Friday, May 4, 2012

It's not the camera that does the looking

I attended a presentation of films from the student workshop of the Etnofilm festival in Rovinj, Croatia yesterday. Organized by the Ethnographic Museum of Istria, the workshop ran for 6 days, and most students had been up most of the previous night doing final editing. A week earlier, they had been given the task of finding a theme to document somewhere in the town of Rovinj, to gain the acceptance of the people they wanted to film, to do a series of different types of filming during a three day period, then edit the material into a maximum length of three minutes. The final products were about a shoe repair man, local fishermen, a public toilet, a souvenir shop, preparations for a memorial event, and life on a residential street. The instructor of the workshop, Alan Grossman, said that "It's not the camera that does the looking, but the person behind the lens", and further that the aim of the workshop was not to make films for the public, but rather as an exercise in collaborating with informants and colleagues, seeing what goes on in social situations, learning techniques and working with limited resources. Following the screening of the Rovinj films, Drago Zuparic-Illjic presented 5 films made by students of last year's Central European University workshop in Anthropological Film. "Time to csángó" (above) was one of them, on the music and dance of the Moldovian Csángó minority living in Budapest - as well as their fans. The philosophy of CUE was similar to that of the Rovinj workshop, where each film team had to do all research, filming and editing during the workshop period. However, instead of having only 6 days to finish their work, the CEU students had three weeks. They were also given a time limit of ten minutes. Workshops in this style can be an excellent way to learn about documenting intangible aspects of life - and how visual media might complement the more text oriented techniques otherwise utilized in academia.

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