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11/13/2014

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THE INTERSECTION OF PSYCHOLOGICAL ANTHROPOLOGY WITH
ETHNOGRAPHIC FILM

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11/13/2014

Why I make ethnographic films (instead of writing a monograph…) | Psycho Cultural Cinema

BY ROBE RT LE ME LS ON( H T T P : / / P S Y CH OCU LT U RALCI N E M A.COM / AU T H OR/ LE M E LS ON / )

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ANTHROP OLOGY ( H T T P : / / P S Y CH OCU LT U RALCI N E M A.COM / CAT E G ORY / AN T H ROP OLOG Y / )

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NOVE MBE R 1 5 , 2 0 1 3

WHY I MAKE
ETHNOGRAPHIC FILMS
(INSTEAD OF WRITING A
MONOGRAPH…)

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to much broader ones of historical impulse and political purpose. less loaded. one of the reasons I make films is because it is social and fun. In thinking about the inaugural post for this blog I asked myself a related question: “why do I make ethnographic films?” I will follow one of Orwell’s leads as to why he writes (and by extension why I make films)—the sense of enjoyment .com/why-i-make-ethnographic-films-instead-of-writing-a-monograph/ 4/24 . http://psychoculturalcinema.” Orwell. from personal ones such as sheer egotism and aesthetic enthusiasm.11/13/2014 Why I make ethnographic films (instead of writing a monograph…) | Psycho Cultural Cinema O rwell was once asked by his editor to address the question “why I write. As anyone who has ever slogged through the muddled and tortuous intellectual process of writing a dissertation knows. anthropological research—but more specifically writing—is a lonely (or perhaps.com/wp­content/uploads/2013/11/orwell. One almost always writes alone. in his typically clear and direct manner. by oneself.jpg) Geo rg e Orwel l Starting with the mundane and personal. one derives from creating films. listed a range of reasons. (http://psychoculturalcinema. aesthetic or otherwise. “solitary”) endeavor.

If one is lucky.11/13/2014 Why I make ethnographic films (instead of writing a monograph…) | Psycho Cultural Cinema with only intermittent interactions with others. and at times difficult to get (as anyone who has ever pestered a reluctant committee member can attest to). and there are many instances where one has to slog away at transcription and translation of the video material. group endeavor. and in today’s digital world. ethnographic film is a much. one may have the intermittent (and expensive) help of an editor. when compared with the solitary task of the typical ethnographer. Ethnographic film is frequently (and for those who are successful. http://psychoculturalcinema. not to mention the collaboration and interaction with the subjects of one’s filming. musicians. much more interactive and collaborative enterprise. but this is usually for quite specific purposes. almost always) a collaborative. One works throughout the process with cameramen. there is often no actual physical contact with one’s editor. who increasingly may take a role in the production itself. other production assistants. producers. start to finish. editors. Feedback is frequently limited. While lonely nights in the editing bay are commonplace.com/why-i-make-ethnographic-films-instead-of-writing-a-monograph/ 5/24 .

com/why-i-make-ethnographic-films-instead-of-writing-a-monograph/ 6/24 . S ep temb er 2 0 1 2 .com/wp­content/uploads/2013/11/20120902­MM2_9565.jpg) S h o o ti n g an i n tervi ew i n In d o n esi a. http://psychoculturalcinema.11/13/2014 Why I make ethnographic films (instead of writing a monograph…) | Psycho Cultural Cinema (http://psychoculturalcinema.

