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SVA Film and Media Festival Archives - Society for Visual Anthropology

Aynur Kadir


January 8, 2018

SVAFMF Submissions Open

January 8, 2018 | By | No Comments

The Society for Visual Anthropology screens the best ethnographic films and video productions at our annual SVA Film & Media Festival, held in conjunction with the American Anthropological Association (AAA) Annual Meeting. This gives independent filmmakers as well as distributors broad access to a market of several thousand anthropologists and educators.

Ethnographic film and video defined broadly as works created as the result of ethnographic fieldwork or those which use, are informed by, or illustrate the principles of anthropological theory or methods.

For more information about American Anthropology Associations and its annual meetings, please visit:

Awards & Prizes

The SVAFMF bestows a number of awards each year, including the festival’s highest recognition, the Jean Rouch Award given for collaborative and participatory work. Other category based awards include Best Feature, Best Short, Best Student Film (graduate and undergraduate) and Best Interactive Media (websites, games, installations etc..).

Rules & Terms

(Please read carefully before submitting)

For the past several decades, the Society for Visual Anthropology’s Film and Media Festival has screened outstanding work by students, professional anthropologists, and professional filmmakers at the American Anthropological Association’s annual meeting.

The 117th American Anthropological Association annual meeting and the 2018 SVA Film & Media Festival will be held from November 14-18 at the San Jose Convention Center
San Jose, CA.

In 2017 we received 203 submissions and we accepted and screened 38 films at our festival in Washington DC. In total, 34 hours of programming was accepted.


The SVA Film & Media Festival accepts entries in the following categories:
Shorts – works less than 40 minutes in length
Feature length – works greater than 40 minutes in length
Interactive Media – websites, installations, games (please contact organizers with questions)

While the vast majority submissions are non-fiction, the festival accepts experimental, dramatic, narrative, and other genres as long as they fall within the broad category of ethnographic media as defined in our mission statement.

Special consideration and reduced entry fees are given for works created by students and current members of the Society for Visual Anthropology.

Submissions sent as “student work” must have been completed while the submitter was enrolled in an accredited educational institution. Proof of student status may be requested. Submissions in noncompliance may be disqualified without refund.

Submissions submitted as created by an “SVA Member” must have a named Society for Visual Anthropology member in a key production role (filmmaker, photographer, or director) or as the central narrator/interlocutor in the film. SVA Members may submit films to any category free of charge. Pieces done in consultation with an anthropologist should be submitted as regular films. Submissions in noncompliance may be disqualified without refund.

The festival jury, comprised of anthropologists and film scholars, selects work to be included in the festival on the basis of anthropological relevance and value to the field. Low budget and shorter works receive as careful attention as high budget or longer works.

Filmmakers will be notified about the status of their submissions (via email provided on FilmFreeway) by July 1st.

FilmFreeway is the official and only way to submit entries for the SVA Film & Media Festival. If communicating with us via email at, please always include your tracking number in your email.

Please note that you do NOT need to also register a film/video submission on the American Anthropological Association (AAA) website if all you are doing is submitting a film/video/media production through FilmFreeway. Films and media productions chosen for the festival by the jury will be forwarded by the SVA Festival Committee to the AAA Program Committee.

We invite all makers whose works are programed to attend the film and media festival and conduct a brief Q&A sessions after their screening. However, SVAFMF is unable to provide travel support or accommodations for any of its participating filmmakers.

We encourage academic filmmakers attending the SVA Film & Media Festival to register for the AAA meetings, however AAA registration is not mandatory to exhibit your film (should it be selected) in the SVA Film & Media Festival.

Kate Hennessy


November 22, 2017


November 22, 2017 | By | No Comments



Friday, December 1st, 1 – 5pm, SVA WORKSHOP # 4-0770

Location: Marriott, Park Tower 8206

Are you interested in using film for conveying your anthropological research or reaching new audiences? Watch others pitch their projects, think about your own film, learn strategies for funding and distribution and join the discussion.



