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Christian Suhr

Ngat is Dead. Studying Mortuary Traditions

Research output: Non-textual formPictures, Video and sound recordings (digital)Research

  • Section for Anthropology and Ethnography

What do anthropologists mean when they claim to study the cultural traditions of others by participating in them? This film follows the Dutch anthropologist Ton Otto, who has been adopted by a family on Baluan Island in Papua New Guinea. Due to the death of his adoptive father, he has to take part in mortuary ceremonies, whose form and content are passionately contested by different groups of relatives. Through prolonged negotiations, Ton learns how Baluan people perform and transform their traditions and not least what role he plays himself. The film is part of long-term field research, in which filmmaking has become integrated in the ongoing dialogue and exchange between the islanders and the anthropologist.

“Straddling the permeable genres of ethnographic, participatory, and narrator-driven documentary, this one-hour DVD will be an extremely useful teaching resource. It presents anthropological insights prompted by filmmaking grounded in long-term familiarity and involvement with a community. It also demonstrates the benefits of an anthropologically trained film crew. … As an ethnographic film that demonstrates the value and developing insights of long-term fieldwork,this is excellent.”

— Mike Poltorak, University of Kent, Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, Volume 16, Issue 4, December 2010

Film Festivals, Screenings & Awards

Freiburger Film Forum, Germany, 2009

Royal Anthropological Institute International Festival of Ethnographic
Film, Leeds, England, 2009

Prix du Patrimoine Culturel Immatériel, Jean Rouch International Film
Festival, Paris, 2008

Beeld voor Beeld, Bogotá, Colombia, 2008

DIEFF, Delhi International Ethnographic Film Festival, Delhi, India, 2008

13th Mostra Internacional do Filme Etnográfico, Brazil, 2008

IV Moscow International Visual Anthropology Festival, Russia, 2008

VISCULT 2008: The Festival of Visual Culture, Finland, 2008

SIEFF, Sardinia International Ethnographic Film Festival, Nuoro, Italy, 2008

XXII Pärnu International Film Festival, Estonia, 2008

Beeld voor Beeld, Amsterdam, 2008

Days of Ethnographic Film, Ljubljana, Slovenia, 2008

Worldfilm: Tartu Festival of Visual Culture, Estonia, 2008

BILAN, Jean Rouch International Film Festival, Paris, 2008

The International Ethnographic Film Festival of Quebec, Canada, 2008

XVI International Festival of Ethnological Film in Belgrade, Serbia, 2007

TIEFF, Taiwan International Ethnographic Film Festival, Taipei, Taiwan, 2007

NAFA, Nordic Anthropological Film Festival in Trondheim, Norway, 2007

Original languageEnglish
Publication year2009
Place of publicationBoston
Size59 min
Publication statusPublished - 2009

    Research areas

  • Cultural change, ethnographic fieldwork, participant observation, Papua New Guinea

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