Friday, December 14, 2007

itam hakim hopiit

The Victor Masayesva 1981 film of Itam Hakim Hopiit film visits the culture of the Hopi that are left on the Second Mesa. This film does not contain anything about American civilization, rather the entry of the Spanish. But the film was purely to tell the Hopi story in a Hopi language and Hopi manner.

I think it is useful to watch the film in Hopi with and without the subtitles of English voice over. The story, as the article "Seeing with a Native Eye" points out, is completely led by the "complex concept of narrative structure in which the content of the storytelling is of critical important to the sense of the film."

We are shown the origin tale of this particular tribe and the oral tradition is important to pass on to the youngest generations even though they may be too young, they understand its importance. Either way there is this hypnotizing mood that the Hopi storyteller places you in. It may be the association of images and the storyteller's voice that places the viewer in a trance. "As a filmmaker, Masayesva's presence is felt. It is his mind and imagination that selects and captures images of activites and traditions that form and sustain Hopi culture."

There are questions that Faye Ginsburg in the essay "Parallax Effect" brings up that helps take a look at the film.

"Specifically, I am interested in how indigenous film and video offer productive challenges to the assumptions of the genre of ethnographic film by (1) reframing questions about the representation of cultural differences; by (2) highlighting mediamaking as a dimension of contemporary (and historical) social, cultural, and political processes; and by (3) expanding the discursive field that can bring a variety of subjects into conversation around questions raised by these media as they travel across boundaries of difference. "

I think an important fact that was not addressed in the film because of the overwhelming effect that the film has is the presence of the camera.
Ginsbury writes, "The legitimacy of one's presence with a camera in any setting (especially when power relations are unequal) should always be raised, not simply as a textual question referred to through reflexive cinematic strategies, but in social relations that are secured before a film or video project even begins." Before this she wrote, "The making of images by anyone, whether by 'outsiders' or 'insiders,' is problematic when ethical and social rules..." Ginsbury goes on to talk about how that just because one is an "insider" does not mean that there would not be a problem with their own subject.

Because there is not outside source that the filmmaker is addressing, there could be something from the filmmaker's own community that they could find problematic.

Number Our Days

The 1976 film by direct Lynne Littman "Number Our Days" however depressing that it may make us feel was a beautiful film about the aging process. In Venice Beach, CA we are shown the elderly center particularly for the Jewish community of that city. It is a place where one can make friends, be feed, sing, dance, and be merry. Or so this is their mission.

This film shows the never ending struggle for respect and a sense of belonging. Although the elderly in this film do not long to be alive for much longer as most of everyone has passed away, there is a trait that they have attained which is a lack of fear of death.

Although Littman's voice-over was slightly on the corny side at times, I think it proofed the point that this project was an extremely close one to her. It is a personalization effect.

The clips of the old woman in her apartment talking about her choices in life (entertainer or wife), the close up shots of the old woman crying for her lost son, of the woman who wanted to thank everyone in the center for including her into the "family" are both beautiful and heart breaking.

There is no doubt though however that one who has not thought about her before, would have a different perspective of an elderly person. That they are not just the bitter pasts of the earth walking around in the world. Yes, they are the past, but they want to impart their knowledge. They are containers of wisdom, and to take advantage of their stories and not toss them aside would be a wise thing to do itself.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

La Purisima

Part of Ethnography is to take a look at various cultures and their rituals, everyday occurrences. Religion is a big aspect to regard when studying people. With Yanonmami it was the trance-like spiritual cleansing that involved physical regurgitation. In Nicaragua, from late November to early January people participate in La Purisima, the Immaculate Conception of a the Virgin Mary.

The following components are necessary for a successful celebration:
A statuette of the Virgin Mary that must be on loan and blessed from a near by church
Rented chairs
Nicaraguan candy
Nicaraguan toys (carved whistles, trinkets and the like)
Chicha (pink sweet corn juice)
Nacatamales (a larger version of tamales)
Program of songs to be sang to the Virgin

There are three different methods to celebrate this
1) Hosted by the church
2) At one on a specific date
3) Traveling to houses (In a Halloween fashion)

I make the Halloween comparison because people will go from house to house and in order to receive food or drink (coffee) they must pray one mystery of the Rosary and sing to the Virgin. From the movies gathered below, most of them are from Nicaragua.