different. while we always engage our visual sense throughout our fieldwork. For example. In film one is often working with more of one’s senses. filming something in one’s fieldworks causes one to focus one’s attention and interests in new.org/wiki/American_Beauty_(film)) illustrates this point well. one is thinking cinematically. ethnographic film can be a very creative and aesthetic enterprise.g. can obscure what one sees.com/why-i-make-ethnographic-films-instead-of-writing-a-monograph/ 7/24 . and involves the sense of sight in multiple ways—from composing individual shots.” and in the complex puzzle that is an edit. to planning on a sequence of activities to shoot.wikipedia. Shooting itself (or if working with a cameraperson. in that films should. to finding beauty by forcing one to focus on what is (in another of Orwell’s phrases) “in front of one’s nose. is inherently visual.11/13/2014 Why I make ethnographic films (instead of writing a monograph…) | Psycho Cultural Cinema Along with being a much more social activity than typical anthropological fieldwork (and analysis and writeup). collaborating on shooting). psychological anthropology—but that http://psychoculturalcinema. first and foremost. and at times unexpected ways. attempt to tell their stories visually (not always an easy task with the subject matter we work with e. And this is just in the production stage. to understanding (and manipulating) light and the myriad ways light transforms. Throughout the post production/editing stage one is continually thinking “with one’s eyes.” I think this scene from the film American Beauty(http://en.

org/portfolio­item/memory­of­ my­face/)); 00:22 http://psychoculturalcinema.11/13/2014 Why I make ethnographic films (instead of writing a monograph…) | Psycho Cultural Cinema is the subject of another blog.com/why-i-make-ethnographic-films-instead-of-writing-a-monograph/ 8/24 . But it is not merely the technical aspects of getting usable and good recordings that is expanded during shooting and editing. it is what one is listening and attending to (or not): the clanging of a mental hospital’s lock wards doors (from Memory of My Face(http://elementalproductions. and reworked at times is hearing.) The other sense that is being extended. expanded. An ethnographic film can be won or lost on the basis of how good the sound recording is.

org/portfolio­item/the­bird­dancer/)) http://psychoculturalcinema.org/portfolio­item/40­years­of­ silence­an­indonesian­tragedy/)); 00:40 the everpresent smiles and accompanying laughter that covers deep shame and pain (from The Bird Dancer(http://elementalproductions.com/why-i-make-ethnographic-films-instead-of-writing-a-monograph/ 9/24 .11/13/2014 Why I make ethnographic films (instead of writing a monograph…) | Psycho Cultural Cinema the sobbing of a boy who feels he has lost everything (from 40 Years of Silence(http://elementalproductions.

the immediacy of the gestalt and context they occurred in would be hard to recapture without the scene itself being recorded on film. In the film Memory of My Face(http://elementalproductions. While most of the dialogue is (somewhat) intelligible in the film itself. While these would be available and observable in normal fieldwork. clever (but indisputably manic) verbal outpouring of the main character.com/why-i-make-ethnographic-films-instead-of-writing-a-monograph/ 10/24 . The footage was shot in a locked ward of a psychiatric hospital in Central Java. at the time of the conversation/interview I had almost no concept whatsoever of what he was talking about. there is an extended section focused around the extremely voluble. Bambang.11/13/2014 Why I make ethnographic films (instead of writing a monograph…) | Psycho Cultural Cinema 02:14 All of these and more come immediately to mind when I think of some of the discrete soundscapes in some of our films. funny. http://psychoculturalcinema.org/portfolio­item/memory­of­my­face/).

or even main.[1] (#_ftn1) Music plays a very important role if you decide to use a score. In addition. to produce the short (five minute) scene in the film. exegesis. consultation. in one’s films. understood.com/why-i-make-ethnographic-films-instead-of-writing-a-monograph/ 11/24 . I have been brought to tears on more than one occasion by music we have composed for http://psychoculturalcinema. took months of interpretation. working with music and soundtracks is one of the most pleasurable aspects of filmmaking. thing that one is filming in elements such as many performances. gesticulations. and interpreted the gestures. in ethnographic film music can play many roles. and release. postures. Most of our films use a soundtrack (how one does this is again the subject of another blog) but.11/13/2014 Why I make ethnographic films (instead of writing a monograph…) | Psycho Cultural Cinema 01:52 Untangling and interpreting the half­hour conversation. or a soundtrack. Other aspects of meaning would have been lost if we had not recorded it (and recorded it visually). music plays integral roles. Music is also another way in which ethnographic film can differ from traditional fieldwork. While most of us find enjoyment. ritual or artistic productions. in music throughout our fieldwork. and analysis. one must pay attention to music even if it is not the sole. Obviously if one is shooting many dramatic. and multiple interpersonal contexts in which this conversation (and performance) took place. some of the analysis only made sense if we included. In addition. for me personally.

