Ethnographic film

An ethnographic film is a non-fiction film, often similar to a documentary film, historically shot by Western filmmakers and dealing with non-Western people, and sometimes associated with anthropology. Definitions of the term are not definitive. Some academics claim it is more documentary, less anthropology, while others think it rests somewhere between the fields of anthropology and documentary films.[1]

Anthropologist and ethnographic filmmaker David MacDougall wrote in a 1978 paper: "Ethnographic films cannot be said to constitute a genre, nor is ethnographic film-making a discipline with unified origins and an established methodology. Since the first conference on ethnographic film was held at the Musée de l'Homme 30 years ago, the term has served a largely emblematic function, giving a semblance of unity to extremely diverse efforts in the cinema and social sciences."[2]

The genre has its origins in the colonial context.


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