Here in the United States there are still Purisimas held by those that immigrated during the Sanidinista era in Los Angeles and Miami (those are the most well-known).

In the U.S., it is much more of a recollecting of Nicaraguan patriotism. I have never been to a purisima in Nicaragua. But when in purisima, here in the states, there is a chant that the gatherers will always say

Quien causa tanta alegria? La concepcion de Maria!
Que viva Nicaragua! Que Viva!

Which basically translates to : Who is the cause of all this happiness? The Virgin Mary.

It is this pride that people carry with them when they go these purisimas. Very often people will begin to talk about their pasts in Nicaragua, whether or not they still go back after having been away due to the Sandinista occupation. Most if not all Nicaraguan-American children that grow up here, know what it is to have to sit for hours, while their parents tell the stories of their childhood.

Women stay inside to gossip, while the men are outside drinking.

I used to see it as something very boring until I received the gifts to which I was later disappointed by in the evening, as the presents were fruits. But it soon became tradition. The giving of fruits is tradition, as is the tradition that you will not receive a drop of food unless you sing.

Below are clips of purisimas in Nicaragua:

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

The Museum and its Tiny Visitors

The Museum of Natural History, not only a popular tourist attraction of the city, is the magnet of schools. Students, hundreds, gather some days in the week for three hours to absorb as much information as possible with the time allotted. My mission was to get to document this. The delicate subject of attaining photos of children, will be problematic, as photos will be a sensitive entity. Requesting permission as delicately as possible, the Education Department was a blessing to me, allowing me to shadow various Teaching Volunteers around the museum.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketPhoto Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket Buses are not taken to the garage of the museum, as neighbors complained about the amount of noise that used to occur when the buses used to park out front. On this particular day, there was an expected number of 70 buses arriving to the museum.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket The Teaching Volunteers in this photo are the people who take different carts representing different halls (North American Mammals, African Mammals, Ocean Life) in the museum where students will travel to. On this particular, instead of being assigned to different halls like they normally are, because the program that normally shows the schedule was not working, the volunteers were given the hall of their choice. "You can tell a lot about a person from what hall they use," one of the leaders joked when people would take their time to think very carefully about where they would be teaching. After their meeting, one of the leaders gave a tour of the meteorite room, a sort of orientation, about things the volunteers could mention when showing the room to students.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketPhoto Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket Before the students, teachers, visiting parents can enter the museum on their own, they must wait in the designated areas. This below photo was one of the first batches of groups to arrive, each section was filled at least ten minute was after the photo was taken.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Donna Sethi, who seemed to be my guide, like the missionary was to those who went to study the Yanomami, showed me the ropes of how things are run. She believes that the museum is more kid-friendly than other museums (MoMa, the Met) which she does admit are completely different experiences. In the Lower Level where students meet, there are various trays and boxes where schools places the children's lunch into, so that they won't have to carry them around. A lunchroom has been built (as shown above) where the students can eat at lunchtime.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Monday, November 19, 2007

Ethnographic Film Project

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

An interview with the director from "The Birthday"

Since it was brought up in class how necessary it was for the story to know more about the director in order to understand the film more thoroughly I found an interview with the Negin Kiafar:

n 1976, Ayatollah Khomeini, imposed a fatwa to allow people with hormonal disorders to change sex if they wished, because the Koran doesn't say anything on the subject. Transsexuals don't have to fear prosecution and they even can change their birth certificates. But the challenge is the traditional, religious Iranian society in which the transsexuality is still concerned as a disease.

The Birthday follows a young man who decides to become a woman. His conservative parents try to come to terms with their son’s decision and after a lot of discussions they accept the new sexual identity of their son, who already had a boyfriend before the operation.

“The Birthday” is a film which offers a window into a world we rarely see from an Islamic society.

