Can Film Show the Visible?:The Filming of Hunters in West Africa
(Université Toulouse 2 le Mirail)
Paper short abstract:
My paper aims to question whether—and how—cinematographic images can make tangible a lived experience of the human-animal encounter in hunting. To this end, my footage recorded among the Mande (West Africa) as well as ethnographic and commercial films, will be marshaled as evidence.
Paper long abstract:
When I started my research among the Mande hunters, almost no audiovisual documentation on the topic was available. During my subsequent field trips, I tried to fill this gap and recorded many hours of footage. I then edited it, adding commentary and forging it into a single, coherent narrative - a short ethnographic film . It constituted an annex to my doctoral dissertation. My research focused on the corporeal dimensions of the hunting practices, this audiovisual support of my hypotheses seemed therefore essential. Yet, I quickly realized that its problematic technical quality—the consequence of the conditions of its recording, including insufficient or overabundant light and the fact that the search of game was characterized by a strong mobility and unpredictability —rendered it virtually unintelligible. The next step for me consisted in a series of collaborations with professional filmmakers, resulting in a film on the hunters for French television. From these experiences, which inevitably involved an important amount of staging, I became somehow skeptical. Less in terms of the cinematographic or photographic images' possibility "to show the invisible," the issue recently examined by Willerslev and Suhr and debated for quite some time by anthropologists. Rather, I started to question the capacity of these images, even when handled by the masters such as Rouch or Marshall, to remain truth to the visible, to make tangible a lived experience of hunting. This paper intends to address, through sharing of my personal involvement with audiovisual media contextualized within the larger anthropological frame, this problem.
Visual encounters: audiovisual approaches to anthropological knowledge