Six filmmakers have been selected from an open call to pitch their work-in-progress to a jury of funders, distributors and award winning filmmakers. Following a seven minute pitch, each filmmaker will receive feedback from the jury and audience on the effectiveness of the pitch and the substance of the film project – including strategies for visualizing anthropological content and suggestions for developing narrative and structure. Jury and audience awards will be given.

To participate, you must register for workshop #4-0770; $20 student, $40 nonstudent. Use this site for information about how to register (


Alice Apley (Moderator/ Pitch Organizer), Executive Director, Documentary Educational Resources, Co-Director Remembering John Marshall, (2006)

Sarah Elder (Pitch Organizer), Award-winning filmmaker, Uksuum Cauyai: Drums of Winter (1985) – selection National Film Registry (2006), SVA Film Festival Juror, Professor of Documentary Film at SUNY Buffalo, NY.

Ilisa (Lisa) Barbash, Co-director and Producer Sweetgrass (2009), In and Out of Africa (1992). Barbash wrote “Where the Roads All End: Photography and Anthropology in the Kalahari” (2017), co-wrote “Cross-cultural Filmmaking: A Handbook for Making Documentary and Ethnographic Films and Video” (1997) and co-edited “The Cinema of Robert Gardner” (2007). Curator of Visual Anthropology at Harvard University’s Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology.

Andrea Meditch, Executive Producer, Man on Wire (2008), Encounters at the End of the World (2007), Producer, Grizzly Man (2005) among others. President, Back Allie Entertainment. Developer, Discovery Films and Discovery Channel. PhD in Linguistic and Cultural Anthropology, University of Texas.

David Weinstein, Senior Program Officer, Division of Public Programs, National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH).  He manages grants for films, radio programs, museum exhibits, digital projects, and public engagement. David holds a Ph.D. in American studies from the University of Maryland College Park.  He is the author of The Forgotten Network: DuMont and the Birth of American Television (2004) and The Eddie Cantor Story: A Jewish Life in Performance and Politics (2017).



Director / Producer: Jarrod Cann, Co-Producer / Advisor: Dr. Stefan Fiol

Synopsis: LET THE GODS DANCE is a feature-length ethnographic film that follows the life and resilience of a Dalit drummer named Sohan Lal and his family who belong to a marginalized caste of hereditary musicians living in the farmlands of the Himalayan mountains in Uttarakhand, India. Like many drummers from his community, it is Sohan’s duty to invoke ritual possession and dance the village gods, yet he is still seen by most as polluted and untouchable. This film depicts how he and his children endure and resist the narrative that has been placed upon their caste-community for hundreds of years.


Producer: Anna Hedlund,

Directors: Anna Hedlund and Lesedi Rudolph

Synopsis – The documentary explores life in a Hutu rebel camp in the eastern Congo inhabited by the fighters and families of the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR). The film explores the worldview and propaganda spread by FDLR leaders, some of whom played a role in the Rwandan genocide in 1994. The film focuses not only on the soldiers experiences of violence, but also their families, all of whom are taught that there was no genocide in Rwanda, uncovering an unexpected truth in the propaganda that they are merely innocent victims of history caught in the middle of a war that was not their doing.


Director & DP: Emily Hong, Producer: Maggie Lemere, Impact Producer: Myanmar-Tsa Ji

Synopsis: Above and Below the Ground tells the story of daring indigenous women activists and rock musicians who come together in the ongoing struggle against the Myitsone Dam and for environmental self-determination across their native Kachinland. Through investigation, protest, prayer, and music, they test the boundaries of tentative democratic reform in Northern Myanmar, and work to create a future in which native peoples have the right to care for and protect their own lands and natural resources.



Director: Veronika Kusumaryati

Synopsis: Set against the turbulent sociopolitical atmosphere of West Papua, the film is a feature-length documentary portraying the lived experience of young Papuans in dealing with their violent past and present, in their struggle with their Melanesian identity, and in their fear and hope of their future under foreign forces’ occupation.