Shohreh Jandaghian –To begin, Please tell about you and your path towards filmmaking.
Negin Kianfar – I was born on1969 in Tehran and have studied cinema in Art university of Tehran, majoring in film direction. I work as a dubbing actress for feature and documentary projects for IRIB (Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting) and private section since 1367. I am also painter and had 2 years course under supervision of master Aidin Aghdashlou and participated in many exhibitions at the Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art. Also one of my paintings is purchased by the same museum.

Shohreh – Is “The Birthday” your first documentary?
Negin – I made some short films and some more like experimental stuff but The Birthday is my first long documentary.

Shohreh – What was your motivation for making a documentary about Transsexuality?
Negin – I was working with Daisy Mohr, my partner in the film, who is a print journalist, on many different subjects and we crossed this topic and I thought not just the transexuality but the gender crises and identity crises is an issue in the whole world. And I was amazed by my first character to change his life to be able to experience the feminine side of the life in the society which is not the best for women. The other reason was that I found doing sex-change is allowed by the law but it’s not socially accepted and in general talking about sex issues is a big taboo in the society in which I live and I decided to break this taboo.

Shohreh – You mean it is legal to carry out gender reassignment surgery in Iran?
Negin – It is legal but the procedure is quiet difficult and takes long time, because the judge has to be sure that the case is not homosexual because authorities consider homosexuality as a disease and they are not accepted by the law or even the society. And that was another thing which amazed me and inspired me to work on this subject.

Shohreh – For a traditional male-dominant society like Iranians’, which case is less acceptable: male-to-female transsexual or vice versa?
Negin – Male to female is less accepted because we’ve heard a lot through the history like Mard-e-zan nama ( man with female appearance) or female like behaviour, and it’s shame and funny remark, but the other way around is more accepted because they considered as shir-zan (brave as a lion) and it’s a compliment. I think I explained this reason very explicit in the film when Afshin’s brother talks about his sister’s childhood.

Shohreh – What major problems do Transsexuals face in Iran?
Negin – They are not accepted by society, neighbores, family, relatives and etc. And they cannot get a job. Even police officers or moral police forces are not informed of their situation and rights.

Shohreh – Then it shouldn’t be so easy to get in contact with them.
Negin – we did few weeks research and found big group of them and ended up in the clinic and finally found our film characters up there.
It was difficult to persuade them to be present in front of the camera at the beginning but during the research we built up the trust and they got convinced that this film inform the society to break this taboo and send the message.

Shohreh – What were some of the biggest challenges you faced in developing the project?
Negin – Convincing the family to be in front of the camera the first day (just the first day), bringing out Saye and Afshin (two of the transsexuals) together because they preferred to not to come outside. And the most difficult part was getting in to the clinic and waiting room and the surgery room and all the permitions.

Shohreh – You’ve directed the film with Daisy More. Could you tell a bit about your co-directing and how it went?
Negin – It was a very good experience but more difficult for me because she couldn’t speak Farsi and I had to translate everything for her to be able to follow the lines and it was heavy job for me because I had to talk to my characters and build the friendship at the same time and sometimes it was complicated situation and no time for translation. But we agreed on everything and never had a problem during the work.

Shohreh – Could you go into a bit of detail about the production of the film?
Negin – Daisy and I paid for everything and then at the later stage Columnfilm joined us for postproduction and finding a broadcaster.

Shohreh – How about Iranian audiences’ reaction towards the film?
Negin – The film has not shown for public yet but different group of people watched it in private sessions and I received great feed backs. They all loved the film and the characters and were surprised how close camera got to their private life and how open they had been in front of the camera. I had a request from Shahid beheshti University to show the film for anthropology‘s class.
And a prestigious Iranian art magazine (The Seven) had a review and critic for 5 pages and it dragged lots of attention.

Shohreh – What about your upcoming project?
Negin – It’s going to be a film about Religion and Relationship.
Shohreh – I can’t wait to see that! Good luck with it!

Margaret Meade Film Festival

Although there is no direct link between the Judith MacDougall film, "The Art of Regret" and the Iranian film "The Birthday" there is an ethnographic quality that it embodies, being viewed at the Margaret Meade Film Festival in November.

The first film by Judith MacDougall, "The Art of Regret" was a film of how photos are method of capturing life and yet as this technique revolutionizes constantly the capturing seems to be almost becoming fictitious. MacDougall travels to Hong Kong, where not only is it increasing faster every year a technological center to catch up with its neighbors, China and Japan, it is losing the antique taste that it once had.

