Tuesday 23rd March

10:00 to 17:00

Visual Anthropology Special Programme

Leonard Kamerling Restrospective

On location in Gambell, St. Lawrence Island in 1975, Leonard Kamerling (L), Sarah Elder and Woodrow Malewotkok (R)

Leonard Kamerling is Curator of Film at the University of Alaska Museum of the North, and Associate Professor of English at UAF. Over the last 25 years, he has produced numerous critically acclaimed, international award winning documentary films about Alaska Native cultures and Northern issues. He received his training at the London Film School, and earned his MFA in Creative Writing from UAF. He joined the Creative Writing Faculty in 1999 where he specializes in teaching writing for film, theater and television. His film, "Heart of the Country," was nominated for the American Film Institute's prestigious Par Lorenze Award.

Throughout his career, Leonard Kamerling has been concerned with issues of cultural representation in film, cross-cultural communication and the role that film and film writing can play in eliminating stereotypes and in credibly translating one culture to another.

On the Spring Ice

Walrus as well as whales are hunted by the Eskimos of Gambell on St. Lawrence Island. As the film opens, an old man tells of the dangers of moving ice, how people used to drift on such ice and never return. A cluster of men stand on a snowy rooftop, scanning the sea ice for walrus, when one spots a skin boat in distress far out on the ice. The crew had not come home the night before, and now were drifting toward Siberia. Long ago, there was nothing that could have been done to save them. Today, the men call the Coast Guard. The next day, preparations for another walrus hunt are made. The hunters load the boat and travel fifty miles out to sea, where they spot two walrus sunning themselves on an ice floe. "Don't move," one hunter tells the camera. The walrus are shot, admired, butchered on the ice, and loaded onto the boat. Back in the village, the meat is cut again and hung to dry.

The Drums of Winter

Link to trailer

This feature-length documentary explores the traditional dance, music and spiritual world of the Yupik Eskimo people of Emmonak, a remote village at the mouth of the Yukon River on the Bering Sea coast.

The Drums of Winter gives an intimate look at a way of life of which most of us have seen only glimpses. Dance was once at the heart of Yupik Eskimo spiritual and social life. It was the bridge between the ancient and the new, the living and the dead and a person's own power and the greater powers of the unseen world.

In The Drums of Winter, the people of Emmonak tell us through actualities and interviews how their history, social values and spiritual beliefs are woven around the songs and dances that have been handed down to them through the generations. We also learn that it is not just old songs that are important; new songs and dance movements are created to reflect modern life with all its complexities.

The film follows the elders of Emmonak as they prepare for the coming ceremonial gathering (potlatch) with a neighboring village. In the Kashim (qasgiq or men's house), they practice their songs and painstakingly work out the motions of the dances. Each movement has meaning and plays a part in telling a story. In the days before television, radio, bingo and weekly basketball games, dance was the sole means of entertainment.

Heart of the Country

Heart of the Country (Kokoro o Hagukum) is the story of Shinichi Yasutomo, an extraordinary elementary school principal in rural Hokkaido, Japan. His story is interwoven with the stories of the parents, teachers and elders he works with who together seek to educate the children’s hearts as well as their minds.

The film is also the story of the families of Kanayama. Parents and elders of this once impoverished town embrace Yasutomo's vision, but not without wary glances back to the past. This small community, bound together by love for its children, is also defined by its journey through the cultural upheavals of postwar Japan.

Beyond intimate observation of everyday life, from morning gymnastics to the graduating ceremony, the film takes viewers into the world of Japanese values, revealing how the school, the family and the community are bound together in a self-perpetuating relationship based upon obligation, mutual responsibility and trust.

Retrospective is supported by:

Festival Main Programme


Poet's Salary

Director: Eric Wittersheim; release: 2009; length: 59 minutes

Link to trailer

For the first time in years, on the small island of Mota Lava, just north of Vanuatu a new song will be written in the language of the ancestors – the language of god Quat – and will enter the custom directory. What is more surprising is that this new traditional song is written in honour of a white man, a young French linguist adopted by a family on the island, who everyone there affectionately nicknamed Alex. To attend the opening ceremony of this truly epic creation - Masten, the official bard of the island, composed for several years - Alex arrives at Motalava with his wife, two children and a colleague, ethnomusicologist, Monika. However, once arrived on the scene, things do not go exactly as planned...

