Total running time 5 hours 8 minutes Black and White (Part 19 colour) 1966-70
Film-maker: Ian Dunlop
Anthropologist (Pts 1-10): Robert Tonkinson

The object of this series of films was to create a scientific record of the traditional life of Aboriginal people in the Western Desert of Australia. The series was shot over two distinct periods and among different people. The first part was filmed in 1965 and we quote from the first RAI Film Library Catalogue (1982): "These films concentrate on the subsistence technology of Aborigines of the Mandjindjara and the Ngadadjara tribes of the Australian Western Desert. They were shot in black and white, with no synchronous sound, but with a careful commentary giving the basic information necessary to follow the techniques being filmed. The family mainly involved had been living for a short period on a mission station, but returned to the desert at the request of the film crew to make these films".

For the second half of the series, shot in 1967, the film unit located a nomadic group of people living a traditional life in the desert, some of whom had never seen Europeans before. They contacted these people and filmed them over a period of a month, having them perform some activities at the film unit's request, and filming others as they occurred. After the filming, this group were taken, at their request, to the Warburton Mission Station.

Film parts 1,2, and 4, although available separately like the other parts, have also been re-edited into a single film with the title Desert People (see entry in 1982 catalogue).

The entries for parts 3, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 and 10 are repeated from the 1982 catalogue for the convenience of the reader.

Film parts 3, 7, 11 and 17 of this series contain restricted secret sacred material nature and the film-maker has requested that these films should only be made available to:

a) adult members of linguistic groups of the people filmed.

b) genuine post-graduate scholars who are working in the specific subject area covered by the films and who are prepared to honour the secret nature of the material.

Anyone wishing to view these restricted films should first contact the RAI Film Officer.

1. Seedcake Making and General Camp Activity

This film is compiled from sequences filmed over two afternoons and is intended to show some typical afternoon activities.

In the first part the women and children of the camp are filmed as they gather food and firewood. The seed heads of the the wooly-bud grass are collected in a shallow bark pan which Gadabi then carries back to camp. Here, at the film-makers' request, she prepares a seedcake. First she threshes the seeds by hand in a bark pan. The seed is then winnowed by hand-panning in a slimmer bark dish. Gadabi then grinds the seed by hand using two grindstones. The flour is mixed with water to form a dough and the cake is baked in hot ashes.

The other women and children return to the camp with the food and firewood they have collected. Seeds are separated using a variety of panning actions and a lizard is cooked over the open fire. Nani complains of a headache and his mother binds his head with a rope. Catalogue number: (16mm) 2RA160 21 minutes £9.

2. Gum Preparation, Stone Flaking, Djagamara leaves Badjar.

These sequences were filmed whilst the family was camped at Badjar.

For the first sequence Djagamara was asked, by the film-makers, to make gum. We follow him as he collects bark from the gum-bearing spinifex grass and then separates out the small pieces of gum by panning in a bark dish (an activity normal performed by one of his wives). Returning to camp Djagamara lights a fire and manages, with some difficulty, to get the gum to congeal around the tip of a specially prepared, hot stick. (The gum will cool and harden, and will be stored in this form until needed for setting blades and handles, repairing dishes etc).

In the next sequence Djagamara is filmed as he searches for stone blades for his spear thrower. He finds a discarded hammer-stone from which he produces a number of flakes. Selecting one, he returns to camp.

Finally we see Djagamara travelling up the creek, following his family who have gone ahead in search of game. Catalogue number (16mm): 2RA161 20 minutes £9-.

3. Sacred Boards and an Ancestral Site

In this film one of the film crew's guides shows his sacred carved boards hidden at a totemic site. The boards are believed to be a direct link with the Dreamtime when the ancestors carried similiar boards. The commentary explains the use of boards in ceremonial activity and discusses their decorations.

The totemic site is the location of a legend: in the Dreamtime the ancestors circumcised a boy here. As the guide points to the marks in the rocks which were left by the ancestors, the commentary recounts the legend.

This film contains secret sacred material and can only be shown under the terms specified above. Catalogue number (16mm): RA45 7 minutes.

4. A Family Moves Camp and Gathers Food

This film reenacts the family moving camp. It starts with them dismantling their present camp as little water is left in the area. Then the film follows individual family members as they gather food, recording both the food they collect and the methods they use to collect it. When the family reaches a new well, they set up camp and light fires for cooking and warmth. The film ends with the family settling down for the night. Catalogue number (16mm): 5RA162 48 minutes £15.

