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Readings (due September 4)

Page history last edited by PBworks 12 years, 10 months ago


To comment on the following readings, please first indicate your name, e-mail address, and the date of your post. Then, add your comments.


Example: [E. Kintz, kintz@geneseo.edu, 8/25]


Chapter 2 of Ruby’s book raises some interesting questions about the role of the filmmaker in ethnographic film. Should we trust him to act as a lens for us, focusing in on what he deems to be important and editing out what he deems not to be? Or is the only true way to obtain an accurate understanding of a culture to simply set up a video camera in a stationary position and let it roll? In Nanook, it is a documented fact that Flaherty staged various scenes and had the Eskimos act out situations that did not arise spontaneously. So is this a sort of visual perjury or is it the only way to really get a well-rounded view of the whole culture?



Ruby - Chapter II



[Cameron Mack, cfm6@geneseo.edu, 9/6/07]

Jay Ruby, Picturing Culture, Chapter 2 (Incorporating reactions to Nanook of the North)


1.) Nanook of the North, being the first enthnographic film, was vital, as Ruby explains, in the development of many ethnographic films to come. I found it interesting, however, that Ruby writes about how the film (the same version we viewed in class) should be viewed with the volume turned off. Although the music within the film seemingly plays a small, almost transparent part, it is still vital to the success of the film. Ruby does write that for the film to be most appreciated it should be viewed without any sound. I think that it would allow the viewer to make less assumptions about what they are seeing on the screen. For example, at the trading post there is goofy, light-hearted music playing the background. This music immediately gives off a playful tone and allows the viewer to relax and watch Nanook and his family experience some kind of joy. Ruby may be correct that the music gets in the way of the films true purpose. However, I can't imagine it would change the way in which I appreciated the film.

2.) I was not aware of the history of documentary filmmaking and how Flaherty holds such a history in it. Although Nanook of the North had little direct influence on subsequent documentaries, it was applied to the film in retrospect. This allows us to see the progression from the forms of ethnographic films, as well as narrative documentary films. Chapter two of Ruby puts into perspective a progression in filmmaking that I was not aware of, especially the relationship between documentaries and ethnographies.

3.) As we were watching Nanook of the North, I could not help but notice how small parts of what was being filmed might change between scenes. A good example of this is when Nanook is attempting to overtake the seal at the breathing hole. The way in which the scene was edited made me question what exactly I was seeing. Nanook's spear is right next to him half the time, and then the camera will cut to a different angle and the spear will cease to be at his side. This could mean nothing at all, but I did find it to be an interesting oddity about the film. Ruby does not add anything in chapter two that discusses this, however, I did find it to be a strange part of the film.

Good job on this post Cameron, good organization of ideas.  You did a good job of explaining what you took from the reading.  You explained yourself well and drew reference to the material.  Excellent post.--Tom





[Shamiran Warda sw11@geneseo.edu 9/5]

Jay Ruby, Picturing Culture, Chapter 2 (Incorporating reactions to Nanook of the North)

I never realized that numerous people viewed films that were constructed in a narrative form to be considered fiction, even if these films were intended to be more of a documentary; non-fiction. In addition, it came to me as a shock that some of these people were even anthropologists and ethnographic filmmakers (chap. 2, page 70). Despite such views, what I found to be most interesting was Robert Flaherty’s decision to still use the narrative form in his brilliant work entitled Nanook of the North, despite of what most people view. Flaherty indeed took many great chances in filming this masterpiece but from what I viewed so far, his work is brilliant and worth all the sacrifices. I just wonder if the first version of Nanook is very similar to the one shown today, or if it had more to offer.
Shamiran, you took some really good points from the reading.  You explained what sparked your interest in the readings well.    You succinctly stated what you found in the readings.  I really like how you ended the post with your curiosity pertaining to the comaprison between the two versions of Nanook of the North--Tom


[Isobel Connors, icc2@geneseo.edu, 9/5]


Jay Ruby, Picturing Culture, Chapter 2 (Incorporating reactions to Nanook of the North)


1. I found Ruby's emphasis on Flaherty's narrative form of particular interest; unfortunately, he neglects to thoroughly expand upon the way in which Flaherty utilizes this technique. He presents misconceptions of and reactions to Nanook of the North before actually addressing the film itself, which seems to take away from his effectiveness. In fact, Ruby's focus strays to such an extent that I learned more about what Flaherty didn't do, than what he actually did to create the film. Once viewing the film in class, however, I better comprehend Ruby's discussions on style and presentation. I suggest that students view the film before reading Chapter 2, as it serves best as a supplement to the film, rather than standing on its own.

Although frustrating at times, Ruby makes a few interesting points on Flaherty's style as the section progresses. I am most interested in his examination of Nanook as a film essentially about "man vs. nature." Flaherty manages to capture his audience by creating confict through a natural force. The film initially works to provoke an intimacy between the subjects and audience: Nanook smiles directly into the camera as he teaches his son to shoot arrows, hunts for walrus, and ice-fishes. Flaherty intersperses these heart-warming scenes with suspense, as the environment prevails over the Inuit. Doing so, the film offers its viewers a rare connection and true interest in their culture. Ruby notes that many critics view this style as a “faked” documentary, which brings up the concept that narrative and fiction are inseparable. I agree with Ruby in that the film transcends typical use of narrative, while still providing accurate depictions of Inuit culture.


2. Ruby's inclusion of Flaherty's journal excerpts proved useful in some cases, although many simply reiterated his previous conceptions of Flaherty's work. Flaherty asserts that, "in so many travelogues you see, the filmmaker looks down on and never up to his subject. He is always the big man from New York or from London" (76). When seeing the film, I was able to observe the effects this belief had on Flaherty's presentation. He does not belittle his subjects; instead, he seeks to fashion a bridge between cultures. He forces Americans and Europeans to respect the Inuit, not simply be entertained by them.


3. Ruby also makes note of Flaherty's lack of training in ethnography, which many critics have judged harshly. In the case of Nanook of the North, Flaherty's inexperience in anthropology proved an advantage. I feel that many times, professionals are so focused on technique and structure that they overlook concepts that seem arbitrary or aren't routine. Amateurs offer a fresh take on their work, and often times present more revealing ideas than their superiors. Flaherty's film can thus better reflect Inuit culture because his concern lies in his own experience. We can explore the film as not only a representation of its subject, but also a study of American values and perceptions.