Photos can be easily manipulated for customers would go to the mall and want to have a good laugh. Something one would think would be taken lightly not seriously. However, as for a young boy, it was amazing to see how something simple in changing his original wardrobe and making him appear like a girl, disturbed him greatly.

Yet there is still a struggle of conserving the antique and memory of what Hong Kong once was. As can be seen in the exhibit by a photographer, there are those that want preserve this antiquity. The exhibit contained old and new photos of different years of the same spots in Hong Kong.

There was this notion of truth that photographs has a criteria of fulfilling. There was a question asked: If the image, that the camera is capturing, is falsified then does that make the image false? In my opinion I would have to say that yes, it is false. Because the photo is no longer in its original place, then this manipulation that takes place in the photo editing falsifies the true image that was captured.

As discovering the true image goes, "The Birthday" had this theme. The film takes the controversial issue of transsexuals in Iran. Two couples are followed in the film and we see how they deal with their new gender roles. It is acceptable for a woman to change to a man, but were it to be the other way, then that would be deemed unacceptable by Iranian society.

It was interesting to see just what an attraction the Margaret Meade Film Festival is, and it was pleasure to have an experience to watch an ethographic film outside of class.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007


Monday's viewing of Jean Rouch's "Jaguar" was an example of how easily an ethnographer can manipulate the naivete of the audience member.

The main idea of the film follows the three friends from Niger, Lam Ibhraim, Illo, Damore Zika. Some moments, especially the introduction can be rather corny and comical. One instance is when the three friends are attempting to cross the border without their passports. At the same time you can't believe the dialogue that is occurring on screen and yet the comments on the police is very true. When the character went towards the police hut what he said was very simple, something like "Ok so now I'm going to the Police hut" and then how he was thrown around the levels of authority in the mere proximity of the gate to the city. And the comment that the character gives and his idea that police are useless and can easily trick them by merely walking behind the hut.

What I found to be interesting was the choice to do voice overs rather than subtitles. The voice overs is what did not validate the film for me.

Besides the aspect that the film was a sort of message of the responsibilities that a young man owes to himself to grow up. By leaving town they go to look for food and the film makes the messages that it is a coming of age tale.

The movie trails through a sort of parody like method with story telling.

But the good thing about the film was that it didn't carry a serious tone like most of the other films that we've seen.

Ethnographic Surrealism

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Life is a madness.

Andre Breton, realized that there is that aspect that is normally ignored. In his "Manifesto of Surrealism" (1924) Breton mentions that the slight madness in our actions is in an "incarceration to a tiny number of legally reprehensible acts..." (Breton). Surrealists have a mission to reveal a "madness that one locks up" (Breton). However strange that Breton is defending the insane calling them "victims of their imagination." And with this acceptance to take this mission Breton wrote "On no account will [they] view them as his salvation."

For some reason it makes to have a surrealistic method of filming life. Most of what we see in our everyday life will oddly misconstrued into our subconscious. In James Clifford's essay "On Ethnographic Surrealism" he wrote, "An ethnographic surrealist practice, by contrast, attacks the familiar, provoking the irruption of otherness--the unexpected" (Clifford 145).This can best be expressed in the film "Un Chien Andalou." The film practically places a blitzkrieg of attacks--that within each new frame there is a new image that does not connect to the previous and will not connect to the future image. Yet in the film there is a possibility to analyze and see a plausible message of life in it. The general idea being, responsibility, love, and loss.

Continuing forth with the text Clifford wrote, "At issue is the loss of a disruptive and creative play of human categories and differences, an activity that does not simply display and comprehend the diversity of cultural orders but openly expects, allows, indeed desires its own disorientation" (140). I can agree with this according to art and in the procrastination of life. The first aspect art, was explained through the author Chuck Palahnuik, when I saw him speak once. He explained that his best writing came through sleep deprivation and moments of disorientation. For some students, in the second aspect, disorientation is when their mind can think the clearest.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

The Shock of the Real

The gun shots, the crying of women, the hustle of police clanging with their gear to the scene--this is a shock of the real.