5. Old Camp Site at Tika Tika

In this section we are shown the broken artifacts and remains of old shelters at Tika Tika where the family helping in the making of this film had stopped to camp. We see one of the wives mending a cracked wooden dish with resin, and preparing a headache lotion from quandong seeds. These are roasted, ground and rubbed on the head. Catalogue number (16mm): RA46 11 minutes £4.

6. Spear Making-Boys' Spear Fight

Minma, the head of one of the Aboriginal families featured in these films, makes a spear from an acacia tree. The shaft is straightened and the point made with a steel axe (steel axes arrived in the desert before actual contact was made with Whites). Spears were traditionally used for hunting and fighting. The film also shows two of Minma's sons playing with toy spears. Catalogue number (16mm): RA47 10 minutes £2.

7. Spear-Thrower Making, including Stone Flaking and Gum Preparation

Spear-throwers are used as a lever so that spears can be projected with greater force. In this film we are shown the step-by-step preparation of a spear-thrower. First a length of wood from the hard acacia tree is cut down and fashioned with a short iron-bar into the correct shape. Resin is prepared from spinifex grass which is used to stick the stone blade onto the handle of the spear-thrower. Finally a wooden peg is carved and attached with kangaroo tendon to receive the end of the spear. Catalogue number (16mm): 3RA48 33 minutes £12.

8. Fire Making

This film shows the laborious process a young boy goes through in order to make fire by rubbing the edge of his spear-thrower across a split stick. The friction ignites kangaroo dung and dry kindling placed in the crack. Normally the Aborigines carried smouldering fire-sticks or kept fires going where possible. Catalogue number (16mm): RA49 7 minutes £2.

9. Spinning Hair String, Getting Water from Well, Binding Girl's Hair

Here we see some of the women's activities in camp whilst Minma is out hunting. His two wives spin human hair on an acacia wood spindle. The hair is spun to make personal ornaments such as necklaces, and is also used to make belts on which lizards captured on the hunt can be strung. The children make patterns in the sand; one of them fetches water from a nearby well and then returns to have her hair bound with the hair-string band. Catalogue number (16mm) RA50 12 minutes £4.

10. Cooking Kangaroo

Minma has killed a large kangaroo-an animal that is becoming increasingly rare in the central desert. After gutting it, Minma carries it back to camp and digs a cooking trench. The kangaroo is cooked quickly in hot embers, then informally divided and distributed; Minma's wives are involved with this process only at the time of distribution. Catalogue number (16mm): 2RA51 17 minutes £4.

12. At Patantja Clay Pan

This film is the central sequence of the second part of the series (parts 11 to 19) and is intended to show a `typical' two day period for three Patantja families camped near a clay pan (water hole) during a period when water and food are plentiful. In reality, the shooting took two weeks. Sometimes the actions were filmed as they naturally occurred. On other occasions the film unit asked for some activity to be carried out at a particular time for filming. The families had been given clothes by a patrol a few weeks previously, but they removed these again at the request of the film-makers. The men are shown hunting emus from behind a hide. The women collect and grind mulga seeds, collect grubs from the trunk of a gum tree and cook them, and collect the fruit of the ngaru. It is early summer and the daily temperature is often well above 100 degree F. During the heat of the day everyone retires to the shade of their wiltjas to rest. Catalogue number (16mm): 5RA164 54 minutes £18.

13. Stone and Gum Working

The film crew requested Djungurai and his wife Nabula to perform the activities shown in this sequence. They prepare a spinifex gum and then Djungurai works stone (collected from the quarry) to make a scraper, knife-blade and hand-chopper. He repairs his spear-thrower by replacing the scraper, and shows how the tools are used and sharpened. Catalogue number (16mm): 3RA165 25 minutes £9.

14. Making a Wira

Djungurai cuts a section of wood from a tree for making into a digging dish of wira. He starts by using the hand chopper he had made (see Part 13), but after a time changes to a metal one. Back at camp he shapes the wood into a dish.

Djungarai was asked to do this for filming. It was difficult to find out how often he had used a stone chopper in the past. Catalogue number (16mm): RA144 9 minutes £6.

15. Mamu

Djungurai and Garimara chase away a mamu, or evil spirit out of camp. Both men are mapantjara, men who have the power to remove powerful bones and stones from their stomachs and use them for magic and medicine.

They chase the mamu away by removing bones mapampa from their stomachs and hitting these along and into the ground with their spear throwers.

