Ethnographic Cinema

Ivan Golovnev – Malenkaya Katerina AKA Tiny Katerina (2004)

Ivan Golovnev (filmmaker) was born in 1978 in Omsk, a city in Siberia. His father is a scholar of history, ethnography, and anthropology who teaches at universities around the world, including the United States. His mother is a history teacher. As a child, he took part in ethnographic and anthropological expeditions in North-Western Siberia. He graduated from music school with a degree in piano performance. In 2000, Golovnev graduated from the History Department of the Omsk State University, where he majored in Ethnography. In 2002, Golovnev entered a Graduate Program for Screenwriters and Directors in Moscow. He directed a documentary television series “The Time of Myths” about the traditional culture of two indigenous peoples of Russia’s North-West Siberia– the Khanty and Mansi. Ivan is currently working on a documentary on the lives of representatives of different denominations in Siberia. Read More »

Raymundo Gleyzer & Jorge Preloran – Ocurrido en Hualfín AKA It Happened in Hualfin (1965)

This three-part documentary on Indian peasant life in the Catamarca region of Argentina is an emotionally moving examination of the generational cycle of poverty in underdeveloped countries. Beautifully told through the eyes and voices of the people, this story of one family becomes the story of all the inhabitants of the valley of Hualfin. In Part I, Temistocles Figueroa, an 84-year-old former cane-cutter, recounts his life in the cane fields through words and song. Part 2 focuses on Justina, his sister-in-law, who is a potter. Her narrative on poverty and pottery mingles with questions, such as, “I’ve heard that in other places women don’t work. How can that be,” she says, “I don’t believe it.” Part 3 profiles Antonia, Justina’s daughter, and her own daughter, Elinda. Antonia toils day and night weaving blankets for sale or barter at the general store. Elinda is her mother’s hope because perhaps her daughter can become a school teacher and break out of the cycle of poverty, but it soon becomes clear that the little girl, too, is trapped, and the cycle will go on. Read More »

Deborah Stratman – Kings of the Sky (2004)

An experimental documentary about resistance, balance and fame, Kings of the Sky follows tightrope artist Adil Hoxur as he and his troupe tour China’s Taklamakan desert amongst the Uyghurs, a Turkic Muslim people seeking religious and political autonomy. The film gracefully hovers between travelogue, ethnographic visual poetry, and an advocacy video for preserving a traditional art form. Read More »

Luiz Bolognesi – A Última Floresta AKA The Last Forest (2021)

In powerful images, alternating between documentary observation and staged sequences, and dense soundscapes, Luiz Bolognesi documents the Indigenous community of the Yanomami and depicts their threatened natural environment in the Amazon rainforest. Read More »

Stefan Jarl – Samernas land AKA Land Of The Lapps (1994)

This short film is only thirteen minutes long, but it is a razor-sharp depiction of civilization pushing out Europe’s last wilderness in Northern Sweden. The white man is hunting ptarmigan, enormous exer-tions are being expended, watercourses are running dry and forests are being devastated. Thirteen minutes about a world in change. But un-fortunately not for the better. Read More »

Robert Gardner – Dead Birds (1963)

This informative documentary focuses on the Dani people of New Guinea, and in particular tribal members Weyak and Pua. Weyak, an adult, protects the land his tribe lives on from other tribes and outsiders. Their territory was then one of the few places not colonized by Europeans. Pua is a young boy who cares for the village’s pigs. Battles take place frequently between the various Dani tribes. When someone is killed, the death must be avenged, and the fighting continues in a deadly cycle Read More »

Libbie Dina Cohn & J.P. Sniadecki – People’s Park (2012)

A mesmerizing, one-of-a-kind window into modern China, People’s Park is a single-shot documentary that immerses viewers in an unbroken journey through a famous urban park in Chengdu, Sichuan Province. Read More »