Well done Isobel! Your criticism of Ruby's criticism shows that you are not taking everything you are reading as true.  That is a great way to be reading the material.  I like how you brought together the reading and the film.  You provide great explanations for your conceptionson the reading and explain yourself thoroughly with support from the text.  Excellent post!---Tom



[Kaitlyn Northrop [krn3@geneseo.edu] 9/5]
krn3@geneseo.edu] 9/5]
Jay Ruby, Picturing Culture, Chapter 2 (Incorporating reactions to Nanook of the North)
It took me by surprise that Flaherty continued to work on his film even after many attempts and misfortunes. This shows that he had a real sense of compassion and personal interest in the people that he was working with. Since Flaherty could not make a living out of ethnographic film, it made Nanook of the North even more interesting because it was made from the heart, not for profit purposes. He was able to differentiate between the idea of science and the idea of art through everything that was included in his film. He did not include things that would only entertain the viewers, but also included the hardships that Nanook and others faced. Starvation and weather problems were shown, and while this did make the film more intense and interesting to watch, it was put in to show what people actually had to go through, not just to entertain an audience. ~END~
Kaitlyn, your focus upon Falherty's devotion to his work and the true face of the culture he presented is interesting.  I like how you defend that the film was solely made for financial reasons and that he wanted to adequately portray the culture.  You explained your ideas well.  Good job.---Tom



[Elen De Oliveira, emd10@geneseo.edu, 9/2]


Jay Ruby, Picturing Culture, Chapter 2 (Incorporating reactions to Nanook of the North)


1.) Ethnographers try to pride themselves in showing reality in studying people, but it can never be the true way of life when there is a person/ persons watching and dictating when their "real life" should begin. If a cameraman wants to capture the native people killing an animal for food, but informs them of when this kill should begin, he has already interfered with their way of life. Everything has now been staged. There is no way for films to really show reality while cameras are in view and the people are being told what to do.


2.) Ethnographers started out attempting to make completely realistic films, even refusing to be associated with narrative and fiction, but eventually money plays a role and normal/realistic appears boring. Audiences feed on drama and film directors know this so they add action here and there or cut out boring scenes. They make the film more appealing to the public eye, essentially becoming the story tellers they had originally refused to be identified with. Even Flaherty, one of the first ethnographic filmmakers, had "arranged" scenes according to Ruby. So was ethnography ever really what those involved prided themselves to be? Can a film ever be truly completely truthful?


3.) Nanook of the North itself was a narrative film, and as Ruby expresses, narration and story telling only serves to enhance the film, not take away from it. Therefore, those who refuse to have any affiliation with narration are only harming the field of ethnography, not helping it.

Elen, I like how you proposed some questions regarding the material.  They show that you read the materially critically.  Asking questions about what you have read is good practice.  Great job---Tom



[Stephanie Aquilina, sma8@geneseo.edu, 9/2]

Jay Ruby, Picturing Culture, Chapter 2 (Incorporating reactions to Nanook of the North)


The filmmaker, the conditions in which a film is produced, and the direction of its function must be considered in order to derive meaning from ethnographic films.


Robert Flaherty’s Nanook of the North was inspired from his genuine appreciation of and respect for the subjects; his film highlighted the human spirit at its finest. While he never received an anthropological education, his ideals paralleled those of trained professionals: He strove to represent the Inuits as they saw themselves.


The use of narrative form in motion pictures has been highly underrated among anthropologists – as Flaherty demonstrated, it can provide an intimate perspective that captures the natural drama embedded within cultures.


Flaherty employed a participatory method to filming Nanook by insisting that the Inuits contribute to each aspect of the movie’s creation. He carefully explained his intentions so that they comprehended and accepted the project to the point where they would be involved as active partners. (It turned out that the Innuits even began suggesting scenes to add to the movie!) This strategy yielded considerable success – his film actually portrayed the traditional Inuit culture as his constituents remembered it, meaning that Nanook embodied their bona fide self-image.


Nanook was constructed to replace its viewers’ ethnocentrism with a sense of empathy. The reflexive nature of the film allowed audience members to become truly interested and absorbed in the stories being shared – as fellow human beings. After watching the film, the Inuits themselves swelled with pride for the depiction of their ancestors’ virtues, excited that they could use Nanook as a way to transmit the traditional way of life to their own future generations. END


 Excellent.  Very succinct discussion on the reading.  Isn't it great that Flaherty's film was viewed in such a positive light by the modern Inuit?---Tom




[Dan Lilly, djl5@geneseo.edu, 9/3]


Jay Ruby, Picturing Culture, Chapter 2 (Incorporating reactions to Nanook of the North)


I find it extremely fascinating that Flaherty included the Inuit in the editing and production of his film. How better to exemplify the idea shared by Flaherty and later Malinowski that an ethnographic film should attempt to show the people from their own perspective? Indeed, perspective in all film is of the utmost importance.


Critics of these films would be quick to point out many possible flaws and misrepresentations, but perhaps this is being too hard on the ethnographer. Ruby makes an interesting point in that, "ethnographic film is not a field in which people can make a living" (p.83). Compromises must constantly be made in all types of films. On the other hand, maybe we just put too much clout on each single ethnographic film. When casually watching such a film, one would probably be able to point out at least the possibility of distortions and misrepresentations. However, should an ethnographic film be used in research of the topic culture, it would be difficult to doubt the insight and perspective it would lend to a study. Discrepancies in the materials would then, of course, alert the researcher to problems with the film.

Excellent. Would the discrepancies really be the result of problems, or would they just be emphasis of what the focus of the filmmaker was?  ---Tom



[Dave Roberts, dlr4@geneseo.edu, 9/4]

Jay Ruby, Picturing Culture, Chapter 2 (Incorporating reactions to Nanook of the North)


1.) Ruby states that Nanook is best enjoyed with the sound off. While the soundtrack does add to the entertainment value of the film, it also gives emotional sway in certain scenes, such as the humorous music playing during the scene at the trading post.


2.) Rather than generally documenting a group of people and their way of life, Flaherty was drawn to filming one man and his family in a series of vignettes more similar to that of a conventional narrative. Flaherty did not like the emotional distance felt when “exotic natives are seen as curious for the outsider’s amusement” (Ruby, 75).


3.) Flaherty worked tirelessly to have his works financed and distributed. He shopped his films around to many companies, illustrating the conflict between a man who wanted to inform and educate and the filmmaker who wanted to make money. Flaherty never objected to making a buck.