This film was reenacted from an event which actually occurred the previous day (although Djungurai said that a mamu was also present on the day of filming). Catalogue number (16mm): RA167 8 minutes £6.

16. Headache

This sequence was not performed at the request of the film crew but was shot as it occurred. Garimara, a mapantjara (curing man), operates on Burunga who has a headache. He takes powerful bones from his stomach, pushes them into Burunga's head, and then sucks at the back of Burunga's head to draw out the sickness. Catalogue number (16mm): RA168 5 minutes £6.

17. Feather Boots and Manguri

Djungurai demonstrates the making of emu feather boots. These are used to conceal a man's tracks when he is going on a killing expedition. The commentary describes the various occasions on which the Djungurai had worn such boots in the past.

Natuna makes a manguri or head roll out of emu feathers. Women use manguri to help them balance wooden dishes on their heads.

Djungarai and Natuna were asked to carry our these activities so that the film unit could film them. Djungurai left out certain secret, sacred stages in the making of the boots. Little sacred boards are normally placed in the sole of each boot before they are bound onto the feet and then arm blood is poured over the feathers to matt them together. However, the film still contains secret, sacred material and can only be shown under the terms specified above.

18. Quandong Cake

The crew film Nabula grinding quandong fruit and mixing it into a cake for her baby. Then, at the film crew's request, she nurses the child as she would normally. Catalogue number (16mm): RA170 9 minutes £6.

19. Kangaroo Cooking at Kunapurul

Burungu guts a red kangaroo and carries it into camp. Djungurai cooks the animal and then divides it into its various cuts using stone and wooden tools. Children get water from the well.

These activities were carried out so that the unit could film them. Stone tools were used at the request of the unit. However, on other occasions, when kangaroos were being cut up, stone tools were often used in preference to metal ones. Catalogue number (16mm): 2RA171 20 minutes £9.

E.B. Gould, 1968. `Living with the Aborigines', Nature and Science Vol.6, No.2, pp 5-7, No.3, pp 2-4. [Descriptive account, written for children, of personal experiences and traditional food collecting among the Gibson Desert Aborigines].

R.A. Gould, 1967, `Notes on hunting, butchering and sharing of game among the Ngatatjara and their neighbors in the West Australian Desert'. Kroeber Anthropological Society Papers, No36, pp 41-66.

R.A. Gould, 1968a. `Chipping Stones in the Outback', Natural History, Vol.77, No.2, pp 42-49. [Manufacture and use of stone tools by desert Aborigines.]

R.A. Gould, 1968b. `Living Archaeology: The Ngatatjara of Western Australia.' Southwestern Journal of Anthropology, Vol. 24, pp. 101-22.

R.A. Gould, 1969a. Yiwara: Foragers of the Australian Desert. Collins, London and Sydney.

R.A. Gould, 1969b. `Subsistence Behaviour among the Western Desert Aborigines of Australia'. Oceania, Vol.39, No.4, pp 253-74.

P. Loizos, 1968. Review of the film Desert People. Man N.S., Vol. 3, p. 165.

F.R. Myers, 1986. Pintupi Country, Pintupi Self: Sentiment, Place and Politics Among Western Desert Aborigines. Smithsonian, New York.

J.C. Pierson, 1986. Review of the film. American Anthropologist, Vol. 88, pp. 269-71.

M. Simpson, 1983. People of the Western Desert and the `Kilikintari' Tribe. New South Wales Education Department, Sydney. [A kit of films, slides, books and teachers' notes for 11-12 year old children. The whole project is focussed on the film series People of the Australian Western Desert.]

N. Tindale, 1968. Review of the film. American Anthropologist, Vol. 70, pp. 437-38.

N. Tindale, 1972. `The Pitjandjara', in M.G. Bicchieri (ed.) Hunters and Gatherers Today, Holt, Rinehart and Winston, New York. [Interrelations between physical environment, social organisation and economic activities of a similar Western Desert People.]

R. Tonkinson, 1974. The Jigalong Mob:Aboriginal Victors of the Desert Crusade. Cummings, Menlo Park, California. [The response of Western Aboriginal People to sedentarisation and missionary activity.]

R. Tonkinson, 1978. The Mardudjara Aborigines: Living the Dream in Australia's Desert . Holt, Rinehart and Winston, New York.

