American Ethnographic Film and Personal Documentary
The Cambridge Turn
Publication Year: 2013
Published by: University of California Press
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Title Page, Copyright, Dedication
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... A Tentative Overview of Boston-Area Documentary Filmmaking • Ethnographic Film and Personal Documentary • Pragmatism: Learning from Experience • Th e Mission of American Ethnographic Film and Personal Documentary: Th e Cambridge Turn • Subjects for Further Beginnings: Lorna Marshall and First Film • John Marshall: Th e Hunters • ...
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Over the years, particular forms of fi lmmaking have been identifi ed with particu-lar cities: Hollywood, with commercial melodrama, obviously; Mumbai, with a certain form of Indian musical; and New York and San Francisco with American avant-garde fi lmmaking. And in his remarkable book, Th e Most Typical Avant-Garde: History and Geography of Minor Cinemas in Los Angeles (Berkeley: Uni-...
1. Lorna and John Marshall
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At the outset, the Marshall family expeditions to the Kalahari Desert from 1950 to 1961 to fi nd and learn something about the San peoples living there were conceived as a means to the end of a more intensive, engaged experience of family life—an upscale version of the family camping trips that would become ubiquitous across the country during the following decades. Laurence Marshall’s determination that ...
2. Robert Gardner
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While John Marshall spent much of his fi lmmaking life rethinking and revisiting his earlier fi lmmaking experiences in the Kalahari Desert, learning what he could from the ongoing transformations of San life and from what he saw as his limited understanding and his fi lmmaking mistakes, Robert Gardner’s career has been focused on an expansive engagement with the ways in which the human need to ...
3. Timothy Asch
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In the fi lms he completed in Cambridge during the 1970s, Timothy Asch rigor-ously avoided reference to his personal experiences in the interest of foreground-ing the experiences of those he documented. Ed Pincus remembers a visit Asch Asch came to show some Yanomamo fi lms to my class at MIT—this would have been some time before 1975. We had lunch before going to class (Tim was an old friend; I’d ...
4. Ed Pincus and the Emergence of Personal Documentary
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Th e social turmoil of the late 1960s and early 1970s brought with it a wholesale reevaluation of many of the institutions that had seemed to defi ne American cul-ture for the previous generation. Th e federal government had involved the nation in a war during which the American military perpetrated shocking, inhumane brutalities against a humble underdog—to many young people coming of age, ...
5. Alfred Guzzetti and Personal Cinema
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Looking back at the 1960s and 1970s from half a century later, few transformations that were occurring at the time now seem more signifi cant than the emergence of new image-making technologies: attempts to devise inexpensive sync-sound fi lm-making gauges led in the end to videotape and camcorders and then to the emer-gence of a series of digital technologies that have taken the diffi culty out of the ...
6. Ross McElwee
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As of the new millennium, no personal documentary fi lmmaker had become bet-ter known than Ross McElwee. Despite what we might imagine was the infl uence of Ricky Leacock and Ed Pincus at MIT and of Alfred Guzzetti, McElwee’s teaching colleague at Harvard since 1986—all of whom abjured or at least avoided voice-over narration in documentary fi lm—McElwee has become the most inventive ...
7. Robb Moss
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Like Ross McElwee, Robb Moss earned his M.F.A. in fi lmmaking from MIT, study-ing with Ed Pincus and Ricky Leacock, and he became McElwee’s colleague in the Visual and Environmental Studies Department at Harvard in 1983 (Moss is now Senior Lecturer in the Visual and Environmental Studies Department, as well as a creative advisor for the Sundance Documentary Labs). Further, like McElwee, ...
8. Panorama: Other Approaches to Personal Documentary
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While interest among American (and Cambridge) fi lmmakers in producing eth-nographic fi lm, at least in the modes pioneered by the Marshalls, Gardner, and Asch, diminished by the 1980s, or at least was redirected into a broad-ranging critique of the myth of detached, objective observation both among those who were interested in ethnographic cinema and within the discipline of anthropology ...
9. Lucien Castaing-Taylor and Sensory Ethnography
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Harnessing perspectives drawn from the human sciences, the arts, and the humanities, the aim of SEL is to support innovative combinations of aesthet-ics and ethnography, with original nonfi ction media practices that explore the bodily praxis and aff ective fabric of human existence. As such, it encour-ages attention to the many dimensions of social experience and subjectivity ...
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Both of the documentary histories that have been nurtured in Cambridge con-tinue to develop and to be productive. Indeed, in recent years they have become increasingly imbricated with each other in large measure because so many of the major contributors continue to be part of a small, regularly interactive, generally mutually supportive fi lmmaking community. Th e passing of Ricky Leacock in 2011 ...
Appendix: Sources for Films
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Page Count: 424
Publication Year: 2013