Director, Leila Qashu

Synopsis: This film documents Ateetee, a sung Arsi Oromo women’s indigenous dispute resolution process in Ethiopia through the rituals and conversations with the women who practice Ateetee. Arsi women use Ateetee for several purposes, but principally as prayers for rain and prayers for dispute resolution in the case of gender abuse.



Director: Gwyneth Talley, co-director: Gabriella Garcia-Pardo.

 Synopsis: Binat al-Baroud (or Gunpowder Women) is an observational documentary focusing on the Moroccan women who compete in the traditional, male-dominated equestrian practice known as tbourida. Until now, men wearing traditional clothes, armed with gunpowder rifles, charged their horses about 300 meters before simultaneously firing their rifles in the air. Since 2004, women have become increasingly involved in tbourida performances, participating along with men, and also forming their own groups. The film follows the team captain, Amal Ahamri, one of the first women to start riding in this sport, as she balances work, motherhood, and her passion for horses, and the contradictions that arise within her.

Aynur Kadir


October 23, 2017

Call for Applications for Co- Directors for the 2018 SVA Film and Media Festival

October 23, 2017 | By | No Comments

The Society for Visual Anthropology invites applications for Co- Directors for the 2018 SVA Film and Media Festival. This is a 3-year position that will begin after the end of the 2017 meetings and continue until the end of the 2020



The Society for Visual Anthropology’s Film & Media Festival screens work by students, professional anthropologists, and professional filmmakers at the annual SVA Film & Media Festival, which is currently held during the American Anthropological Association’s annual conference.


The film festival co-directors will work with the film festival jury, comprised of anthropologists and filmmakers, who select work to be included in the Festival on the basis of anthropological relevance and value to the field. Low budget and shorter works receive as careful attention as high budget or longer works. The SVA bestows a number of awards each year, including best overall films (at different lengths), best student work, and when appropriate the Jean Rouch Award for collaborative and participatory work.




Qualifications of the Film Festival co-directors:


  1. An advanced degree in Anthropology and a background in fields related to visual anthropology.
  2. Proven organizational skills, especially in managing events (i.e. workshops, conferences, and/or visual exhibitions)
  3. Background in some aspect of film or media production


Responsibilities include:


  1. Work with the SVA board to solicit films through annual calls for films.
  2. Contract with the festival hosting site, to make sure listing is up to date and has the appropriate deadlines.
  1. Send out a call for and organize groups of pre-screeners.
  2. Create a pre-screening profile in so that pre-screeners can enter their comments.
    1. Organize pre-screening of films via giving pre-screeners access to the films they will be asked to view, set deadlines for their comments and control their access to the films.
    2. Creates a jury in consultation with the SVA Board.
    3. Hosts the jurying meeting and works with the Film Festival jury to coordinate jurying of films.
    4. Determine prize winners with jury; notify winner and assist with coordination of travel plans and award presentations.
    5. Schedule the Film & Media Festival in consultation with AAA staff.
    6. Advertise for the film festival.
    7. Organize staffing for the film festival itself at the Annual Meetings of the AAA.
    8. Manage budget in consultation with SVA Treasurer, including costs for jurying, technical support, staff, travel awards, and advertising.


The film festival co-editors should commit to the following work effort:


  1. One or two hours a week from January to early March for festival planning/preparation.
  2. Three to four hours a week from mid-March to April for festival related communications, database preparation.
  3. Five to six hours a week in April and May for pre-screening communications, data input, etc.
  4. One week in May or June for jurying preparation and jurying hosting.
  5. One or two hours a week from July to September for conference and film festival coordination and planning, and to prepare an annual report for the SVA Board.
  6. Four – six hours/ wk in September, October and early November for festival coordination and planning.
  7. At least several days immediately before, during and after the AAA annual meeting for festival management. (Past co-editors found that at least half of every day at the annual meeting was used in festival related activities). Co-editors should expect to arrive at the AAA meetings one day early (Tuesday) and stay until Sunday; they are also expected to attend the SVA Board Meeting as well as the SVA Business Meeting and Awards Ceremony.



