopkeepers, butchers and other people from the ‘simple’ classes. They were the guardians of its memory and history. However, the area was reconstructed and turned into an expensive and fashionable place. The shopkeepers and butchers were forced to leave because life there had become unaffordable. With them, an entire layer of urban culture disappeared. Professor Herzfeld produced a film about this called ‘Monti Moments: Men's Memories in the Heart of Rome’

The film is about a section of Monti and is only one example of the study of urban culture that will be discussed at the workshop. The topic will cover tools for this kind research - photographs, film documents, etc. The discussion will be conducted in English and Russian.

Time: September 27, 12.00-15.00

Venue: HSE Main building at 20 Myasnitskaya Ulitsa, Room 101

If you need a pass to enter HSE building, please send your name and affiliation to vchistyakova@hse.ru

Details (in Russian)

African Motifs

Event: International Colloquium ‘ Visual Studies of Africa: Memory, History, Identity ’

Audience: For specialists and the general public

One day of the festival will be dedicated to visual research in Africa – a region that on the one hand is firmly rooted in cultural and religious traditions, and on the other had has embarked on the path of modernization. At a special colloquium, the audience will watch modern documentaries about the continent and discuss African urbanization, new diasporas and ‘Africa Outside Africa.’

'La Pyramide Humaine' made by Jean Rouch in 1961 will be shown for the first time in Russia. Jean Rouch is a famous anthropologist, a pioneer of the direct cinema movement, a documentary film legend and an inspirer of the French ‘new wave.’ The movie explores the evolving relationship between two groups, the white and the black students from the same class of a lycée in Abidjan (Cote d’Ivoir). Against the backdrop of a developing romantic relationship between a white girl and a black boy, the movie presents the complex and dramatic experience of overcoming the racist mindsets found in both groups and hampering communications between them.

Venue: State Historical Museum, ‘Polovetskij dvorik’ Room, Moscow, Red Square, 1. Entry is free.

Details (in Russian)

In Search of Tradition

Event: International seminar on audiovisual anthropology – ‘Traditional Culture in a Post-Traditional Society: Issues of Adaptation’

Audience: Primarily experts – anthropologists and cultural studies specialists – but also interested listeners in general.

The seminar will be devoted to considering the phenomena of traditions and ‘post-traditions’ in the modern world. We recommend that non-specialists who want to listen to this discussion pay attention to the film "In the Frame – The Other’ from the main film screenings programme (it will show on September 25). This film talks about the women of the Mursi tribe in southern Ethiopia who wear lip disks and bright decorations. Their main source of income is posing in photographs for tourists. To get more money, they are beginning to dress themselves more exotically. However, by ‘exaggerating’ their traditional way of life (essentially turning it into a ‘post-tradition’ that is a consciously practiced activity) they are also provoking the collapse of their own culture.

Time: September 29-30, 11.00-19.00

Venue: HSE Main building at 20 Myasnitskaya Ulitsa, Room 101

Details (in Russian)


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