Page number needed for highlighted area.  If different music wasplayed, would that cause different emotions to stir?  Is it wrong that Flaherty made money off of the film?  Is never objecting to making money the same as actively requestiong money for your work?---Tom



[Larkin Kimmerer, llk5@geneseo.edu, 9/4]

Jay Ruby, Picturing Culture, Chapter 2 (Incorporating reactions to Nanook of the North)


The reading mentioned something that we had discussed in class-- the concern that the presence of the camera crew would alter the event being filmed. We saw the crew affect the actual event when Flaherty told Nanook that no one could attack the walrus until he was ready--the aggie must come first. Flaherty addressed that and said that he was aware of this problem and only wanted to capture "the former majesty and character" of the Inuit because he admired them and wanted to share that with the greater public. Still, things like cutting the igloo in half in order to get the shot make it seem less authentic; clearly the presence of the film crew changed the way things were done. END

Excellent Larkin. What is more important?  Is it perserving the culture on film?  Or is it keeping the authenticity of the culture intact?---Tom



[Rebecca Coons, rsc2@geneseo.edu, 9/4]


Jay Ruby, Picturing Culture, Chapter 2 (Incorporating reactions to Nanook of the North)


I was surprised when I found out that Flaherty worked with the Inuit to edit the film and show them from their own perspective. It's important that the subjects of an ethnographic film see themselves portrayed accurately and truthfully. I remember when the film Apocolypto came out, it was nothing more than an action movie to Mayan people. Of course it wasn't meant to be an ethnographic work by any means, but much of the audience took it as a representation of the Mayan culture. As far as narration goes, there's a good chance that it can enhance the film and not be theatric if done properly. Flaherty's use of narration made him the "father of documentary" (p. 69) and since ethnographers are cultural storytellers, narration can play a huge role in film. END

Excellent post.  I love how you bring information in from other areas of our culture to correlate to the reading.  Leave it to Mel Gibson to soldify the way people view a culture...he is obviously not in it for money.---Tom



[Dan McConvey, dpm5@geneseo.edu, 9/4]

Jay Ruby, Picturing Culture, Chapter 2 (Incorporating reactions to Nanook of the North)


I thought it was interesting where Ruby picks out the Curtis' film had hollywood influence in the fact that there "rivals fighting over the hand of a maiden" (p. 72) It really shows how difficult ethnographic film appears to be. It is as though he is saying that if the film does have a remotely interesting storyline to it, it is prefabricated. Which I imagine is why "anthropologists are so reluctant to accept that they are storytellers." (p.70) This idea of finding a story within a culture and then capturing it on film is difficult because the anthropologist has to try to keep the story as realistic as possible without the film resulting in reviews such as "there is no story in this picture---only life." People don't want to just see life. People want a story that tells them about life. People probably don't have insight or at least as much insight on these other cultures that the visual anthropologist is studying. It is the anthropologist who, through film and their skills in anthropology, can unearth these insights and present them through their film. END

Great job.  Include page numbers for the highlighted areas.  It is definitely important to explain what is being presented.  It provides context and allows for a better understanding and prevents the viewers from making too many false assumptions about what they are viewing.---Tom



[Heather Warren, hrw1@geneseo.edu, 9/4]


Jay Ruby, Picturing Culture, Chapter 2 (Incorporating reactions to Nanook of the North)


Robert J. Flaherty is recognized and revered as the first film ethnographer and artist who resisted the urge to follow Hollywood money-making standards. At first, scholars took to analyzing his film and photos without taking into account any of the context of the people involved in the filming and the author’s perspective because they firmly believed that everything they needed to know would have been presented to them in the film and photos. Fortunately, this view was changed in favor of considering the context. Flaherty is also known for his use of narrative which, though commonly and mistakenly thought of as fiction, became a useful tool for the audiences understanding of the materials. His goal was to make a film that would look up to, rather than down at Nanook, who for many years helped him in his travels, and to inspire in his audience the same love and respect he had gained during the time he spent with Nanook. END

Context is crucial in understanding cultures.  It is great how his friendship with Nanook was what was important to Flaherty, isn't it?---Tom



[Nicole Rothman, ngr1@geneseo.edu, 9/4]

Jay Ruby, Picturing Culture, Chapter 2 (Incorporating reactions to Nanook of the North)


1. Flaherty had financial backing from Paramount Pictures, Standard Oil and the US government, each for different films. It can be concluded that his films weren’t controversial and supported the views of these different groups. Today it seems like it is just the opposite when it comes to independent or ethnographic films, and especially more recent documentaries.

2. Flaherty wanted large audiences to view his films and he wanted to earn a living through his films. These are problems, which are still faced by independent and ethnographic filmmakers. Films such as these are not played in regular movie theaters, if they’re played in them at all, and the general population doesn’t really tune in for these types of shows on TV. When the ethnography is in its raw form, it just doesn’t spark the general public’s interest.

3. Jay Ruby says that one of the goals of Flaherty’s Nanook and of ethnographies in general is to portray the native people as they see themselves. If this truly was Flaherty’s goal then it’s interesting to learn that the movie was so staged. The use of the “aggie igloo” and the quote from the beginning of the chapter, in which Nanook says to Flaherty, “ Yes, yes, the aggie will come first… Not a man will stir, not a harpoon will be thrown until you give the sign…”


Excellent.  Page numbers for highlighted areas.  Should it matter if the general public has no interest in ethnographic films?---Tom



[Anne Kim, ak13@geneseo.edu, 9/4]


Jay Ruby, Picturing Culture, Chapter 2 (Incorporating reactions to Nanook of the North)


1. Ruby states that it was the film, Nanook that influenced the later ethnographic films and documentaries.

2. Ruby states the importance of the film because it is portrayed as the “ethnographic pastoral”.

3. There is much misunderstanding of the word, “narrative”, for it has been assumed to mean, “fiction”. Therefore, when critics saw that Nanook was a “narrative”, they automatically thought that it was a fiction film. However, the interweaving of the drama and actuality of the situation is what makes this film so unique. END.

Page numbers are needed.  Why is it important that Nanook was a precursor/influence to ethnogrphic films?  What exactly makes it influence other films?  What is an "ethnographic pastoral"?  How does it make the film important?  ---Tom



[Lok Yung Yam, ly5@geneseo.edu, 9/5]

Jay Ruby, Picturing Culture, Chapter 2 (Incorporating reactions to Nanook of the North)


1. It was interesting how Flaherty was suspected of allowing commercial film to influence him. I can definitely see that coming through in Nanook of the North, because I can't help be sympathetic towards Nanook.


2. I also completely agree that Flaherty took non-fiction to another level by making his movie more accessible to the mass audience. I'm not much for silent movies (I'm lame), but I can honestly say I've enjoyed Nanook.


3. Although Flaherty took ethnographic films and made them more enjoyable, he stayed true to his subject. He did not turn them into commercial films. I can tell he truly cared for his work.

Be specific on what makes you sympathize with Nanook.  Give an example.  What did you specifically like about Nanook?  What made you realize that Flaherty cared about his work and the Inuit people?  How was his avoidance of turning the films into commercial film important?---Tom




[Dilek Canakci, dc11@geneseo.edu, 9/8]



Jay Ruby, Picturing Culture, Chapter 2 (Incorporating reactions to Nanook of the North)


I thought this chapter was very well written due to the fact that Ruby includes the history of how the first anthropological movie was put together and what the author had to face in order to share the information that he has collected from a culture that the people were rarely exposed to. I thought it was definitely important for Ruby to include Flaherty’s diary because I feel like he wanted us, anthropologists, to know the history behind this first movie. He also wanted us to consider the struggles that Flaherty faced by trying to publish this movie and what he had to give up, like his life at home and the people that were most important to him, to put together something that no one else was able to do.