01:49 http://psychoculturalcinema. his wife. are reflecting back on his illness and their marital relationships. Kereta and Made Ada. highlight and strengthen the points one is attempting to make in one’s films.com/why-i-make-ethnographic-films-instead-of-writing-a-monograph/ 12/24 .11/13/2014 Why I make ethnographic films (instead of writing a monograph…) | Psycho Cultural Cinema our films. is from Shadows and Illuminations(http://elementalproductions. greatly enhanced by the musical score. and the judicious and appropriate use of a score can support. where Mr. One of my favorite scenes.org/portfolio­item/shadows­and­illuminations/).

engaging of a variation of classic Freudian concept —“Condensation(http://www. This highly constructed scene is a precursor to the film. will understand the meaning you are creating. you have to do this within a (#) much more restricted space and time than in writing. completing the ngaben ceremony. this type being an offering given when there is no corpse. or in psychological anthropology “experience near” description are the operative terms. Filmmaking is in some ways almost the opposite.” who are knowledgeable or experts in the subject matter you are dealing with. and being able to layer and pack these meanings in a visual sense. symbolism. who was killed in 1966 and his body was never returned to the family. and “crafting” of a piece of writing. Writing is expansive and strives for completeness and holism. but there are some fundamental differences that distinguish and separate ethnographic filmmaking. But it is no ordinary offering. MORE STORI A simple example of this occurs towards the end of the opening credits in 40 Years of Silence. One is in the overall scope of the enterprise. The next jump cut is to the completed offering. as the body being memorialized in these shots were Degung’s father. In filmmaking. is really one of its pleasures as a scholar. one would need to have an even deeper understanding to recognize this as a banten. your sense of hearing will be utilized.com/why-i-make-ethnographic-films-instead-of-writing-a-monograph/ TOWARD AN INTEG OF PSYCHOLOGI 13/24 . expanded and sometimes tested in filmmaking in ways that normal fieldwork engages in a much more fragmentary. Having the picture of the deceased person possibly places it into a category of an banten pengulapan. finally. This is an example of a scene laden with multiple layers of meaning. It is also akin to creating a puzzle.html)”—where one tries to pack as many multi layered meanings.com psychocultural­cinema/ http://psychoculturalcinema. where the remains of the deceased are brought to the sea and cast in.11/13/2014 Why I make ethnographic films (instead of writing a monograph…) | Psycho Cultural Cinema So whether it is the multiple contexts in which your filming takes place.purdue. in a scene as possible. such as when someone is lost at sea. One of the joys of being a scholar is to craft meaning and understanding from material where this is not immediately apparent. Moving outwards from the sensory expansion that shooting and editing brings. disjointed. there are other levels of aesthetic and conceptual complexity that makes filmmaking inherently enjoyable. In ethnographic writing one attempts (within the bounds of word or page limits and the audience or venue one is writing for) to write comprehensively. imagery. and in great (or at least sufficient) detail. In some ways these parallel the analysis. and only those “who have eyes to see. subjective and experiential aspects of the stories themselves. a funeral offering given for the deceased. frameworks. A ceremony on the 40 th anniversary of his death in 2006 was conducted to. and discontinuous manner. but whose meaning is only evident to Balinese (or those knowledgeable about Balinese culture and ritual practice. or it is the specific human. At 3’55” there is a shot of hands working on some complex task involving flowers and bamboo.edu/english/theory/psychoanalysis/definitions/condensation. ritually mark his passing (and.) (http://psychoculturalcinema. in a cosmological sense. Again. The shot cuts to the making of (for those who have a basic understanding of Balinese culture) a sesajen. The final jump is the end of the nganyut ke pasih ceremony. allow his soul to reincarnate into his family lineage). or offering. “Thick” description. writeup.cla.

