'Investigations and Appropriations in the Ethnographic and Documentary Film' - Short Course With Helen de Witt

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The course takes place on Monday evenings from the 14th of May over eight weeks at UCL, London. Each session will begin at 7pm and last approximately 2 hours including a short break. There will be no session on the 28th of May due to it being a bank holiday.

This short course will investigate strategies of exploration and representation of the physical world, the imaginary realm and the transient experience of human life through experimental, ethnographic and documentary film. From the earliest reels of the Lumiere Bros, cinema has sought to capture and, on occasion, provoke a human reaction to the environment. Sometimes naively observational and at others deliberately interventionist, filmmakers have provided vivid interpretations of the world and its people through numerous visual strategies from cinema verite to rich experimentations in the creation of self-image. The course will combine introductory lectures, screenings and group discussions.

Course leader Helen De Witt:

Helen de Witt is an independent lecturer and curator. She teaches at Birkbeck University of London, University of the Arts London, and the National Film and Television School. She is a programmer of the BFI London Film Festival Experimenta section for international artists’ moving image. Previously Helen was Head of Cinemas at the BFI, and BFI Festivals Producer for the BFI London Film Festival and BFI Flare. Helen is also a director of The Service Co-op, an independent production company dedicated to making films about social justice, the arts and creative collaborations.  She has published on independent cinema and artists’ film.

Course Content over eight sessions:

1. Early ethnographic experiments in reality and transformation: From Lumiere Bros to Jean Rouch, Margaret Mead and Gregory Bateson via Dali and Deren.

2.Totalitarianism’s destructions and constructions: Vertov’s Kino Pravda, Pudovkin’s Storm Over Asia and Riefenstahl’s Olympiad

3. Whose life, whose voice? British documentary from the Griersons through Jill Craigie and Mary Field to Molly Dineen

4. Rivers of no return: The peoples of the Amazon and of the Danube through the lens of Ciro Guerra (Embrace of the Serpent) and Annik LeRoy (Vers Le Mer)

5. African heritages: post-colonial versions from Zora Neale Hurston and Ousmane Sembene  to Raoul Peck and Yance Ford

6. Anthropology is where you find it: Frederick Wiseman’s Follies and Agnes Varda’s Gleaning

7. Aesthetic explorations from Chris Marker Sans Soleil to Harvard’s Sensory Ethnographic Lab’s Leviathan

8. Migrating bodies, changing identities: In This World (Michael Winterbottom); After Spring  (Ellen Martinez, Steph Ching); Fire at Sea (Gianfranco Rosi); the Otolith Group

Click here for full information and booking. 


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