2011. április 14., csütörtök

Gandhi's Children

MacDougall - Gandhi's Children

Gandhi's Children is probably the most famous film of David MacDougall. The movie takes place in an shelter for homeless children in India and shows the hardships of the lives of children living there and their parents.

The film shows MacDugall's approach, that he describes in his writings in Visual Anthropology and the Ways of Knowing, to ethnographic cinema very well. MacDougall is one of the biggest advocates of developing a visual language for anthropology so anthropologist would use modern techniques like photography and cinematography for their own value not just to record data. However he also warns social scientists not to use visual as a substitute for the verbal but to complement it. He developed his own way of filming different social problems within diffrent cultures that is very human and shows an initmate understanding of the cultural context in which these problems exist.

MAcDougall argues for transcultural cinema in ethnographic film making. For him, and that's clear from this film too, it's not enough to go somewhere and film different cultures but think about our western audience the whole time. It's also not enough to just show the audience a different culture without any kind of explanation or relatioship with the subjects of the film. Therefore the biggest difference between Gardner's Forest of Bliss and Gandhi's Children is that the local language is subtitled and the people being filmed have interactions with the camera several times. MacDougall doesn't try to force a false objecticity onto his films, he tries to be self-reflexive, which means that he has just as much contact with the subject of his films as with his audience. As he puts it: "If I am self-reflexive, that self-reflexivity must be about the relationship between us [him and the subjects], not a way of speaking behind my hand to some foreign audience."
From this quote too it is prefectly clear that for MacDougall it is not enough to just go somewhere and film 'objectively' what one sees. An ethnographic film maker should build an intimate,self-reflexive and interpretative relationship with his subject so he can show his audience the reality of the things he had filmed.
This approach is very clear in Gandhi's children. The audience can easily follow the events in the film because of the subtitles, they can get a sense of being there through the intimate cultural knowledge of MacDougall who had selected events and scenes from the kids' lives that are pivotal in understanding the culture in India. Also, the people on the film interact with the camera several times, explaining MacDougal what they are doing and why they are doing it. Surprisingly, this doesn't really bring a level of subjectivity to the film that'd be annoying, rather it brings a different type of objectivity than the one in Forest of Bliss; and in my opinion MacDougall's approach brings India's culture to his audiences a lot closer and in a much more digestable way.

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