­C O M / _ / + 1 / C O N F I R M ? I­MAKE­ I­MAKE­ I­MAKE­ ETHNOGRAP HIC­ ETHNOGRAP HIC­ ETHNOGRAP HIC­ http://psychoculturalcinema.com/the FACE BOOK( H T T P : / / W TW WW I T. C O M / / P I N T E R E S T . S HARE ON: (http://psychoculturalcinema.” but the larger question of the place that films have. CEOR M =U /HW RT LH T=P Y H:­ /T/TPPS:Y/ C/ PH SOYCCUHL O T(C UHURTLATTLPU CSIR:NA/ E/L PM C LIAU N..COM/WH 14/24 .11/13/2014 Why I make ethnographic films (instead of writing a monograph…) | Psycho Cultural Cinema OF PSYCHOLOGI MEDICAL AND VI ANTHROPOLOG (HTTP://PSYCHOCULTUR PSYCHOCULTURAL­CI There is an opportunity for ps anthropology to break new groun with new ways of knowing and re to connect our… 00:13 There are many such scenes in all the films we have done.com/why-i-make-ethnographic-films-instead-of-writing-a-monograph/ HL=E N­ from­the­screening­scholarship­media part­2­of­2/) U S &U RL=HTTP : //P S YCHOCU LTU RALCINE MA. and the meanings and understandings are only available to “those who know.G OHO MYO /­W G LHEY./ CW . music can interfere in proper sound recording (and one has to request that music be turned down or off when one is shooting certain scenes).CSP OT HM (P H/? ITNT TP E: N / /TY/OT UWG REU OERO TL?GHLEER E+. FTAECRE(BHOTOT KP .SC:O/ /MTP/W SI N H I TA TTREEERRRE. in Anthropology proper. and will increasingly have. S C EO MN M AE . C O M / P I N / C R E A T E anthropology­and­multi­modal­ethnog U = H T T P : / / P S Y C H O C UOLRTIUGRI ANLACLI_NREEM FE AR . [1] (#_ftnref1) On the negative side.” In future blogs I plan to expand out on the question of not only “why I make films.

