Close Up

27 November 2015: Ethnographies: 4 Films Selected by Ben Rivers


Close-Up in collaboration with LUX and Camden Arts Centre, present the third part of a screening programme which expands on Ben Rivers’ exhibition Earth Needs More Magicians and his artist-curated exhibition Edgelands at the Camden Arts Centre. The final part of the screening programme considers "ethnographies", a term often talked about in relation to Ben Rivers' films and the work of other experimental filmmakers including Chick Strand, Mark LaPore and Ben Russell, whose film in the programme was co-shot with Rivers and features the same footage used for Rivers's new film in the exhibition at Camden Arts Centre.  

The programme is curated by Ben Rivers with an introduction by Maria Palacios Cruz, Deputy Director at LUX.  

Let us Persevere in What We Have Resolved Before We Forget
Ben Russell
2013 | 20 min | Colour | Digital

"John Frum prophesied the occurrence of a cataclysm in which Tanna would become flat, the volcanic mountains would fall and fill the river-beds to form fertile plains, and Tanna would be joined to the neighbouring islands of Eromanga and Aneityum to form a new island. Then John Frum would reveal himself, bringing in a reign of bliss, the natives would get back their youth and there would be no sickness; there would be no need to care for gardens, trees or pigs. The Whites would go; John Frum would set up schools to replace mission schools, and would pay chiefs and teachers." – Peter Worsley, The Trumpet Shall Sound: a study of cargo cults in Melanesia  

Depression in the Bay of Bengal
Mark LaPore
1996 | 29 min | Colour | 16mm  

"A Depression in the Bay of Bengal is a [...] film shot while on a Fulbright Scholars Fellowship to Sri Lanka in 1993-1994. I went to Sri Lanka with the idea that I would remake Basil Wright and John Grierson’s 1934 documentary Song of Ceylon. After spending three months there I realized just how impossible that would be. Wright’s film was formally innovative and visually brilliant but his experience was not to be revisited. Each of the places he filmed still exists, but thirteen years of ethnic war have colored the way in which those places can be portrayed. I have made a film about travelling and living in a distant place which looks at aspects of daily life and where the war shadows the quotidian with a dark and rumbling step." – Mark LaPore  

Fake Fruit Factory
Chick Strand
1986 | 21'41min | Colour | 16mm  

Chick Strand studied anthropology at Berkeley, and in the early 1960s organised film happenings with Bruce Baillie. In 1961, Strand established the Canyon Cinema News, a monthly filmmakers' journal which became a focal point for the West Coast independent film movement. Strand's ethnographic films are distinctive for their complex layering of sound and image, and the juxtaposition of found footage and sound with original images. Fake Fruit Factory is an experimental documentary which unfolds the economic and sexual politics of a Central America factory where artificial fruit is manufactured.  

Children’s Magical Death
Timothy Asch, Napoleon Chagnon
1974 | 8 min | Colour | Digital

In 1968 and 1971 filmmaker Timothy Asch and anthropologist Napoleon Chagnon collaborated on a project to film the Yanomamo Indians. Asch and Chagnon shot approximately 110,000 feet (50 hours) of film on the Yanomamo, much of it in Mishimishimabowei-teri. Thirty-seven films were produced from this footage and initially used in a national introductory curriculum project supported by the National Science Foundation. Part of the Yanomamo series Children's Magical Death is a vivid portrayal of shamanic activity, as well as an exploration of the close connection between politics and shamanism in Yanomamo culture.