Beatriz Jaguarbe's essay "The Shock of the Real" recalls what she believes shock to fall under. Jaguarbe wrote that shock of the real is a "specific representation on the unwritten narrative and visual imagery that unleashes an intense, dramatic discharge that distabilizes notions of reality itself" (Jaguarbe 70).

This can be best seen in the haunting film about a bus hijacking, "Bus 174." The shock Jaguarbe wrote is a "breakdown of representation by events so large or so unexpected in dimension that htey momentarily spress conceptual coinage of the 'shock of the real;' rapes, murders, muggings, fights..." (70).

Sandro de Nascimiento, as the film points out, was another one of the victims of favelas in the city of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Because violence is such a central part of this city, not necessarily wanted nor is it the only thing involved culturally with Brazilian life, it still has made an impact on how the poor live. Children are forced to live on streets and band together to survive. Most of them will get into drugs. The ethnographic authority in this film gave the voice very much to everyone involved in the scene as much as possible.

The shock of this film was that Sandro's deep disturbance that no one, not even his Tia could remove from having lost his mother at such a young age. Yet at the root of it, the filmed repeatedly to how Sandro could not truly shoot anyone, and how one of the bus survivors recounted that she didn't believe that he would shoot anyone.

Jaguarbe wrote, "[Shock of the real] unleashes a cathartic release but contrary to the response elicited by Greek tragedies or romantic poetry. The catharic element here does not necessarily here does not necessarily wish to provoke the classic sentiment of compassion or pity" (page 70).

From Nichol's essay one of the three methods of realism; empirical realism, was probably the most present in the film. Every side from the police, to the victim (kidnapped in the bus, who kidnapped the bus) every side of the story was told as exhaustedly as possible. The psychological realism of the film was what the people who knew Sandro what they could best defer was going on in his mind, once again leading to his run with violence with and without the police.

Lorang's Way, a less violent film about a man who gained success through his many wives and livestock.The film was very muc life under toned reality life show. People came into his home and wanted to film and he gladly obliged. Yet the element of story telling is very imminent in the movie.

As for realism, I was slightly confused by Nichol's interpretation of realism in teh literary sense making it sound very naked and bare without much feeling that he pushed towards when defining it in the cinematic sense.

The Warriors and the Alligator

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket  height=

It is a delicate process to take one specific group of people that has continued their way of living for many years, without very much alteration to their rituals and government form and show them to the world without having to take a bias of some sort when representing them on film. If one decides to take the route of of Chagnon, with a highly reputable name no one or rather almost no one except that of John Tierney will question your calling the tribe a vicious people for thirst of violence.

I thought it was interesting the outing of Chagnon's manipulation of the Yanomami. In a word, the journalistic review was his exposure of sensationalism, similar to yellow journalism. One creates controversy because they believed that no one will want to read it unless it has sex and blood it. After all isn't that what makes Hollywood. I doubt Chagnon was looking for a contract to make his film a blockbuster hit in the summer though.

When previewed in class the movie "The Ax Fight" directed by Napoleon Chagnon, was intersting that Chagnon decided to go back so many times to show how many times the situation can be altered.

Chagnon wrote this in "Yanomamo: The Fierce People" as his first encounter with the Yanomami:

I looked up and gasped when I saw a dozen burly, naked, sweaty, hideous men staring at us down the shafts of their drawn arrows! Immense wads of green tobacco were stuck between their lower teeth and lips making them look even more hideous, and strands of dark-green slime dripped or hung from their nostrils--strands so long that they clung to their pectoral muscles or drizzled down their chins"
(Chagnon 10).

After this Chagnon proceeds to describe a series of rather chaotic events that took place during his visit. The reader can only assume that they are vicious people from his account of their living style. I believe this is what Juan Downey was making a sarcastic response to.

Juan Downey's film "The Laughing Alligator" was borderline humorous and disturbing. As an attempt to lift the serious face of ethnographic film. The amusing thing about Downey's film is during the forest scene when he is walking with two other Yanomami men, both who are carrying gun. Setting the audience into this mood and making everything completely serious as he stands wondering whether or not the Yanomami man is going to shoot at him. The actions that the man takes by faking a shot, shows that they are perfectly capable of understanding the outside world and know what occurs in it.