Great.  This makes me start to wonder what I would give upto pursue work I was passionate about.  What would you give up or not give up in the pursuit of something you were passionate about?---Tom




[Charlie Genao cg7@geneseo.edu 9/10]

Jay Ruby, Picturing Culture, Chapter 2 (Incorporating reactions to Nanook of the North)


1. The film of Nanook is a good film but it has trouble when it comes to space and time. It looks as if all the events happened in one day. In Chapter 2 page 50 ruby states that Wholestein generating accurate researchable data about spatial relations is extremely complicated and requires so much control over the setting. It is kinda impossible to avoid it because how do you control the setting if you do then it is more like a script and fake not real.



2. I am surprise that ethnographers and filmmakers over looked Flaherty's work until Jean Rouch being an important exception decided to look into his work further. It was later realized that the same problems that Flaherty faced are the same problems that current anthropologist and ethnographic film. He has no anthrpological or ethnographic expeirence and he never sought out advice ethier. Probably in todays standards of what needs to be done, to be an anthrpologist He might not be considered to be one. But his moive was still helpful.



3. Flaherty was upset at the film because it didn't convey what it was supposed to convey. It was like it was made for people's amusement and not for knowledge. The diary is very important it showed that he gave up many things like his family,friends things that he was customed to in order to film this movie.

What are the problems with time and space?  Why is this a problem?  Is it possible to avoid it?  How is it relevant that the film has these issues?  Explain.  What hardships did Flaherty experience?  Provide an example and how it is relevant.  What was it supposed to convey?  How is it being recevied as amusement rather than knwoledge aproblem for Flaherty?---Tom  




[Brendan Ryan, bmr4@geneseo.edu, 9/10]


Jay Ruby, Picturing Culture, Chapter 2 (Incorporating reactions to Nanook of the North)


Chapter 2 of Ruby's book raises some interesting questions about the role of the filmmaker in ethnographic film. Should we trust him to act as a lens for us, focusing in on what he deems to be important and editing out what he deems not to be? Or is the only true way to obtain an accurate understanding of a culture to simply set up a video camera in a stationary position and let it roll? In Nanook of the North, it is a documented fact that Flaherty staged various scenes and had the Eskimos act out situations that did not arise spontaneously. So is this a sort of visual perjury, or is it the only way to really get a well-rounded view of the whole culture? Furthermore, is the narrative form ever an acceptable means for presenting anthropological research? I tend to think that it is the knee-jerk reaction of many to completely dismiss it simply because of its position straddling fact and fiction. If one can look beneath the story on the surface perhaps one would be able to obtain some real insight on a group of people without being bored to tears while wading through impenetrable pages of technical jargon. - END -

Posing questions like you have is a good way to get other people, as well as your self thinking.  The narrative definitely provides an element of palatability to any study.  But do they tell a good story would be the real question?---Tom




[Laurie Sadofsky, las22@geneseo.edu, 9/10]


Jay Ruby, Picturing Culture, Chapter 2 (Incorporating reactions to Nanook of the North)


  1. Robert Flaherty is the first ethnographic film producer and Nanook of the North is the first ethnographic film. To understand the film accurately, you must study not only the product, but the producer and the entire production. Flaherty’s film was unlike the films of his time. They didn’t fit nicely into the category of Hollywood films or travelogues. They instead focused on the interaction between humans and their environment.
  2. He decided to film Nanook and the Inuit because he spent years with them and admired the way they dealt with their hardships. He wanted to change the viewers’ “ethnocentrism into empathy for a people, a culture and a hero” (74).
  3. Formal training at the time for anthropologists was not as common or necessary as it is today, and yet, Flaherty planned out his work, wrote down his methods and collaborated with those filmed. He also focused on change and capturing the culture and ways that existed before Westerners interacted with this culture. He wanted to film Nanook using outdated methods in order to preserve the culture before it was completely destroyed and lost (89).


 Good job.  What is importatn about prtraying Nanook in such a manner?  Does it make it so people can connect with him on a deeper level or make him more human?  Is cultural preservation a good reason for making ethnographic films?---Tom






[Lanh Nguyen, ltn2@geneseo.edu, 9/17]

Jay Ruby, Picturing Culture, Chapter 2 (Incorporating reactions to Nanook of the North)


1. To answer your question of whether Flaherty’s attempts in reenacting some scenes a sort of visual perjury or the only way of getting a well-rounded view of the whole culture, my answer is the latter. Although I felt betrayed when I heard some of the scenes in Nanook of the North were staged, I now realize that Flaherty was not doing it for the glamour and profitable factor. He was trying to fully show the hardship and entire culture of Nanook and other Eskimos.


2. Like the saying, “don’t judge a book by its cover,” Ruby states that in order to understand a film or photograph, one needs to study the maker, conditions of production, and the condition of consumption. Be thorough with your research and don’t take the first research that is available, just like in our online research projects and assignments.


3. Pp. 74 “A little upstate NY town…Rochester NY itself turned Ruby’s film down.” INTERESTING FACT, EH?


Great job.  His efforts to exemplify the authenticity of the culture is admirable.  This is deifnitely a lesson in looking at everything critically.  Understanding or at lest being aware of the motivations of those who produce works provides us with a better context in which to gauge our criticisms.  Since when is Rochester a little upstate town?  It is pretty big compared to some.  Obviously this guy has never been to the area.---Tom



[Jennifer Ritzenthaler, jkr5@geneseo.edu, 9/26]


Jay Ruby, Picturing Culture, Chapter 2 (Incorporating reactions to Nanook of the North)


1. Flaherty’s presence definitely had an effect on the lives of the people he was taping. He had a timetable for filming that Nanook and his family had to work within.

2. Flaherty’s devotion to documenting the life of the Inuit people was shown by his continuing dedication through many obstacles and regardless of moneymaking value.

3. It was surprising to learn that many people view narrated films as being fictional and showed how Flaherty was making a bold move in choosing to use it anyway.


 What is significant about the subjects adhering to Flaherty's schedule?  What obstacles did he face?  How do these show his devotion to the people?  Why was narrative a bold move for Flaherty?  Was its use frowned upon or just not thought of to be incorporated into such works?---Tom






[Jonathon Baker, jlb22@geneseo.edu, 10/1/07]

Jay Ruby, Picturing Culture, Chapter 2 (Incorporating reactions to Nanook of the North)


1. An important quote from the text is “Everything in a documentary is a reflection of the maker’s view of the subject” (page 70). It’s difficult to judge an author as unauthentic when no author can create a documentary that is completely unbiased. Even if the maker of a film about a certain culture is a participant on that culture, he will inevitably show the side of his culture he wants the world to see.

2. An important point about Flaherty is that he employed the “man vs. environment” theme in Nanook. As it states on page 74 of Ruby, he did not use sex and violence to please audiences. He wanted to show something more intellectual, but at the same time he must have needed something to keep the audience’s attention. So the conflict in the film is one of survival in a hostile natural environment.

