Accepted Paper:

Cooperation in ethnographic filmmaking: illusions and realities  


Beate Engelbrecht (Max Planck Institute for the Study of Religious and Ethnic Diversity)

Paper short abstract:

Ethnographic filmmaking without cooperation is impossible. Questions of authorship and rights arise regarding the film and the filmed practices. I filmed a feast in cooperation with the organisers and viewed the material with my research partner. Then the connection broke down without explanation.

Paper long abstract:

Working with film in ethnographic research, the relationships with the people in front of the camera, besides and behind the camera are constantly negotiated. Filming without cooperation is impossible. The questions which forms of cooperation, with which rights and duties, and with which results, arise immediately.

In a research project on cultural property questions of authorship and copyright in ethnographic filmmaking were investigated taking the filmic documentation of a Torajan feast in Sulawesi as point of departure. Feasts are of highly political interest; the negotiations around the feast, the organisation and the presentation explored. Authorship and copyright concern the film itself but also the cultural practices exhibited during the feast. A conference was also organized by leading Toraja placing Torajan Culture in the context of Indonesian Multiculturalism.

One Toraja co-organising the feast and the conference gave me the permission to film both. I cooperated with the different actors during my field stay without problems. Then I invited my contact person to participate in a symposium in Germany. As film offers the possibility to view the material with the research partner we watched all the material together in Germany. Thus I got a lot more information about the feast but also about how Toraja conceptualise cultural property.

After the return of the research partner the whole cooperation broke down suddenly.

In the paper I will reflect on the different forms of cooperation in ethnographic filmmaking, the negotiations and the break down leading to the end of the film project.

Panel P110
From cracks to breakdown: disruption in cooperation