TRANSITION BLOG 1: ETHNOKINO
During our 11th Season OFF:SCREEN in autumn we had the goal to reflect on the name of our Seasons film program. Probably you have already seen that we've put a questionmark behind Ethno in EthnoKino. So what are we questioning exactly?
Image created by an Artificial Intelligence: @DALL·E can you make me a “painting of a twentieth century anthropologist who films during ethnographic fieldwork from distance”
Over the last years several people talked to us, who wondered what this “ethno” in our name exactly means. This was particularly the case for visitors who are not studying Social Anthropology. In our team, which has organised the last couple of Seasons (9, 10 & 11), we also realised that not everybody was so comfortable with the name as well. Certainly we are living in a times of a renewed attention to topics around cultural appropriation, so that’s not really astonishing but is the term really that problematic and do we want to give our name and program a different focus? Well, let’s see.
“EthnoKino” most likely popped up as a name, when a group of students met in 2017 and had to think for a suitable name for their planned film program. EthnoKino seemed well suited, as in Social Anthropology we do ethnographic research and when anthropologists make films, then these films usually are regarded as ethnographic films. Easy-peasy.
But these films which we are screening at EthnoKino… are they always ethnographic films? Sometimes, not always and it is really difficult to get a good definition of what this would be anyway. It’s at once a historic genre, e.g. of filming “the other”, it’s films by anthropologists, a theoretical genre, a methodological genre, a critical genre, long time participation, connected to research – well choose as you like. Ethnographic films are quite alike the discipline of social anthropology, always fluid and not that easily defined.
Maybe we could simply speak of documentary films. Well mostly yes but the term is really just too broad.
Are the films we screen non-fiction films? Mostly but not exclusively. In Spring 2022 we screened Jiyan: life, a fictional story that was developed with minors in an asylum centre, non professional protagonists who re-enacted their life experiences inside a broader narrative.
The Boundaries are blurring so what is our program about? Is it a world culture cinema? A transcultural cinema? An ethnic cinema? A community cinema? A cinema in the making? Maybe it could simply be about ethical storytelling, films that are produced in close contact and relationship with the people who are being filmed, films display an ethics of accountability to use Faye Ginsburg’s term.
What resulted out of our discussions over the last year is that it is not up to us to condemn a term just because it seems to be outdated. The EthnoKino Seasons Team will change it’s name and start the new spring program 2023 with a new name, which we think better refelects who we are as a student collective.
Since 2021 we have two different working groups (EthnoKino Seasons and EthnoKino Film Festival). Independently from the initial critique around "ethno" which started the debate, we think that a name change benefits the better differentiation of both our two groups (with their quite different team/organisation structures and goals) which also makes sense to better communicate to the outside. So, stay tuned! Infos are coming at the beginning of march!!! <3<3<3