3. Ruby talks about how the problems that Flaherty faced nearly 100 years ago now are still problems facing anthropologists and filmmakers today. It is interesting that technology has improved so much but the ethical and presentation difficulties have essentially remained the same.


Great job.  Is it wrong to show the side of a culture that one finds important or most significant?  Can any one aspect truly be deemed the most important or most signifcant?  Is Flaherty's incorporation of conflict to get an audience show he was concerned wiht making money, or just ensuring that his film was seen?  Ethics are always hot issues for debate are very difficult to get a straight, definite answer to.---Tom




Alfred Dilluvio Ajd12@geneseo.edu 10/20/07


1. When I watched Nanook of the North, I couldn't help but decide that the film was remarkably biased. Whenever you construct a film about something, it becomes fairly obvious that the film is going to be an image of what you yourself have seen in it. This seems to be the case with Flaherty as he has the Inuit do things he wants them to do. He plays to the perceptions of the Inuit he understands his own culture to have.


2. The inclusion of the scene where Nanook and his family wakes up seems to have obvious value to the audience. Aside from having the value of providing audiences with a view of survival in a dangerous environment, the filmmaker Flaherty obviously wanted to arouse viewers with a glimpse of people in their most intimate situations. You get a look at the private moments of a family before they go out, and I think such an intrusive look at individuals excites most people.


3. I think Ruby criticises the film Nanook because of its obvious shortcomings as a biased and largely unethnographic presentation. However, we must understand that it isnt right to judge past actions by current standards.

Insightful comments Al.  Was the glimpse of the waking family really intrusive?  It may be in our culture, but can the same be said for Inuit culture?  Despite the shortcomings, is the information provided still useful?---Tom



[Skye Naslund, sjn1@geneseo.edu 10/22/07]

Ruby, chapter 2


1-The use of music in the film “Nanook of the North” serves as a mood setter, helping the audience decide how to feel about a particular scene. In some scenes it gets faster and more anxious, while in other scenes it is softer and more relaxing. I therefore understand Ruby’s preference for watching the film without the sound in order to have a less biased view.

2-The idea of staging a film simply by having a cameraman present is an interesting test to the human mind. The idea that people will react differently in situations, simply by knowing that a cameraman is watching is a valid argument. By expressing an interest in what the native people are doing, one has already altered the course of the action.

3-The attempt to personalize the film, by shooting only a single family of Inuit was an interesting concept. While it did not show the culture as a whole “Nanook of the North” did do a good job of making the character personable and gaining viewer interest.

Great job. If different music was played, do you think a different bias would be apparent?  The discussion of the paradox of wanting capture unaltered culture, as it would be without observation, is an importantconcept to take into account.  Does the focus on the one family make the film less important?  Is personabilty abad thing or a good thing?




Hockings, pp 13-78


Type your comments here . . .



[Isobel Connors, icc2@geneseo.edu, 9/8]


Hockings, pg. 13-78


1. Hockings gave some interesting feedback on his experience in film, emphasizing the importance of supplementary information originating within the culture being studied. I believe that this is imperative to producing a film that offers true insight in anthropological studies. Many times producers overlook this aspect of filmmaking, believing their research can provide them with enough information to make further judgments on culture. I think people would be less intimidated by producing ethnographic films if they saw it as a cooperative effort.

2. I was glad Hockings made note of the possibility of studying our own culture through film. Too often, Americans forget that they are part of the anthropological world, and don't see themselves as a culture worth recording. We may find that American films reveal aspects of our culture far different than the way we perceive ourselves. Once we have a better understanding of what anthropologists disregard when defining American culture, we can improve upon techniques used to study others.

3. Hockings breaks his research into three areas: Culture Shock and Language Familiarity, Tripod Methodology, and Close Portraiture of Everyday Life. He offers the reader explanations as to the necessity of each progressive step, while also making mention of struggles to anticipate during research. I found the first section of particular interest: Hockings notes that when initally filming a culture, one tends to record rather minor differences, such as a way of preparing food or washing clothes. Although these snapshots of daily life don't prove to be the most siginificant at the conclusion of research, ethnographers may overlook such details later in their studies.


Page numbers needed.  Great job.  What would an ethnographic film about our own culture illustrate?  What would it tell us or others about ourselves?  Are their any films out nowadays that would fall under this category?  I think such films as Supersize Me and An Inconvenient Truth may do so.  What do you think?---Tom




[Cameron Mack, cfm6@geneseo.edu, 9/11]


Hockings pg. 13-78


 I found it interesting how Hockings highlighted many of the same aspects vital to ethnographic film making as we did in class.  These include filming the most unique aspects of the culture under analysis. Areas such as rites of passage, rituals, and other special ceremonies unique to the culture.  That is not to say that the day to day life of the culture is not important in the filming process. It is as vital as anything that one would film in an ethnographic film.

Why is so vital to incorporate all of these aspects into a film?  Why would the unique things be important to include with more emphasis than other activities?  What would be the purpose for this?---Tom

It is vital to incorporate all these aspects into a film so that the audience may be properly educated on the culture of the society being viewed. It is important to point out, also, that encompassing these vital attributes of cultures enable filmmakers to be more direct with their explanations. I believe that unique aspects of cultures make them truly interesting and special to people outside of their society (audience and anthropologists alike), and therefore should have some sort of focus put on them. I am not saying, however, that all aspects of a culture should not be focused upon. By saying this, I am simply suggesting that the odd or strange actions or aspects should be emphasized so people understand how they characterize the society. I don't believe this should be a concrete rule in ethnographic filmmaking, but I do think that it would make a film possibly more effective.



[Jennifer Ritzenthaler, jkr5@geneseo.edu, 9/8]


Hockings pg 13-78


1. Ethnographic film should include the most unusual aspects of the culture, including ceremonies and rituals, but also the ordinary life of the people being studied.

2. An emic approach is extremely important to the study of anthropology, as well as being able to compare differences across cultures.

3. Fictional films that showed exotic people out of their original context could have considerably hindered people’s understanding of these cultures. An example of this might be an Indiana Jones adventure film that doesn’t portray the culture within it as they truly act or behave.

Why should it include these aspects over others?  What strengths does it have?  Does it help to define the culture better or is it for other reasons?  Why is this important in anthropology and in regard to film?  Do such films have other effects on the cultures studied?---Tom 



[Stephanie Aquilina, sma8@geneseo.edu, 9/3]


Paul Hockings, Principles of Visual Anthropology

Ethnographic Filming and Cinema: The History of Ethnographic Film by Emile De Brigard


While recording the traditional and bizarre facets of human behavior tends to pervade ethnographic film, filming must also include the mundane but significant behavior – looking at our own societies allows us to balance the fascination of human culture as a whole. Anthropologists can conclude certain universal themes by investigating trends found in a variety of films over time.


