Ethnographic Film History

site under construction:


On this site will you find digital learning tools for the course in:  Ethnographic Film History

Aims and Objectives are (as defined in the VCS study plan. could be modified if needed):

The purpose of the course is to achieve – by lectures from the teachers, and by the students’ own presentations and analyses of the films – a critical thinking of ethnographic film as a mode of representation. We will explore the history, conceptual innovations, and technological developments in the presentation of ethnographic knowledge in film and video. Students are introduced to major films, filmmakers and contemporary debates and will critically analyse the ways various ethnographic films contribute to our understanding or misunderstanding of the diversity and similarity of human cultures. In each class, we will watch and discuss films that exemplify approaches to documenting and presenting the diverse peoples and cultures of the world. By the end of the course you should be familiar with:

  • How to analyse ethnographic films. Attention is given to the description of the course of events in the film, how one scene is related to the other, description of the subjects and the different social arenas presented in the film.


  • How to recognize the different genres in ethnographic filmmaking. Attention is given to the filmmaker, subject, shooting style and editing technique.


  • The course should also contribute to develop skills in oral presentations.


The work that we as colleagues in Ngaoundéré/Maroua and Tromsø shall do: 

As it says in the above aims and objectives, this course want to present a critical approach to the development of the genre in documentary filmmaking called Ethnographic films. This development is closely connected with the technological development (portable cameras, synchronous sound etc), western theory development and the colonial history!

Here is the course as we had it at VCS/Uit 2017. The program can be downloaded here:


work task for us as colleagues:

The VISCAM- project has as its aim to develop further the crossed regards methodology. The present version of the Ethnographic Film History Seminar, as you see it here, has an Eurocentric imbalance. It is dominated by regards from the West at the others. When we now want to develop this course further, we welcome contributions and regards from the South. How can the Eurocentric imbalance be modified? What can be seen as African contributions to the history of Ethnographic film? Are there ‘ethnographic film genres’ that have been overlooked? What about making a seminar about African fiction/docu-soaps, seen from an ethnographic perspective? These are just questions that come to our minds. It is up to you to define what can be relevant contributions to the course.

Digital resources for students and staff

The course is organised in such a way that each film (or each filmmaker) has his/hers own lecture (resources). These are a mix of readings, links to internet pages, power point presentation, video-filmed short lectures and the films. (Some video-filmed lectures will be made in Tromsø, others in Cameroon). The resources are ment to support teaching and studying, not be instead of lectures.

We want to have feedback and comments to these resources. What kind of suggestions do you have to the digital learning tools, when it comes to content? Could you find French links, readings etc.

What are your overall feedback?


Films that are on the curriculum will  be made available only for teachers due to questions of rights (if they are  not freely available on the net, as many of Jean Rouch’s films) through internet.

All films will be made available on this link:


The different films/topics are (from the VCS version of the course in 2017): 

1 Early pioneers: Nanook of the North

2 Direct cinema: The Salesman

3 Women’s worlds: Maasai Women

4. Observational Cinema: Cora and Celso

5 Cinema vérité and ethno-fiction: the work by Jean Rouch  (several films)

6 Observation and ethano-fiction: The Work by David MacDougall  (several films)

7 Ethnography and art: Robert Gardner metal

8  Reenactment. The Act of killing

9 Observational cinema: être et avoir (To be and to Have)


10-12 lectures in all, meaning there is place for more films and also films to be changed. Here in Tromsø is it only the first 7 that are the same every year.