'What is an anthropological film' is a question that has been debated ever since the beginning of the history of ethnography and film. No clear definition has come up, and that is probably just fine. The selection committees at ethnographic, or anthropological, film festivals do raise that debate now and then, but the films screened show the great variation of films that can be linked to anthropology one way or the other. Being an academic peer-reviewed journal, JAF looks for films that are based on anthropological research. The main question we ask our reviewers is whether they see the film as an academic contribution to anthropology, to teaching and comparative research and dissemination of anthropological knowledge. Interestingly enough, the reviewers do not necessarily agree.
This issue of JAF presents films from America and Asia that relates to anthropological themes such as economy, politics, religion and friendship.
David Bert Joris Dhert's film We must be dreaming explores how the 2014 FIFA World Cup and the 2016 Rio Olympic Games have engendered, promises and dreams and opportunities for the people of Rio de Janeiro. The giant events inspired researchers as well as media to follow closely how the city gradually moved away from a role of social caretaker towards becoming increasingly preoccupied with money-making opportunities. Based on research over a period of three years Dhert's film follows the stories of three protagonists that carry diverse themes revealing how these sporting events affected individuals and groups of people at various layers of society.
Roger Canal's Bea wants to know is a film following a young student in Puerto Rico, who seeks help to better her life situation. We first meet Bea as she looks up Tarot cards readers and other psychic mediums to find answers to her misfortune. Seven months later, which Bea says has been a period with lots of stress, the film follows Bea going back to the healers. As a context to the spiritual and religious concerns of the people in Puerto Rico, we are presented to astrology as well as the Easter parade. The last part of the film dwells on the healing rituals lead by the medium Pedro whom she also met seven months earlier.
Students and young people are also at stake in Tokyo Pengyou, a film based on Jamie Coates' long term fieldwork among young Chinese students and musicians living in Tokyo's unofficial Chinatown. As pointed to in the film, the Chinese character for music is the same as for happiness. A lot of music and fun, not at least from karaoke bars, is a theme throughout the film, but we can also feel an undertow of struggles and disappointments. The film focuses on Dongshi, a young musician and businessman who due to lack of success, closes his company, and plans to move back home to China.
Theyyam: The Dancing Gods by Felipe Pereira documents a Kaliyattam ritual in a sacred grove (kavu) in rural Kerala, India. The Kaliyattam ritual belongs to the Teiyyam class of ritual performances in which low-caste men invite deities into their bodies through a lengthy and elaborate sequence of "acts" to enable those present to interact directly with the deities and receive their blessings. The film follows the preparations and ritual sequences, with voiceover explanations of what is going on, stage by stage.