The film festival editor is a voluntary position and does not receive direct compensation for time or effort. The SVA Board will reimburse expenses directly related to film festival upon approval. Jurying travel and meal expenses are covered by the SVA. Film Festival co-editors’ attendance at the AAA annual meeting is required and reimbursed (up to $1500 total to be shared between the two co-editors).


For further information or to submit an application please email SVA President-Elect Matthew Durington:


Aynur Kadir


October 14, 2017

Extended deadline for AAA Film Pitch Workshop: October 30th, 2017

October 14, 2017 | By | No Comments

Are you currently working on a film? Are you interested in getting feedback?

Are you interested in ethnographic film production but not yet ready to share a project in progress?

Due to the enormous success of the 2016 Pitch Session, we are once again convening a Film Pitch Workshop at the 2017 Annual Meeting.  Please join us for the 2nd Annual Society for Visual Anthropology Film Pitch Workshop, December 1st from 1-5 PM.


This workshop uses the pitch format of documentary film festivals in which filmmakers pitch their work-in-progress to a jury of funders, distributors and award winning filmmakers. For each film presented, the jury will provide feedback including strategies for visualizing anthropological content and suggestions for developing your narrative and structure. Other discussion topics include conceptualizing your audience, and opportunities and strategies for funding and distribution.

Preselected filmmakers will give a 10 minute presentation of their project that includes a description of the story, themes, research, visual style, plans for completion and a short video sample. Our workshop format is intended to encourage lively discussion between jurors, other workshop participants and the presenting filmmakers. Discussion will address both the effectiveness of the pitch and the substance of the film project.

The goals of the workshop are:

  1. To model how to present a film project to potential collaborators, funders & distributors.
  2. To provide concrete strategies for turning research into visually compelling stories.
  3. To direct participants to funding and distribution opportunities.

Pitch jurors are to be announced.

Two Ways to Participate
PITCH YOUR PROJECT: Whether your project is in development, production, or in rough cut stage, this is an opportunity to get feedback on your work-in-progress from a jury with expertise in anthropological filmmaking, funding and distribution. Seven filmmakers (or filmmaking teams) will be selected to pitch projects. Those interested in presenting their film project should send a brief Pitch Proposal to Alice Apley by October 30, 2017. The organizers will select a mix of experienced to first-time filmmakers.
NONPITCHING WORKSHOP PARTICIPANTS: As a workshop participant, you can observe the pitches, get ideas for projects, join the discussion about the projects in progress, learn from the pitches, and plan for a future visual project.
Pitch Proposal
If you are interested in pitching, send a one-page description of your project and a video sample. It should include:
  • Short synopsis describing the significance of the project, brief discussion of the issues, themes and story you will explore, and the visual style of the film (e.g. observational, experimental documentary etc).
  • Your bio, including your unique qualifications for completing this project successfully, such as knowledge, skills, access or history of involvement with the characters and/or subject matter.
  • Please also include a short status report describing where you are in the research, development and/or production process, what work has been completed and a brief timeline.
  • Production-related photo (optional).
  • Also send a trailer, teaser, or clips via a single streamable link of film footage or visuals (still or moving). (7 minutes maximum)

For questions, email Alice Apley or Sarah Elder.

Kate Hennessy


March 3, 2017

2017 SVA Film and Media Festival Call for Submissions

March 3, 2017 | By | 2 Comments

The Society for Visual Anthropology’s Film & Media Festival screens work by students, professional anthropologists, and professional filmmakers at the American Anthropological Association’s annual conference.

The Festival jury, comprised of anthropologists and film scholars, selects work to be included in the Festival on the basis of anthropological relevance and value to the field. Low budget and shorter works receive as careful attention as high budget or longer works. The SVA may bestow a number of awards each year, including the Festival’s highest recognition, the Joan S. Williams Award of Excellence, named for the Festival’s longtime organizer who retired in 2006. An award for Best Student Work is awarded annually and the Jean Rouch Award may be given for collaborative and participatory work.

If you wish to submit a production please visit: SVA on FilmFreeway

For more information, please contact:

2017 Festival Co-Directors:
Kathryn Ramey (
Ulla D. Berg (

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