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For over fifty years, DER has been a leader at the intersection of documentary filmmaking and social science research, and is an internationally recognized center for documentary anthropology and ethnographic film. DER was founded in 1968 by pioneering ethnographic filmmakers John Marshall and Timothy Asch to support their efforts in creating films for documenting, researching and learning about human behavior. The organization’s initial activities were focused on the support and distribution of Marshall and Asch’s ground-breaking productions, and quickly grew to encompass a larger universe of films and filmmakers. DER now serves as stewards for an extensive collection of classic ethnographic films made between the 1950s and 1980s, and a growing collection of the best contemporary films that explore human lives and cultural traditions around the globe. Today, we continue to nurture films and filmmakers which draw their inspiration from and build on this significant documentary history.


In the late 1970s, DER instituted a program of acquisitions to widen the content base of our film library. We acquired a number of series including films on the Alaskan Eskimo, on daily life in Andalusia, Spain, on political and cultural diversity in Kenya and the Sahel region of Africa, and co-produced or administered productions exploring the significance of Balinese trance and healing, examining the diversity of music and dance in New England, and presenting a wide variety of films on American life and heritage. Today, we steward 800+ films, and represent producers from every populated continent on the globe. We continue to seek out the best new titles – ones that contribute to our understanding of human social and cultural diversity, offer unique historical documentation, or explore the challenges of making films about people, with all the ensuing complexity regarding the aesthetics and politics of representation. Through our three interrelated program areas, Curation & Distribution; Collections Management and Preservation; and Filmmaker Services we continue the work of our founders, to produce, promote, and innovate in the use of film in the understanding of human behavior for global citizens today and into the future.

If we do not want to promote myths [about cultural ‘others’] by commission or omission, I think we can use film to show some of the realities of people’s lives….We have to be willing to get close with our cameras to the people we are filming, show what they do, listen to what they say and follow them with our filming long enough so we can learn.” – John Marshall, Filming and Learning, 1993

Register till 19 June by sending an email: to receive a zoom link on the day of the event.


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