He was a Fulbright scholar in Indonesia.com/author/lemelson/) Robert Lemelson is an anthropologist and documentary filmmaker whose work focuses on the relationship of culture. C O M / W P ­ I MAKE I MAKE ETHNOGRAP HIC ETHNOGRAP HIC C O N T E N T / U P L O A D S / 2 0 1 3 /W1 R 1 /I D T ISNC G_ 1 ­A 30 ­ 41­ 1 0 2 4 X 6 8 2 . psychology and personal experience in Indonesia. Lemelson's area of specialty is Southeast­Asian studies.D. who funds programs and initiatives at the intersection of social and neuroscience.11/13/2014 Why I make ethnographic films (instead of writing a monograph…) | Psycho Cultural Cinema FILMS­INSTEAD­OF­ FILMS­INSTEAD­OF­ FILMS­INSTEAD­OF­ WRITING­A­ WRITING­A­ WRITING­A­ I­MAKE­ ETHNOGRAP HIC­ THE STATE OF VI ANTHROPOLOGY AND M O N O G R A P H / & T = W H YM O N O G R A P H / & T E X T =MWOHNYO G R A P H / & M E D I A F=IHL T MTSP­ :I /N/SPTSEYACDH­OOCFU­ L T U R A L C I N E M A . Wh modal Ethnography Do? So. C O M / W H Y ­ I­MAKE­ WRITING A ETHNOGRAP HIC­ MONOGRAP H…)) FILMS­INSTEAD­OF­ | WRITING­A­ MONOGRAP H/&VIA=P S YCHO CULTURAL CINEMA) | 2 OF 2) (HTTP://PSYCHOCULTUR STATE­OF­VISUA ANTHROPOLOGY­AND MODAL­ETHNOGRAPHY­A FROM­THE­SCREEN SCHOLARSHIP­MEDIA­F Robert Lemelson (http://psychoculturalcinema.A.com/why-i-make-ethnographic-films-instead-of-writing-a-monograph/ 15/24 . from the department of anthropology at the University of California. exploring the relation of culture to mental illness and has worked for the World Health Organization. J P G & D E S C R I P TMI OONN O=GWRHAYP H / ) FILMS (INSTEAD OF FILMS (INSTEAD OF WRITING A MONOGRAP H…)) | WRITING A I MAKE ETHNOGRAP HIC MODAL ETHNOGRA REPORT FROM T SCREENING SCHOL MEDIA FESTIVAL 201 M O N O G R A P H … ) & T W _ PF = I LT M WSE E( IT NB SU TT ET AODN &OUF R L = H T T P : / / P S Y C H O C U L T U R A L C I N E M A . He received his M. 2014­PART­2­OF­ (To read Part 1. o rg ) http://psychoculturalcinema. e le m e n t a lp ro d u ct io n s . from the University of Chicago and Ph. He is also the president of the Foundation for Psychocultural Research. psychological anthropology and transcultural psychiatry. Los Angeles. click here). to questions of the conference: anthropologists tell… We b s it e (h t t p ://w w w . He is currently an adjunct professor of anthropology at UCLA and a research anthropologist in the Semel Institute of Neuroscience at UCLA.

COM / N A T ­ FE S T I V A L / ) NEXT ARTICLE “BITTE R HONE Y” CONUNDRUM: GAINING INFORME D CONS E NT ( P ART 2 OF 2 ) ( H T T P : / / P S Y CH OCU L T U RA L CI N E M A .com/20­ethnographic­and­documentary­ (http://psychoculturalcinema.com/why-i-make-ethnographic-films-instead-of-writing-a-monograph/ AND NAT WORSHIP IN A CHANGING SOCIETY(HTTP://PSYCHOCULTURALCINEMA. 2 0 1 3 FE BRUARY 1 2 .11/13/2014 Why I make ethnographic films (instead of writing a monograph…) | Psycho Cultural Cinema PREVIOUS ARTICLE NOTE S FROM BURMA: BUDDHIS M AND NAT WORS HIP IN A CHANGING S OCIE TY ( H T T P : / / P S Y CH OCU L T U RA L CI N E M A .COM / B I T T E R­ H ON E Y ­ CON U N D RU M ­ G A I N I N G ­ I N FORM E D ­ CON S E N T ­ P A RT ­ 2­ OF­ 2/ ) YOU MAY ALSO LIKE (http://psychoculturalcinema.COM/NAT­ FESTIVAL/) 16/24 . 2 0 1 4 NOTES FROM BURMA: BUDDHISM 20 ETHNOGRAPHIC AND DOCUMENTARY FILMS PSYCHOLOGICAL http://psychoculturalcinema.com/nat­festival/) films­psychological­anthropologists­should­be­teaching/) NOVE MBE R 1 5 .

11/13/2014 Why I make ethnographic films (instead of writing a monograph…) | Psycho Cultural Cinema ANTHROPOLOGISTS SHOULD BE TEACHING (HTTP://PSYCHOCULTURALCINEMA.com/why-i-make-ethnographic-films-instead-of-writing-a-monograph/ 17/24 .. S E ARCH SUBSCRIBE TO BLOG VIA EMAIL Email Address http://psychoculturalcinema.COM/20­ ETHNOGRAPHIC­AND­DOCUMENTARY­ FILMS­PSYCHOLOGICAL­ ANTHROPOLOGISTS­SHOULD­BE­ TEACHING/) BE FIRST TO COMMENT Leave a Reply Enter your comment here..

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