Harvardwood Suggests... The Tradition of Cinema Vérité and Ethnographic Film at Harvard

March 25, 2021 at 4:00pm - 5pm
Zoom City, Zoom
United States
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Shawn Hainsworth · · 917-575-7443

I will be presenting a Zoom lecture on Harvard’s documentary and ethnographic film program, home to a number of exceptional filmmakers including Robert Gardner, Ross McElwee, Alfred Guzzetti, Robb Moss.

This lecture is part of the Meet Your Board Members series for the Harvard Club of Western Mass.

In this lecture, I will trace the beginnings of the ethnographic and documentary film program at Harvard, starting with Richard Leacock and Robert Gardner.  I will look at the influences on this program, most notably Robert Flaherty and Jean Rouch, and also forward to the the commercialization of cinema vérité with Alek Keshishian and Truth or Dare (1991). Finally, we will look at the Sensory Ethnography Lab and Leviathan (2012) by Lucien Castaing-Taylor & Véréna Paravel.

This will be a high level, whirlwind tour, informed by my experiences as a V.E.S. student from 1984-1988.

After graduation, in addition to making my own documentary films, I had the good fortune to work as an editor on several films by Ákos Östör, Lina Fruzzetti. These films currently are being screened on-line as part of the Smithsonian Institution’s annual Mother Tongue festival, through March 31st.
After the lecture, I will be discussing the film, Singing Pictures. If you are interested, you can watch it for free as part of the Mother's Tongue Festival (in the Short Films section). Watching the film is not required for the discussion.
Singing Pictures
For generations, Patua (Chitrakar) communities of West Bengal, India have been painters and singers of stories depicted in scrolls. The Patuas tell the stories of Muslim saints (pirs and fakirs) as well as Hindu Gods and Goddesses, and offer devotion to saints at Muslim shrines. In the past they used to wander from village to village, receiving rice, vegetables and coins for their recital. They would unroll a scroll, a frame at a time, and sing their own compositions. But competition from other media eroded this way of life and now the Patuas are trying to adapt to changing conditions. In response to this cultural crisis and as a means to make extra money, recently a group of women from Naya village near Calcutta formed a scroll painters' collaborative. The women candidly discuss issues of Islam and birth control, victimization of women, female education, poverty and work, religious tolerance and intolerance, and depict some of these ideas in the scrolls themselves. Women painters want to tell their own stories in songs and pictures, illustrating their lives of hardship and endurance. These stories attest to what it means to be a woman in Bengal and India today, demonstrating how a small group of determined women can empower themselves by adapting an ancient art to new conditions. a film by Lina Fruzzetti, Ákos Östör, Aditi Nath Sarkar distributed by Documentary Educational Resources.

Zoom Meeting:  https://us02web.zoom.us/j/85413509982?pwd=bTJRNm9RdkNuTkpMZTRTOTkyVWdoQT09

Meeting ID: 854 1350 9982

Passcode: 348634

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