Short Paper Assignment

Please answer one of the following two essay questions (3–5 pages, cite at least three class readings which may included required, recommended and archive readings).

  1. What were the very different kinds of "truths" about real life settings that documentary filmmakers Robert Flaherty and Dziga Vertov tried to express in their films Nanook of the North (1922) and Man with a Movie Camera (1929)? How did these "truths" relate to the specific historical time periods/places in which they operating? How did they try to convey these ideas through filmmaking? What camera styles and shooting/editing techniques did they use to support their perspectives?
  2. The question of visual representation is at the core of filmmaking and particularly documentary film which generally depicts people as themselves instead of using actors. What kinds of representations of the Inuit are found in Robert Flaherty's Nanook of the North? How did such representations both build upon and challenge existing representations of indigenous groups during the 1920s for European and American viewers? How have such images been interpreted in more recent years by Inuit audiences themselves? What kinds of images of northern indigenous groups have Inuit filmmakers themselves constructed in their own media practices? How and why? Discuss specific kinds of documentary filmmaking techniques and practices to support your point.

For this question, you will want to draw upon the Archive reading:

Buy at Amazon Ginsburg, Faye. "Screen Memories: Resignifying the Traditional in Indigenous Media." In Media Worlds: Anthropology on New Terrain. Edited by Faye Ginsburg, Lila Abu-Lughod, and Brian Larkin. University of California Press, 2002. ISBN: 9780520232310.

You will also want to view more of the documentaries:

Nanook Revisited. Directed by Claude Massot. Color, 60 min. Films for the Humanities and Sciences, 1990.

Starting Fire with Gunpowder. Directed by Boyce Richardson. Color, 59 min. 1991.