Felix-Louis Regnault documented cross-cultural studies of physiology – comparing cultural variation in movement patterns. This form of ethnographic salvage was valuable but began to fade in popularity once psychological tendencies and the “intangibles of social structure” shifted into prevalence. Generally, ethnographic films can be used in comparative studies across cultures, in detecting cultural change and continuity, and in analyzing culture contact and adaptation as a function of evolving political, economic, and social revolutions.


Eliciting an emic response is essential to understanding a culture; when Navajos were given the chance to film their own motion pictures, the “visual flow” they created could be analyzed in terms of their own cultural constructs – their cognitive framework was visually represented and documented. Ethnographic films are considered “guides” to cultures because they portray problematic situations followed by culturally appropriate resolutions. They have also been used for applied purposes as well; for example, once a visual sanitation education program was implemented and people were shown better conditions, they were more likely to change their behavior.


When examining ethnographic films, anthropologists concern themselves with what is common and general, trying to discern previously unknown relationships in a circular inquiry – looking for apparent contradictions or exceptions to the patterns in order to test speculations and avoid premature “understanding” of cultural elements. Films are not intended to reveal cause-and-effect relationships, and anthropologists are encouraged to “surrender to the data” by avoiding selective emphases and biases about what is significant. (It is also helpful to record data before and after hypotheses have been made.) After filming, gaining the insider’s point of view is crucial and can be achieved by interviewing native informants who have seen the movie and by researching film reviews.


In order to obtain a sense of intimacy and naturalness, a filmmaker must spend considerable time filming – at least three months. After sufficient preparation (learning the language, etc.) the ethnographer will go through a period of culture shock, the end of which can be used to document surface elements of the culture that will provide the basis of external examination. General social rituals can be captured distantly after a while, but the most revealing stories and personal exposures appear only when the filmmaker is no longer a stranger to his subjects. When making conclusions about a culture, anthropologists are urged to consult comprehensive and varied material, including as many films, interviews, books, and observed behavior as possible.

Stellar! Amazing post.  Very concise, thorough and coherent!  You explained everything well and provided more than ample discussion.  Why would consulting all of these sources be beneficial?  What could it provide an ethnographer?---Tom



[Heather Warren, hrw1@geneseo.edu, 9/4]


Paul Hockings, Principles of Visual Anthropology

Ethnographic Filming and Cinema: The History of Ethnographic Film by Emile De Brigard


Ethnographic film has been limited by theories created by the anthropologist, cinematic art, and by the intended use of the film. In addition, it is likely that the growth of legitimate ethnographic film was hindered by the highly popular and profitable explorer and fiction films set in exotic locations because these films often were worked into a shape that very little if at all resembled the original contexts. These early films probably contributed largely to the stereotypes we have of ethnographic film as being based on the exotic as well as the use as the exotic as a measure of civility mainly because early ethnographic films were based on exotic cultures and were released at the same time as the fiction and explorer films. Thus, like today, many people may have believed the fictitious films to be truthful as well, if not out of ignorance, then out of many people’s innate desire to want to believe the extraordinary. Finally, it is also interesting that even early ethnographic film was used as a means of inspiring change in people who could not speak the same language as the film producer. Such an example was in the Philippines where they were attempting to teach the natives to change their ways to have better living conditions. END

Great job.   What else could possibly contribute to people taking what they see in movies to be entirely truthful?  Could be an aspect of our own culture that allows this? ---Tom



[Anne Kim, ak13@geneseo.edu, 9/4]


Paul Hockings, Principles of Visual Anthropology

Ethnographic Filming and Cinema: The History of Ethnographic Film by Emile De Brigard


1. Many people have high expectations for ethnographic films to reveal something new about primitive culture. However, this expectation causes a problem because technically, ALL films can reveal something about a culture.

2. The advancing technology of the media also has its disadvantages. It being that a lot of the “traditional subject matter” is lost. And now, one must work harder to record unspectacular items but significant behavior.

3. Some anthropologists thought that film was the permanent way of preserving human behavior and thus ethnographic filming became to be part of the history of anthropology.

 Why would this be a problem?  How does the technicality affect this? How is the technology advancing disadvantageous?  How does it result in a loss of traditional subject matter? Why does the permanent preservation of culture play an important role in anthropology?  How does film play this part?---Tom




Lanh Nguyen/ ltn2@geneseo.edu/ 9-9


Hockings, pp 13-78


Ethnographers are supposed to be in it for the cultral learning aspect of the business rather than the economic/profit. But, inevitably some are driven by the money making, i.e. Melies: association with museums and univeristies for profit.


It is fascinating to learn about how many people it takes to make an ethnographic film. There are so many different cameras, angels, shots, and directors involved in the process. I return to the question; are ethnographic films truely objective and holistic if there are so many outsiders influencing and involved in the production?


The significance of the produced film often differs from person to person. The intended message by film makers do not always get across to all viewers.


Somewhat short, but still pretty good.  Provide a page number for the Melies reference.  Is it always important that the filmmakers message come across?  Will the message be clear enough for everyone to pick out?  Or will everyone perceive the work differently, and therefore a different message will be taken by each viewer?--Tom




[Laurie Sadofsky, las22@geneseo.edu, 9/9]


Hockings p.13-78

Emilie Brigard “History of Ethnographic Film

John Weakland “Feature Films as Cultural Documents”

Mark McCarty “McCarty’s Law and How to Break It”


  1. Brigard writes that social science has never taken film seriously and therefore has been missing the significance of using already created ones or making their own. She states that the purpose of films is to salvage culture as well as study.
  2. Like Mead, Weakland believes the study of ethnographic film should be based more on its content and less on its artistic qualities. In his opinion, studying the activities and interactions shown in the film can provide a somewhat holistic picture of the culture.
  3. McCarty presents a methodology of how to make an ethnographic film. Though his description is short, it is something all the other readings expressed a need for. He states that you must spend months working with the group to be filmed so that friendships and acceptance can be established. In his view, without that trust, the film will never show the true nature of the people filmed.


Provide pages for the highlighted areas.  Kind of short, but still good.  You incorporated the three differnet readings and that is good to see.  Can we ever hope to achieve a holistic view, or do wejust strive for one?  Trust does play a major role in ethnography.  How long would it take to acquire the trust of people you work with?  How fast ould you lose their trust?---Tom



[Skye Naslund, sjn1@geneseo.edu, 9-10-07]


Hockings, pp 13-78

1-There are many reasons why some anthropologists have chosen not to use film as a resource. Those include the expense and complexity of the equipment, but I feel the most important reason why everyone has not adopted the use of film is that it is so easy to get caught up in the film. When you start caring more about whether you caught a ritual on film than the meaning of the ritual itself you have crossed that line. Just as you cannot capture an entire culture in film, you cannot observe an entire culture if you are looking at it though a camera lens.

2-The question of whether films are reflective of culture or whether they affect culture is like the question of whether the chicken or the egg came first. Both are true. Because they are created within a culture, films are both products of the culture and are going to affect those who watch them.

