Friday, October 11, 2013

The value of video

In her essay 'Indigenous media: faustian contract or global village?' Faye Ginsburg discusses the use of video as cultural mediation by Indigenous people in Australia and Canada. Ethnographic filmmaking is a practice associated with Anthropology. Some filmmakers began addressing questions of ethics and agency in the 1950s and 60s. Indigenous people in Australia and the U.S. Began making their own film and media in the 1970s. The popularity of VCR's and the launch of communication satellites in the 1980s brought Western mainstream media into remote Indigenous settlements in Central Australia and Alaska. These communities used the technology to insert some of their own cultural content into the programming. (Ginsburg 1991)

Small community media groups (Warlpiri) and larger organizations (CAAMA, Imparja) began programming Australian Indigenous content in the 1980s. Works being produced were addressing historical injustices, dreaming stories, dances, music, food hunting techniques and biographies of elders. The vision and audience is local and the culture includes contemporary life. Ginsbergh (1991 105) proposes that in this way culture is preserved and also evolving at the same time.

“They [Australian indigenous produced films] are not based on some retrieval of an idealized past, but create and assert a position for the present that attempts to accommodate the inconsistencies and contradictions of contemporary life. For Aboriginal Australians , these encompass the powerful relationships to land, myth and ritual, the fragmented history of contact with Europeans and continued threats to language, health, culture, and social life, and positive efforts in the present to deal with problems stemming from these assaults.”

Francis Jupurrula Kelly is one of the key founders of Warlpiri media and he is still producing work there today. This clip shows him directing actors for a documentary co-produced by PAW media and Rebel films. He speaks two languages on set and has his own vision of how the story will be recreated. The resulting work 'Coniston' is very powerful because many people got to tell their story of the 1928 massacre for the first time. A historical crime is told from an Australian indigenous perspective. This is part of the process of identity construction through culture.

Co-writer/director Francis Kelly interviews one of the descendants of the survivors of the Coniston massacre. Ginsburg, F. (1991). "Indigenous media: faustian contract or global village?" Cultural Anthropology 6(1), 92-112.