In Professor Scott Wilson’s Anthropology 478 class, paper and ink have been replaced with film, cameras and blogs. Rather than turning in research papers at the end of the semester, students are creating short films that will be showcased on December 13 at a film festival on campus.
The Anthropology and Film students, a mixture of undergraduates and graduates, are working in groups on nine diverse short ethnographic film projects. The ethnographies focus on everything from tourism for the mobility-challenged and their caregivers to the socio-cultural context of one girl’s Quinceañera, to dog owners negotiating the space of a neighborhood dog park.
Each student is responsible for a particular task on a film crew – conducting research, cinematography, directing or editing. Throughout the semester each group is maintaining a blog so that Professor Wilson can monitor their progress and offer advice when needed.
“At the end of the semester these students can say that they produced a film – that is something that looks great on a resume and is really quite an accomplishment,” Wilson said.
Anthropology and Film is being offered for the first time this semester as part of the department’s increased focus on visual anthropology, which emphasizes the use of photography, film and new media as research and presentation methods. The department has also created a visual anthropology lab, which houses cameras and computer-based editing equipment, and is currently conducting a search for a visual anthropologist.
“The discipline of cultural anthropology is rapidly developing in the area of visual anthropology,” said Wilson, who is spearheading the department’s efforts in this area. “A lot of anthropology departments are exploring photography, film and video as alternative media. As a more visual way to do research and present the findings – it can be an exciting alternative to the printed word.”
For more information on the course or the film festival, call Professor Wilson at (562) 308-7789.