They are not childish people that Chagnon may have them appear to be, who only crave violence among their people. There was a manipulation of events that occurred in "The Ax Fight" for some reason that fight was no different than some arguments I have seen occur in life time. The only difference was they weren't speaking a language similar to ours.

In light of the tomfoolery, the film "Warriors of the Amazon," shed some positive light on the Yanomami as people who merely exist from day to day. They are shown in an almost positive light, like that of Lizot, who's writing was almost trying to paint the most picture perfect account.

Vertov and the Cinema Eye

Eisenstein wrote in "Methods of Montage" that in order for the correct "pulsing" (p.73) between the film and audience there had to be an exact measurement of the mise-en-scene. If there was an "overcomplexity" then a "distinct emotional tension" would arise from the audience. Throughout the essay Eisenstein mentions the four different methods of montage--metric, rhythmic, tonal, overtonal--become constructions when each works together with one another.

This method for Eisentstien could not been seen as an achievement in Dziga Vertov's film, "Man with a Movie Camera" (1928). Vertov, in this film, decided to record the daily occurrences of life in Moscow from dawn to dusk. As the film progress it starts with silence, which if thought about could be like sleep, where everything is silent and as the audience walks towards their seats, they are ready to "start the show" or rather ready to wake up. Vertov starts with regular things like waking up and getting ready. The montage of images throughout the film, especially with the impressive images of factory work; from machine to human and from machine to their hands and showing how quickly each one moves was extremely impressive.

The movement throughout the film was as speedy as most silent films were back then. But the interesting thing that Vertov did was the juxtaposition of images, how the whole flow of the movie went through. Everything was seen in the eye of a camera eye. Another creative aspect was the movement of the camera itself with the montage of the audiences faces, who were entertained by a camera moving about by itself.

At the time that the movie was released, it did not receive high acclaim, especially from Eisenstein who disappointed by how slowly things progressed rather than with his method of montage time that a mise-en-scene film should move at. However, in the essay "From Magician to Epistemologist," edited by Adam Sitney, Vertov's film is seen as highly misunderstood, as most films are in their day. The film is compared with that of James Joyce's "Ulysses" a lengthy, complicated and confusing work of literary genius. This the author argued was what brought thinking up to a new level, and believed that Vertov did so as well.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Phillip Kim: The Golden Boy

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket
California is home to many a laid back person. But when searching the streets of the sunburst state, especially in Southern California, particularly that of Los Angeles, there are few young adults that can truly astound you. I came across my subject Phillip Kim a year ago in a Journalism class. What shocked me the most was Phillip’s unrestrained mannerisms. He approached purely out of the blue and could make a conversation out of anything, and turn it into something meaningful. He is always looking to talk about something meaningful. Yet there are other times and sometimes it can be very dangerous when he wants to joke around.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

We continued to converse throughout the year and everyday was a new experience from him. Phillip has always dreamt of going to New York and plans on transferring here for school in the Spring. He mainly wants to come to New York to “move out of his parents’ house.” But from what I have observed, this place would be a perfect palette for the world that he has created for himself.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

I believe that he attained this trait from having grown up in Sao Paulo, Brazil. It's a pretty difficult thing for people to let go of their fears and live life purely by instinct and the variety of moment. My friend Phillip Kim is an example of fearless living. Everyone back home knows him as the extremely lucky kid, the Golden Boy, the boy who could do wrong but with very good reason.

There were moments throughout the year that Phillip had surprised me completely. For instance when visiting the Bay area of San Francisco, I had turned around for a second and when I turned around Phillip had grabbed a rope and was trying to swing himself. I immediately thought to myself at how unstable the young man was.

When visiting in New York, he brought along his camera with him to go on many of his well-known “photo adventures.” Anyone who knows Phillip knows that he will always carry around his Nikon camera with him. And anyone who knows him even better that if you begin to pick up a conversation with, it will some how lead to photography, since he has on many an occasion professed it as his passion.

