Culture reflected through the camera lens

The second Anthropological Film Festival in J'lem offers a fascinating lineup of ethnographic films.

November 26, 2012 21:17
3 minute read.
DIETER AUNER’S Off the Beaten Track.

Off the Beaten Track 370. (photo credit: courtesy/PR)


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No genre of film has emerged stronger over the past decade than the documentary, and documentaries are a wonderful way to preserve, share and illuminate anthropological research. So those interested in the field – or anyone who enjoys a well-crafted documentary – will be excited about the Second Anthropological Film Festival which will take place at the Jerusalem Cinematheque from November 27-29.

More than 20 films will be shown, and author and cultural anthropologist Mary Catherine Bateson, daughter of the famous anthropologist Margaret Mead, will be the festival’s special guest. Bateson will present a collection of short films by her parents, Margaret Mead and Gregory Bateson, on the subject of culture and personality, that were made as part of their research in the Thirties.

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In addition, two new films on the subject from Scotland and Ethiopia will be shown.

All the films will focus on the development of personality in the childhood years, and will be introduced by Bateson. In a separate program, she will present the film The Bastard Sings the Sweetest Song, about an elderly alcoholic woman in Guyana, directed by Christy Garland.

The festival is a collaborative project of the Jerusalem Film Center and the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. The brainchild of documentary filmmakers Ada Ushpiz (Desert Brides and many other films) and Nurit Kedar (whose films include Bettone, about the Cast Lead operation in Gaza in 2009), the festival is designed to help promote documentary filmmaking with an ethnographic orientation and to reflect the complexities of life in all kinds of communities all over the world. The documentaries are recent and will all be followed by a Q & A session with academics and writers.

The films are from all over the world and cover a wide range of topics. The opening event will be a screening of Sunday in Brazzaville, a look at a day of music and joy in the Congolese capital, directed by Enric Bach and Adria Mones. The opening program will feature a performance by System Ali, a hip-hop ensemble that performs in Hebrew, Arabic, Russian and English that was founded in a bomb shelter in the Ajami neighborhood of Jaffa.

Dance with the Wodaabes, directed by Sandrine Loncke, is a look at traditional ritual war dances among Nigerian tribes.


Manuela Bastian’s Pink Struggle tells the story of a self-educated mother of five in rural India who formed a group of women who dress in pink saris and protect their communities against injustice and crimes committed by the police and the privileged.

Acclaimed novelist Aharon Appelfeld will introduce Dieter Auner’s Off the Beaten Track, a film about shepherds in Transylvania whose traditional lifestyle is threatened by the complexity of modern economic reality.

Other films deal with the tension between tradition and modernity. Aleksei Vakhrushev’s The Tundra Book: A Tale of Vukvukai, the Little Rock, is about a family of nomadic herders living on eastern Russia’s tundra peninsula who cope with climate change, harsh conditions and the lure of the big cities for their young people.

Julia Meltzer and Laura Nix’s The Light in Her Eyes is about the first school for teaching the Koran to women and girls in Damascus.

Sasha Friedlander’s Where Heaven Meets Hell is about miners working in volcanic sulfur mines in Indonesia and trying to preserve their health and sanity.

Little Heaven, directed by Lieven Corthouts, tells the story of a young girl in Ethiopia infected with AIDS, who struggles to understand what this means for her and her future.

Dan Reed’s Children of the Tsunami examines the stories of 74 children from one school who were killed in the 2011 tsunami in Japan, and focuses on the impact this tragedy has had on their community.

To find out more details about the festival, order tickets and view clips from the films, go to the Jerusalem Cinematheque Website at

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