Visual Anthropology Update

From the 10th to the 11th of April 2013, the SAC hosted the event, “Visualizing Culture: Ethnographic Film in Thailand and ASEAN Screening and Roundtable.” Visual anthropological methods (ethnographic film and photography) have been widely recognized as important tools for the documentation and promotion of cultural diversity. Apart from documenting cultural practices that are changing or disappearing in the region, audiovisual documentation of culture can serve as a means to promote mutual understanding across ASEAN’s national borders. As such, the gathering’s primary goals were to foster mutual understanding in ASEAN through ethnographic film, to strengthen the network of ethnographic and documentary filmmakers in the ASEAN region, and to explore possibilities for future collaboration.

The event was open to all alumni of the SAC’s 2012 Visual Anthropology Workshop, as well as researchers, filmmakers, anthropologists, students and the interested public. Three ethnographic films made by alumni from the 2012 workshop were screened and discussed; the films covered topics such as the daily lives of women in Thailand’s restive south; the challenges faced by fishing communities in Chonburi province who are battling the development of a deep sea port; and the experiences of a group of archaeologists and community members in Mae Hong Son province before and during the excavation of a sacred cave. Participants also had the chance to learn from experienced filmmakers and film studies experts, including Dr. Peter Crawford from the University of Tromsø, Norway; filmmaker Gary Kildea from the Australian National University; Dr. Bui Quang Thang from the Vietnam Institute of Culture and Arts Studies (VICAS); Nguyen Thi Thu Ha from VICAS; Dr. Amporn Jirattikorn from Chiang Mai University; Frances Calvert from the Yangon Film School; and Dr. Suddan Wisudthiluck from Thammasat University.

The films that were screened raised many questions and encouraged lively discussions on issues ranging from exegetic music choice to the nature of truth and its relationship to film. The event closed with a roundtable exchange where participants and resource persons emphasized their commitment to working towards the development of a regional ethnographic film network with members who recognize the need for participatory filmmaking and continue to interrogate notions of audience and accessibility.