3-Film blurs the fine line between an emic and an etic approach. Because when viewing film you are looking into a culture from the outside it could be considered an etic approach. But, the film was shot from within the culture making a strong argument for an emic approach as well.



 Excellent.  We already basically look through the lens of our own culture and adding another lens alters the view that much more.  Do the films also affect those that were filmed? ---Tom





[Al Dilluvio, ajd12@geneseo.edu 9/11]


Hockings, pp 13-78


1. Should we accept film as ethnographic data or scholarly research. This goes back to the very first day of class where we tried to find out which resources were scholarly. How can we accept something as scholarly when it may have been staged. I think most filmakers are concerned with showing the exotic or interesting behavior without really getting at the meaning of it. Anthropological films should aim at finding the meaning behind acts.


2. I think if somebody is just concerned with visuals, they begin to miss out on the interesting part of the culture. Proper cultural ethnography is aimed at getting inside the head of the objects of the study (emic). We have to revise the way films are made.


3. If we film with this new way of thinking, aimed at a simpler, less biased portrayal of people, films may eventually have more value as scholarly resources.

Good questions and ideas Al.  How would one go about using film to get to the meaning inherent in cultural acts?  Does etic have any place in the realm of film?  Is it possible to get to the production of this type of film that you think should be strived for?  How would we get there?---Tom




[Larkin Kimmerer, llk5@geneseo.edu 9/15]


Hockings, pp 13-78


The idea that all films are ethnographic, if we define ethnographic film as "film that reveals cultural patterning," was something that really struck me--every film really reveals a lot about culture. When we see American movies, we don't think about that as much. But when we see international films, they are praised as really showing the culture of that country. So I guess that brings us to question what exactly makes an ethnographic film. If Flaherty's film was not considered ethnographic, even though it showed cultural patterning, then what really defines that genre of films?

Page numbers needed.  Is the genre or any other genre for that matter even capapble of being adequately defined?  Would anyone even agree on a defintion if was arose?---Tom





Charlie Genao, cg7@ geneseo.edu 9/15


Hockings, pp 13-78


1. I think film tends to leave out things like rituals that are very interesting and crucial to the understanding of a particular culture. Leaving out things like rituals would not give you the whole picture because rituals are closely related to the particular religion or the belief system of a given culture. Since we know that religion dictates more or less of the actions of a given group we can understand why they do the things they do.


2. When I watch most films I tend to ask myself why these films only show the exotic parts and not the everyday common culture. Perhaps everybody has thier own defitions of what consitutes exotic and what is not. A lot of things that I saw in the film and in the Hockings book like a man resting on his ancestor skull showing it affection. To me it is different but at the same time I am not shocked by it maybe I have an open minded or something.


3. Since everybody has some degree of ethnocentrism it is impossible to eliminate it completely. Everybody perfers to be in whatever culture they grew up in. People for example would not eat rats like in some parts of the world because in thier culture it is disgusting having those feelings is ethnocentric but people often dont see it that way. Culture shock is what you feel when you see things of this nature. I guess education can reduce it but it will always be there.

How would leaving such crucial elements out affect the quality of the film?  Aren't rituals deemed theexotic aspect of culture?  You seem to have contradicted your first and second statements.  How do ethnocentrism and culture shock relate?  How can culture shock be reduced?  Explain your statements a little more in depth.---Tom





[Dilek Canakci, dc11@geneseo.edu 9/17]


Hocking p. 13-78


I thought it was tremendously important that Hockings went in deep detail about ethnographic filming and emphasized how such videos can help us learn not only our own culture, but other cultures as well. It is necessary for people to recognize that there is a world outside of our own, and for anthropologists to transform such valuable information and real experiences, they must study a culture from an emic perspective and visually share it through their ethnographic videos.

Good.  Should only the emic be focused upon in film?  Does etic have a place?  Is etic even possible to avoid?  Have you seen any main stream movies that you have thought have defined American culture?---Tom




[Elen De Oliveira, emd10@geneseo.edu 9/21]


Hockings, pp. 13-78


1. These films serve as extremely necessary and helpful recordings of life, as they document life before it it lost, most likely forever. One has to always wonder, however, about the motive behind the filmers actions. Are they filming for the love of the field and the human race? Or are they doing this because they feel they will profit from it?


2. It was written that when materials and instruments became too expensive, that people originally abandoned the field of visual anthropology. This statement reinforces the former question of motive.


3. Why have so many anthropologial films gone unnoticed? Why are most of them hidden "in the vaults of museums or in the garages of anthropologists' families"? Have we become so interested in ourselves and our futures that we care so little for the people of the past?

 Great questions!  What should be the otivation for ethnographic filming?  Is the montary motivation for filmmaking so wrong, or is it a product of our culture?---Tom




[Brendan Ryan, bmr4@geneseo.edu, 9/22]


Hockings, pp. 13-78


One of the most interesting ideas that I took from this part of the book is that all films are ethnographic. I guess I never really thought much about what we are saying about ourselves when we make a film. Before I was thinking more that ethnographic films were something that one group made about another group when really in a way it can sometimes say more about the person behind the camera than the person in front of it. While I feel that this is an interesting insight it only further confuses me about the true definition of ethnographic film and what can be deemed to be true scholarly work in the field of visual anthropology.


Great job.  Being confused is a good thing.  It means you are thinking critically about the material.  An observer's film about a subject actually makes him the subject of observation.  Quite a paradox, I would say.---Tom



[Lok Yung Yam, ly5@geneseo.edu, 9/11]


Hockings pg. 13-78


1. I have to agree with Hockings when he says all film is ethnographic. Even the most commercial of films show what we as a culture enjoy.


2. I also understand why filmmakers focus on more exotic characteristics of cultures; it is just more interesting. If I wanted to experience everyday life, I would not be watching a film.


3. I don't really understand how people can use price as a reason not to use film. It is the only medium that truly captures life.

Good.  It is interesting that all films depicts all cultures, isn't it?  Even the commercial we see on TV can tell you alot about American culture.  Why would price be an issue?  What other mediums could possible capture life in a similar manner, if any?---Tom



[Dan Lilly, djl5@geneseo.edu, 10/1]

Hockings pp. 13-78


Film is a difficult resource for anthropologists because there is no possible way to be entirely discreet about it. Sociolinguists have done experiments with hidden tape recorders and things like that, but since ethnographic films focus on an entirely different culture, the mere presence of an anthropologist causes people to act differently. On the other side, people also act differently in front of a camera, even (or maybe especially) when they don't know what it is. So if the presence of both the anthropologist and the equipment diverts people from acting naturally, how can you capture that on film?


I also agree with Hockings in that all film is ethnographic, to some degree. That's an unnerving idea to posit though, because that means many years from now anthropologists of some civilization that flourished after our downfall could watch modern horror movies and think they are understanding our culture.

