The German International Ethnographic Film Festival (GIEFF) has been celebrating its 25th anniversary!

Launched in 1993 as „Goettingen International Ethnographic Film Festival“ and having run successfully until 2016, its 14th edition has taken place from May 9-13, 2018 at the Florinsmarkt in Koblenz, under the patronage of PD Dr. Margit Theis-Scholz, Deputy Mayor of Koblenz in charge of Culture.
Current debates about globalisation, diversity and the so-called “Leitkultur” show that norms and values as well as notions of tradition and innovation cannot be considered just on an abstract level – the development of one’s own standpoint needs encounter and appearance as well as empathy and discussion. In this context documentary film can make an important contribution, if it takes serious the claim to deliver authentic portraits of reality, thus making strange worlds suddenly familiar.

During five exciting days more than 3.500 visitors have seen 53 documentaries from 33 countries, with topics ranging from crises, migration and exile to old age and human-animal-relationships. In addition, two interactive websites were presented.  Exchange has always been a top priority at the festival – between people from different origin, between the 23 attending directors and their audience, as well as between established filmmakers and newcomers.
An inspiring new feature was the “Filmmaker’s Choice”, which was organized in cooperation with the German Association of Social and Cultural Anthropology (DGSKA). We have been honoured that David MacDougall, eminent ethnographic filmmaker and prolific writer in the field of Visual Anthropology, put his work in perspective by talking about and showing excerpts from films that have been important to him or have influenced his filmmaking.

 

This year, GIEFF gave two awards:

The GIEFF Student Award (sponsored by the Martin-Görlitz-Foundation) went to:

„My Leg“ by Khon Soe Moe Aung

His film introduces the members of a workshop producing fitted prostheses for men who lost their legs through land mines and combat in Myanmar. The jury was „impressed by the unpretentious and yet particularly visual and cinematic storytelling, leaving enough space for the viewers’ own interpretations. Through following the everyday work and colloquial conversations, it addresses universal issues such as war, trauma, fragility and solidarity. Moreover, it provides a clear political statement against war, but never falls into the trap of moralizing or imposing an explicatory narrative.“ Thus, the jury considered „My Leg“ „a wonderful example of ethnographic and filmic storytelling that brings us close to both, the life worlds of these traumatized yet empowered men in Myanmar, as well as an encounter with our personal associations.“

 

In addition, the jury decided to give two Recommendations:

The first goes to „King On, Brasil!“, a documentary by Luiza Folegatti featuring six Brazilian Drag Kings and how they are using social media to promote their work and strengthen their community. The film is remarkable as it is constructed entirely from skype interviews and extracts of the protagonists’ self-presentations in social media. The jury recommended this film „as it highlights the important role of computer-mediated communication and social media today. It is an especially interesting and well-crafted example of ethnography made about and through such tools.“

The second recommendation goes to „Ethnographic Study of Algorithms“, a film by Dalibor Knapp based on 3D animation and found footage that draws on and critiques the traditional style of exposing and researching the colonial Other. The jury recommended this film „for its innovative and thought provoking use of 3D technology and new forms of visual and filmic storytelling“.

 

The Student Award in memoriam Manfred Krüger (1942-2018) was given in equal shares to 2 films:

„Nani” by Roman Stocker

Watching this film the Jury was reminded of Manfred Krüger’s close and yet respectful practice of filming: Nani resonates about aging and dying by sensibly approaching the perspective of the filmmaker`s grandmother, giving her and her memories the time and the space to unfold in front of the camera. The resulting images transport a sense of trustful dialogue beyond generations and beyond the family ties between the filmmaker and the protagonist. Furthermore, the Jury believes Manfred would have appreciated how the unintrusive camera works in the service of the film instead of placing itself in the foreground.

„What remains. An Obituary on Wilhelmine and Bernhard“ by Judith Schein

The film deduces the political biography of the filmmaker’s grand parents and how it stretches into the present. By mixing audio-visual methods such as photo elicitation, the incorporation of historic documents, graphic sketches and self-recorded commentary, the film tries to more and more narrow down the circles in which it approaches its object of interest. The jury awarded Judith Schein the first Manfred Krüger price for filmic anthropological research because Manfred’s heritage is not only characterized by his distinct way of filming. It was also the curiosity for innovative and unusual modes of audio-visual research that marked his work and his whole life. Thus, a second endeavour of this price is to support projects that follow him in these footsteps – projects such as „What remains“.