One would think that he would be the regular hipster if they saw him outside Starbucks in his green apron ( since he works there) sipping coffee and smoking cigarettes. However, once during a silly conversation gone serious, he asked what sort of category he thought that I believed he fell under. After regarding him, I took him for more of a surfer bum. He was surprised, since that was the first time anyone had ever called him that. and then thought to himself and agreed with me.

Usually over lunches we will try to get to know each other since we were only acquainted with each other for a year. He will usually ask me about my life. Phillip is always interested in what other people like and will stem his conversation on that. The last time I saw him he claimed that he was becoming a vegetarian. About a week after that he was eating meat again.

It is amazing that Phillip lives in the dull city of La Canada, CA, a very suburban city about 45 minutes away from Downtown Los Angeles with good traffic or speeding. Surprisingly with the fast paced way that Phillip lives, he is an extremely slow driver.

He has a vast knowledge of music thanks to who his sister who is an executive for a music company, I can never remember which one. When speaking he doesn’t realize that his Brazilian accent will slip out from time to time. He likes to crack jokes at inappropriate and appropriate times.

For the grief that he bestows on people sometimes as a bit of a slacker and a bit of flake, anyone friends with him or knowing of him that when given the chance to spend time with him, it is a time to do anything you want because he won’t object to anything, except if it will involve some sort of violence.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Off the Grid: Life in the Mesa

I came across this particular film and I think it could fall under ethnographic film because of the "tribe" that it is being documented from the deserts of New Mexico. It's a group of families out on the desert that do not have much food and set up a practically "no moral" standard for living. Yet at the same time they believe that violence is a way a of bringing justice. However there may not be much of an ethnographic authority on the filmmakers part because it appears that subjects have more say in what happens with what is show with anything.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

A Day in the Life of a Food Junkie

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Monday, September 17, 2007

Mead versus MacDougall

Ethnographic Authority

Authority, fieldworkers are given the opportunity and have the power to show their subjects in light they wish to portray them. Some people could prefer to show everyone that anything outside the Western world is a savage, and some could prefer that anything outside the Western world is struggling to live.

When considering who had the best intentions of portraying cultures in the truest form, the MacDougalls are more likely to be regarded in a better light than Margaret Mead.

In James Clifford's Predicament of Culture, he outlines six points of authority that existed before contemporary theorists created new guidelines for portraying the subject.

Margaret Mead/Bateson's "Trance and Dance in Bali" can be identified the closest to the fourth
and sixth points. The fourth contains an "inventory of customs and beliefs." Instead of studying the tribe as a whole she decided to portray one aspect on film the ritual dance of a witch and a dragon. Her narrative throughout the movie is one of an adult speaking to a child. The natives are rarely if not even heard from at all throughout the film. From Mead's narration one cannot gather that the tribe even had a say in how they were portrayed. Which brings up point six; short-research activity. From what was heard in the movie it could have been just as easy for Mead to travel to Bali film ritual and return back home dubbing over the narration without any communication whatsoever.

David and Judith MacDougall's film on the Turkana tribe brings up the point of experience versus interpretation. Unlike Mead, the MacDougalls gave the Turkana tribe a voice, from letting them speak to the camera to holding the camera. They participated with them, initiated conversation, learned their language and acquired knowledge. To erase any assumptions that the Turkana might be confused by the cameras was not apparent in the film. The MacDougalls show us that we can think they're weird for piercing their bodies so much just so much as they think Westerners cars are funny looking.

Visually the MacDougalls tell us more. They go with them as they find the homes. They sit with the people and converse the leaders. The leaders who are wise are willing to tell the MacDougalls and the audience anything they wish to hear. Through their movie other cultures are given life. Mead gives life too, a bit more dramatic and staged, which was normal for back then. We are talking about a generation in which when the first movie was shown, everyone ran away from the screen because they thought that a train was actually moving towards their seats.

Now what I think is slightly overlooked, the difference between Mead/Bateson and the MacDougalls is the time. Just because someone is a scientist of natural history does not mean that they will be completely free of prejudice. Her remarks are just as likely as the MacDougalls giving the Turkanas the camera. It is a matter of time. Distant people in distant lands have always been thought of as savages. But now of course, no one should make that remark because we know better.