The following activities are designed for undergraduate students and aim at supplementing the article “Enactive Filmmaking” in VAR 33-2 by expanding its themes into a reflection on the role and potential of audiovisual media within sensory ethnography, on the role of the ethnographer’s own experience and on that of technology in mediating its representation.
Classroom Activities and Discussion Questions
Part 1 – Sensory Ethnography analysis
Split into small groups, look at/listen to these sensory ethnography pieces and discuss:
- The article “Enactive Filmmaking” contains a section on hunting in Burkina Faso and its representation in the film Kalanda (2014). In parallel to reading the text, watch this extract:
and look at these photographs: https://lorenzoferrarini.com/portfolio/hunting-donso/
Can you recognize some of the elements the author was writing about? Do those techniques evoke in you a sense of what hunting in that landscape can be like? What do film and photography do differently? Which aspects of editing, color correction, sound design or photography do you find most suggestive?
- Watch the trailer for the film Leviathan by Paravel and Taylor (2012):
The trailer, although edited with a faster pace and intercut with titles, is quite representative of the film as a whole. What strategies are the filmmakers putting in place? How do they use the camera, what kind of images do they propose? What effects are they trying to elicit in the viewers?
- Watch one segment of Living the Weather by Lorenzo Ferrarini (2016):
The film is divided into 5 “variations” of equal length, I recommend #2 starting at 7:55, #3 starting at 15:41 or #5 starting at 31:16.What strategies are used here to deal with sensory experience?
- Starting from the ideas presented in the article, how do these three different takes on sensory ethnography relate to the representation of the ethnographer’s own experience? How is this related to the subjects’ own experience in each case?
The article makes some points on sensory ethnography and language. How is this played out in the extra media on hunting in Burkina Faso? What are the differences with the other two pieces and which do you find most effective? Why?
Part 2 – Sensory Ethnography production planning
The article accounts for the process of translating skilled practice and perception into part of a documentary film. This activity now asks you to, in an original and specific manner, do the same for a situation of which you have some experience and in which the sensory aspects are particularly relevant: sports training, crafting, concerts/clubbing, performances, public protests, rituals, or others of your choice.
- How would you represent the situation in ways that might evoke its sensory experience to people who are not familiar with it? Write a short treatment for a documentary piece, breaking down the relevant aspects that you want to represent.
- How would you approach representing those aspects? Detail shots types, camera angles and lenses, lighting, color correction, anything that you think could help get those sensations through.
- Did you remember to cover the acoustic aspects? What sounds would you record and include in the soundtrack of a film? How would you layer them?
- Look at your list and reflect on the aspects you picked and why you think they are useful to the task of evoking sensory experience. Compare them to the process described in the article and highlight similarities and differences.
- How could the aspects you selected be relevant to an ethnography of that situation?
How much of what you represented is only relevant to your experience and how much is shared with others present in that situation with you? How would you integrate their contributions into your piece?
Cox, Rupert A., Andrew Irving, and Christopher Wright, eds. 2016. Beyond Text: Critical Practice and Sensory Anthropology. Manchester: Manchester University Press.
Ferrarini, Lorenzo. 2016. “Making Living the Weather.” Online: https://lorenzoferrarini.com/making-living-the-weather/
MacDougall, David. 2006. The Corporeal Image: Film, Ethnography, and the Senses. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press.
Pavsek, Christopher. 2015. “Leviathan and the Experience of Sensory Ethnography.” Visual Anthropology Review 31 (1):4-11. DOI: 10.1111/var.12056.
Pink, Sarah. 2009. Doing Sensory Ethnography. London: Sage.
Wacquant, Loïc. 2015. “For a Sociology of Flesh and Blood.” Qualitative Sociology 38 (1): 1–11. DOI:10.1007/s11133-014-9291-y.