The Seventh International Festival of Ethnographic Film
All screenings are at the Texas Union and are free of charge.
Fri, April 27"Quand Les Hommes Pleurent"
Every year, 30,000 Moroccans float across the Straits of Gibraltar in boats and on rafts trying to get into Spain. While 1,000 drown and 14,000 are arrested and sent back, half of them take up difficult lives in Spain and other parts of Europe. (6pm, 57 min.)
"A Month in the Life of Ephtim D"
A 73-year-old Bulgarian pensioner reminisces about the good old days of Communist rule. "Democracy" and market forces have not necessarily brought a better life to people in formerly socialist countries. Director Asen Balikci will speak after screening. (7:15pm, 56 min.)
Sat, April 28Of Men and Mares
Some Dutch farmers prefer to continue working the land with their horses rather than tractors. This is the only film in the festival containing a warning that some scenes might not be suitable for children, but festival committee member Elizabeth Fernea believes the film will be of particular interest to horse-loving Texans. (11:30am, 90 min.)
"100 Years: Greenland on Film"
A fascinating study of the representation of Inuit Eskimos in 100 years of ethnographic and narrative films. Many of the current issues in anthropology are laid bare by considering how this culture has been represented and misrepresented in film. The same could be done with any body of ethnographic material, but this seems to be the first. (1pm, 60 min.)
This film, more documentary than ethnography, discovers a pair of relatively uplifting stories within a highly unlikely place -- Domov ("Home"), a combined women's prison, nursing home, and convent in Prague. Women of all ages have been sentenced to this institution, the young for criminal offenses and the old for their age and illnesses. The film offers some hope of new "homes" providing new pleasures. (2pm, 38 min.)
"Dhiava -- the Autumn Journey"
Every autumn the Anthoulis brothers lead their sheep from the Pindos Mountains in the northwest corner of Greece to the plains of Thessaly. By the mid-Nineties, nearly all their neighbors were transporting their animals by truck, but these three Vlachs continued the way of their forefathers -- guiding their 1,800 sheep on a 10-to-12-day journey across a beautiful, contemplative landscape. British anthropologist Tim Salmon recorded this journey prior to the day when laws, encroaching farmland, and highways will force even traditionalists to cram their sheep into trucks and unimaginatively shorten the trip. (3pm, 50 min.)
"Oyakata: The Master"
Some cultures are being quickly destroyed, not just by invading armies, but also by the bloodless and relentless forces of a global marketplace. Such is the fate of traditional crafts in ultramodern Tokyo. Swiss filmmaker Ava Domenig presents Sakaba Kei, a master woodcarver who specializes in creating Buddhist altars and other graceful floral carvings. Though he sees himself as an artist, not a businessman, he sits in a shopping mall and carves pieces to attract the attention of consumers. The film ultimately states that machine-made products will soon replace all Japanese handcrafts. The world will be poorer for that. (4pm, 37 min.)
A beautiful meditation on Shi'a Muslim Muharram rites on the Caribbean island of Trinidad. Participants of differing religions help prepare the ritual dance and parade. (5pm, 42 min.)
Dongba priests of a Tibeto-Burmese community in China are contacted by a researcher who hopes to convince them of his desire to help preserve the Dongba culture. (6pm, 32 min.)
"The Bride Who Wouldn't Smile"
A young Vietnamese-American couple are posing for wedding photos. One small problem arises -- the bride won't give the Chinese-American photographer the toothy smile he insists upon and which comes so easily to the groom. The artist is relentless in his pursuit of this smile, but by the time the bride shows her teeth, the groom's smile has diminished. (7pm, 8 min.)
Divorce Iranian Style
This film was the first-prize winner at the RAI Ethnographic Film Festival in 2000. The film is described as follows: "Hilarious, tragic, stirring, this fly-on-the-wall look at several weeks in an Iranian divorce court provides a unique window into the intimate circumstances of Iranian women's lives." (7:15pm, 80 min.)
Sun, April 29Bridewealth for a Goddess
The beautiful woman tells Ru Kundil that she has come to marry him. Upon awakening he realizes that he has been visited by Amb Kor, the goddess of fertility and prosperity. As a leader of his clan in Papua New Guinea, Ru calls upon ritual leaders and clansmen to help prepare for this symbolic marriage with a powerful spirit. Once the ritual acts begin, an enormous wave of male energy sweeps over the participants, and the sight is unforgettable. Anthropologist Andrew Strathern, who has known Ru Kundil since 1964, was part of all the complex preparations. (noon, 72 min.)
"A Mysterious Death"
In a village in southern Ghana, an army electrician named Kotey suddenly dies, but he cannot be buried until the undertakers are certain he did not die from a curse. So the spirits of ancestors and of Kotey himself are summoned to reveal the cause of his death. As weeks pass, fractures within the family structure become apparent and must be acknowledged. Only then can Kotey be safely prepared for burial. This is a thoroughly fascinating ethnographic study of the effect that one person's death can have on an extended family and village. (1pm, 50 min.)
See "Nuba Conversations" (2pm, 53 min.)
A civil war is raging in Sudan between a coalition of Christian and animist rebels from the south and the federal Islamic government of the north. Neutral Nuba tribes seemed safely removed from the battles as they tended cattle and goats in their mountainous homeland, where Arthur Howes filmed the lyrical "Kafi's Story" in 1989. Although he promised to return to show his subjects the completed work, the writer-director was repeatedly refused entry into the country because of his pro-Nuba stance. Ten years later he sneaked back into the country and was horrified at the changes he found. Initially siding with neither rebels nor government, the Nuba had been attacked by federal soldiers, their villages burned, while their elderly, young boys, and men were forcibly conscripted into the army, their children kidnapped, farmlands peppered with land mines, and cattle stolen and eaten. Howes' skillful weaving of images from "Kafi's Story" with overwhelming present realities of the Nuba shows the cultural and physical genocide of a proud, beautiful people, all too reminiscent of other examples of "ethnic cleansing," including our own historic horrors. (3pm, 55 min.)
Vietnamese-American M. Trinh Nguyen travels to the Mekong Delta to visit her great-uncle Trinh Vinh Khiem, famous for healing various tumors with an ancient herbal-mineral compound. Nguyen observes her uncle's patients improve, even recover, from invading growths. But when she seeks scientific understanding from more Westernized Vietnamese doctors, they are hostile toward any kind of folk medicine. This documentary provides another wonderful, but disturbing, example of folk wisdom on the verge of being lost forever in the name of "progress." (4:30pm, 57 min.)
"Earl's Canoe: A Traditional Ojibwe Craft"
The making of a birch canoe in Wisconsin by Earl Nyholm leads to a meditation on the respect for nature felt by Ojibwe people. (5:45pm, 27 min.)
American Gypsy: Stranger in Everybody's Land
A people without a country for 1,000 years, gypsies (Romá) are still misunderstood wherever they live. Because they have refrained from extended contact with the outside world, Indian-American director Jasmine Dellal was continually frustrated in her attempts to study the culture. That is, until she met Jimmie Marks of Spokane, Wash., who (controversially) wanted his people's story filmed to counter the lies, suspicions, and ignorant assertions Romá are subjected to. Film footage, home movies, telephone messages, photos, TV news programs, interviews, and Dellal's own comments and uncertainties are beautifully woven together as she presents one man's view of his family and people. Director Dellal will attend the screening. (7pm, 79 min.)