Reflecting on N!ai, The Story of a !Kung Woman


Thursday, October 11, 2018, 6:00pm


Geological Lecture Hall, 24 Oxford Street, Cambridge. Free event parking available at 52 Oxford Street Garage

Directed by John Marshall and Adrienne Miesmer

US/Namibia 1980, digital video, color, 59 min

By the late 70s, the raw naturalism of cinema vérité and observational cinema were a refreshing challenge to former expository documentary norms. And the Marshall/Asch method, borrowed from anthropology, of spending long sojourns with the films’ subjects had, by this time, played out on broadcast television in the series An American Family (1973). Filmmakers embedded themselves within families or societies to achieve an uncommon intimacy. Although their subjects were aware of the camera, they let their guard down as if the camera were a friend in whom they could confide. Audiences marveled at the commonalities and the differences revealed through new windows into others’ private lives.

The subjects of both the films in this program are cinematic rarities. At the time, the values of both suburban, middle-to-upper-class families portrayed somewhat reflected those of the average American; however, war in their homelands forced them to undergo extended periods of transition and trauma—irreparably changing circumstances, family structure and individual goals and dreams. American viewers—many biased by propaganda—were able to glance into a cinematic mirror slightly altered by culture and by circumstances their own government abetted.

ORGANIZER: Harvard Film Archive Presented by the Peabody Museum of Archaeology & Ethnology in collaboration with DER.