You are here

Diary of an Ethnologist in China

1 post / 0 new
Anonymous (not verified)
Anonymous's picture
Diary of an Ethnologist in China

Ryoko Sakurada reviews Diary of an Ethnologist in China, directed by Patrice Fava (2009, 45 minutes)

This film is a unique ethnographic documentary on China in the late 1980s by French scholar and filmmaker, Patrice Fava. With support from local researchers, the Chinese Ministry of Television, and local television networks, Fava dexterously did most of the camera work, sound engineering, directing, and editing by himself in order to describe dimensions of Chinese life and worldview through the eyes of an ethnologist. In the film, Fava travels across the People’s Republic of China from the big cities of Chengdu and Shanghai to the small villages of Hunan and Shanxi provinces. There, he observes people’s ordinary lives and beliefs, and as an ardent ethnologist, he visually records, in detail, what people were eating, celebrating, cherishing, talking about, and praying for. In this way, we can relive the experiences of the ethnologist, seeing firsthand where he went and what he saw in China. At a glance, however, audiences may have an impression that the film is just filled with a series of scenes of lively China. Fava does apparently seem to pick up eye-catching scenes at random, but the smooth sequence of scenes vividly depicts an image of China in which the beautiful resonance between human beings and nature is observed. Also, the rich visual description of people’s ordinary lives and faiths in China during the late 80s should be highly appreciated as valuable firsthand ethnographic data for this era.

The film begins with the scene of a Buddhist monastery in Chengdu, the capitol city of Sichuan province. On July 5th, Fava’s camera captured images of devoted monks and nuns pursuing closing day rituals at 6 o’clock in the evening. He describes how the religions and myths of China have been maintained for over 1,000 years. Depictions of colorful images of people’s lives are followed by a sequence showing people’s practices of Duan Wu Jie, also known as the Dragon Boat Festival, on the fifth day of the fifth lunar month.

read more