Eric Wittersheim

I was born in 1971 and grew up in Marseilles. After an early and active participation in the punk music scene, I took off for a long time to travel around the world with a Nikon F3. When I came back, I studied film and anthropology in Paris. Drawn into Pacific islands politics since my involvement with the late Jean-Marie Tjibaou and the Kanak liberation movement, I have published several books about New Caledonia and Vanuatu, where I have travelled regularly for the past twenty years. In 1997 I co-directed my first documentary, with David Quesemand, called Back and Forth to the Land, a film about May 68’s utopia seen through the eyes of its children. I then directed and produced two films in Vanuatu: Grassroots, Those Who Vote, a feature-length documentary on democracy in a postcolonial country, and The Poet’s Salary (59 min, 2009), a film about Alex Francois, a young and outstanding French linguist attempting to unravel the mysteries of the “language of the ancestors”.

Supported by:

Shaman Tour

Director: Laetitia Merli; release: 2009; length: 63 minutes

Every summer Enkhetuya and her family set up their camp on the shores of Huvsgul Lake in northern Mongolia. They are Tsaatan, reindeer herders and she is a famous shaman. They live from tourism, asking money for pictures, souvenirs and special shamanic rituals performed for the tourists. But this year, other Tsaatan families have planned to move down from the taiga to the lake to get their share of the tourist business. The competition to be the first camp on the tourist road is getting harder and harder. The film explores the relationships between locals and tourists as well as the family’s strategies to survive in a globalised world. The anthropologist-filmmaker has been visiting North Mongolia for years and knows Enkhetuya’s family well. Her camera closely follows the shaman in her everyday life, taking the family’s point of view.

Laetitial Merli

Laetitia Merli is an anthropologist (Phd EHESS, Paris) and filmmaker (Master in Visual Anthropology, University of Manchester). A specialist in Mongolian shamanism, she also orients her research towards tourism and neoshamanism in the West. Preceded by Call for Grace (2000), and La Quête du Son (2004), Shaman Tour is her third documentary film about Mongolia and shamanism.


Zanzibar Musical Club

Directors: Philippe Gasnier, Patrice Nezan; release: 2008; Length: 85 minutes

Link to trailer

At sunset in the streets of the old town, the musical clubs of Zanzibar buzz with the joyful sounds of Taarab, the music of Zanzibar, whose style reflects two millennia of cultural exchange and the island’s place at the crossroads of the spice route. Vehicle of cultural identity and living tradition, the performance of Taarab is intrinsically linked to both the ceremonial and everyday life of the island. Its gentle rhythms accompany the listener at every moment of existence — from the most solemn to the most blissful. Featuring artists such as the midwife and healer Bi Kidude, one of the most revered of all Zanzibar Taarab singers, this documentary immerses us in the colour, warmth and diversity of Zanzibar’s little-known Muslim culture, and the Taarab poets — cultural custodians of a dynamic musical heritage that must assert itself in the face of tourism and economic change. What if music was the social link par excellence..?

Philippe Gasnier

Philippe Gasnier is a documentary filmmaker and musician. He created Un Department with Marcel Kanche and Bruno Tollard, and was part of the formation of Pascal Comelade and the Bel Canto Orchestra. He has collaborated with many artists and performers: Jean Dupuy, Joėl Hubault, Jacques Halbert, Pat Hearn (NY).

Patrice Nezan

Producer and co-director of the film Patrice has produced a number of documentary and dance films: Scenes From a Wild Boar Hunt  (dir: Claudio Pazienza), Les ballets de ci de la (dir: Alain Platel), Uzes quintet (dir: Catherine Maximoff), Esprit de bière (dir: Claudio Pazienza), Dansedansedanse (dir: Olivier Mégaton, Benoit Dervaux, Jocelyn Cammack and Dan Wiroth); as well as dance film collections One Dance One Song and Une danse le temps d’une chanson.