Great tie in to other disciplines (even though sociolinguistics is still technically anthropology).  Would the reaction to the camera and filmmaker be the same in every culture?  Do they really make that large of an impact?  What if instead of modern horror, they found the Teletubbies and Spongebob?  They would realize why we fell in a heart beat!---Tom



[Rebecca Coons, rsc2@geneseo.edu, 10/05]

Hockings 13-78


I agree that all film says something about the culture that produced it, regardless of whether it is representative of the culture it is portraying. Even ethnographic films and documentaries have to have some entertainment value to them or else nobody would bother watching them. I think our culture is so adjusted to the entertainment venue that a lot of the reality of cultural practices gets lost. People aren't watching documentaries to understand another human culture, they want bloody rituals and human sacrifices, they want good music, well known directors and casts. In short, the general public just wants to be entertained. Film is great in that it can capture forever the faces and voices of other cultures as well as our own. Just like home videos, they are something which can be used to remember some cultures that may not be around for much longer. In that sense, all film is ethnographic in some ways, just like Hockings suggests. END

Fantastic.  Great comparison between ethnographic film and Hollywood film.  Tying in outside sources helps to make you argument more identifiable to those not knowledgable about the material.  I also like how you hit upon the concept of home movies.  Could you imagine if some culture found your home movies, and developed their understanding of culture based upon that?---Tom



[Shamiran Warda sw11@geneseo.edu 10/07]


Hockings, pp 13-78
This was a very interesting read; I honestly didn’t know that ethnographic film began as a phenomenon of colonialism and how it has been flourishing in period of political change. The whole history of film was also fascinating to read, for example how the history of teaching films can be traced from the origins of motion pictures and how it became more important during the world wars. However, what I was more interested to find out was how one can learn more about another culture through film, and how by re-examining existing films on various cultures, you see how it gradually changed over time, such as the work done on German film done by Kracauer. However, this study of film content is often tedious work, especially when one is in search of certain themes in the films. Film is indeed an important tool in the anthropological aspect; however, one often has to be cautious about the film he or she is viewing. The producers may have been working under restrictions of time and space and this may have observed much more than what the producers or directors of the film reported. And often the significance of a film differs from the prospective sign intended by its makers.
Page numbers for the highlighted area.  Should the time and space constraints depreciate the value of the film?  What could be derived about our culture if you did a film study starting from back in the earlier decades of the century?  From Birth of a Nation to The Simpsons Movie, what could someone infer about change in our culture?---Tom
[Jonathon Baker, jlb22@geneseo.edu, 10/15]

Hockings pp13-78: “Ethnographic Filming and the Cinema”



1. Ideology: Isn’t the expectation that an ethnographic film will reveal something profound about any culture and make a profound connection to all humanity just asking for disaster? Ethnographic films should certainly show us things, but to set out with the intent of finding something profound will obviously lead the director to paint a rather biased picture.



2. Ideology: My favorite picture in the section of pictures is the one of the Asmat man resting on a skull of his kinsman. How cool that they do this to show affection to their ancestors. Certainly here people would be grossed out by it.



3. Ideology: I thought it was interesting that the author pointed out that heroines in mainland Chinese films are most often isolated individuals (orphans, etc.) I was reminded of one time when I was much younger I remember my parents talking about how it was strange that heroines in Disney films were usually very isolated individuals. If they had any parents in the film at all, it was always only a father. I just thought this was an interesting coincidence.

 Awesome.  How should an ethnographer enter a culture to do fieldwork?  Will they only prove a confirmation they already made?  I like how you were able to the material on a personal level.  Why are heroines such loners?---Tom




[Kaitlyn Northrop, krn3@geneseo.edu, 9/4]
Hockings- “Ethnographic Filming and the Cinema”
1.) Ethnographic film is one that reveals cultural patterning but then goes on to say that filmmakers are guided and limited by their technological resources. If they had more money and resources for technology would they be able to reveal different patterning?
2.) Many people consider commercial film to be faulty and unusable in research and studying cultures, but research must have been done to make those films even if some parts are exaggerated. What would we know about many cultures today if we only used ethnographic research film? We would not know much of the information we know today.
3.) Commercial film producers and directors do have some credibility for their films because they associate with museums and universities not only for profits but for research purposes. This makes it so their films can be credible and it is good for the museums and universities because they make more profits since the film is being brought to the commercial industry.
Your wording is kind of confusing in your first sentence.  What is 'one' referring to?  What goes on to discuss filmmakers? Clarification is needed. I do like the questions you post though.  Generally good other than what has been pointed out.---Tom

[Adam Saunders, ars11@geneseo.edu, 10/22]


Hockings Pgs. 13-78

The most important point in this chapter is that we must remember that ethnographic film is no different than any other ethnography. We must keep true with projecting the images of human behavior, social interaction, social interaction, and the nature of the would in which we live in.

It is not easy to select what to shoot in a film. As Hockings puts it one must “surrender to the data”. Stay true to what is important do not diverge from that.

It is important also that with the film one gathers information on what he/she is shooting from the “natives” themselves. This is helpful in discerning details, emphasis and meanings of activities that are depected in the film.



Why is it important that we keep true to this standard?  How is it important?  How does an ethnographer determine what is important?  How would the ethnographers view what the natives thought to be important?---Tom



[Nicole Rothman, ngr1@geneseo.edu, 10/22]


1. Hockings mentions that it is important to remember that we can view our own culture through films as well as others. We watch ethnographies and documentaries about culture from all over the world; it would be interesting to know if there are documentaries made on us and if there are, which cultures are watching them?

2. Fictional films skew people’s understanding of a culture. Especially those films in which an indigenous person is out of their element.

3. Overall, film is an important aspect of anthropology. However like many things there is a line, which should not be crossed. If filming a culture begins to get in the way and take away from the experience, understanding, and learning opportunity it crosses the line.


 In the films we see in theatres or the shows on TV, our own culture is depicted.  We are in fact watching our own culture, but since it is our own culture we view what we see as normal?  How do we define the element in which the indigenous people are found in?  How clearly defined is the line? HAs it always been their or was it created when antrhopology arose?---Tom



Comments (1)

Anonymous said

at 9:31 pm on Sep 5, 2007

Shamiran Y. Warda sw11@geneseo.edu September 5, 2007
Jay Ruby, Picturing Culture, Chapter 2

Through chapter 2, in picturing culture,
I never realized that numerous people viewed films that were constructed in a narrative form to be considered fiction, even if these films were intended to more of a documentary; non-fiction. In addition, it came to me as a shock that some of these people were even anthropologists and ethnographic filmmakers (chap. 2, page 70). Despite such views, what I found to be most interesting was Robert Flaherty’s decision to still use the narrative form in his brilliant work entitled “Nanook of the North,” despite of what most people’s views. Flaherty, indeed, took many great chances in filming this masterpiece but from what I viewed so far, his work is brilliant and worth all the sacrifices. I just wonder if the first version of Nanook is very similar to the one shown today, or if it had more to offer.

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