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Women under Siege is a most relevant film and has already been the subject of considerable controversy ... Fernea and Gaunt are to be highly complimented for their productions. B. Aswad

26 minutes Colour 1982
Film-makers: Marilyn Gaunt and Elizabeth Fernea

Rashadiyah, a town in southern Lebanon six miles from the Israeli border, presents a picture of tranquility and violence. In 1964 the town became a camp for 14,000 Palestinian refugees, but in 1978 it was destroyed by the Israelis. The camp regrouped and at the time of filming numbered 9,000 people.

The title of the film is appropriate. The interviews with the people express the tension of living in a place that is constantly under seige, where every plan is transitory. One of the women interviewed, Ohraghado, is one of the political leaders of the camp who supervises the four kindergartens. In these schools, the children are taught more than reading, writing and maths: in one moving scene we see them chanting, sweet-faced, for the revolution. The film also covers several other women of the camp, all of whom say that they are not refugees, who discuss their role and commitment to the revolution. Everyone interviewed is determined that they will live nowhere but the camp or Palestine.

Yet, many of the younger people have never seen Palestine; for them it has become a legend of prosperity and hope. Also, the position of the women has changed in recent years, as interviews with the older women make clear. They now have a choice in marriage, and in their clothing. The women are shown learning how to use rifles, and a commando says that a marriage will be secondary to her commitment to the revolution. We would like to see the women who are not the leaders, to hear the opinions of a woman at home, but the interviews that the film-makers were able to get are revealing. A few men are interviewed, one who says that `girls' waste their time and another who says they are vital since they keep order.-

Throughout the film, the commitment to the revolution is omnipresent, a creed from birth to death, from generation to generation. One year after the film was shot, Israeli forces overran Rashadiyah and the fate of most of the people we see in the film is unknown. This is a powerful and thought-provoking film. Elizabeth Fernea has also produced a study guide, giving historical and ethnographic background information for those who would wish to use this film for the classroom. This study guide is available from: Elizabeth Fernea, Center for Middle Eastern Studies, The University of Texas at Austin, Austin, Texas 78712-1193, USA. Catalogue number (16mm): 3RA126 £9.

S. Antonius, 1979. `Fighting on Two Fronts: Conversations with Palestinian Women'. Journal of Palestine Studies, Vol. 8, No. 3, pp. 26-45

B. Aswad, 1985. Review of the film. American Anthropologist, Vol. 87, pp. 233-35.

E. Fernea, 1982. A Study Guide to the Film `Women Under Siege.' University of Texas Film Library, Austin.

E. Fernea and R. Fernea, 1987. The Arab World. Anchor Press, New York.

D. Hirst, 1977. The Gun and the Olive Branch. Harcourt, Brace, Jovanovich, New York.

S. Mansour, 1977. `The Sense of Identity among Palestinian Youth: Male and Female Differentials'. Journal of Palestine Studies, Vol. 6, No. 4, pp. 71-89

R. Sayigh, 1979. Palestinians: From Peasants to Revolutionaries. Zed Press, London.

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... is the Wodaabe world disappearing? and how are we to place the painted male faces? The very considerable success of this film is the ways it answers these questions. J. Picton

51 minutes Colour 1988
Film-maker: Leslie Woodhead
Anthropologist: Mette Bovin

The Wodaabe follow their herds in an endless migration across the borders of Niger, Nigeria, Chad and Cameroon in search of pasture. The droughts which have ravaged the Sahel since the late 1960s have devastated Wodaabe cattle herds, and this film looks at the daily pattern of survival of one hard-pressed family group at the height of the dry season. Gorjo bi Rima and his family have been the focus of Mette Bovin's fieldwork since 1968 and she has seen his herds decline from more than 300 cows to less than half a dozen. Yet, as she emphasises, the Wodaabe see their life as a balance between hardship and joy, and the film expresses this in sequences which record a child's naming feast and the Wodaabe's obsession with male beauty and adornment. `We like beauty,' Gorjo says. `We like to see people who are young and handsome and this is why we put on make-up.' The elaborate make-up of the young men and their dances, a kind of male beauty contest to gain the attention of women, are linked to a complex system of taboos which the Wodaabe insist they will maintain despite mounting pressures to abandon their nomadic lives.

This film was made for Granada Television's Disappearing World series. For another view of the Wodaabe and additional bibliographic references, see the entry for Deep Hearts. Catalogue number (VHS): RA/VHS195.

A.M. Bonfiglioli, 1988. Dudal. Histoire de Famille et Histoire de Troupeau Chez un Groupe de Wodaabe du Niger. Cambridge University Press.

M. Bovin, 1974/5. `Ethnic Performances in Rural Niger: An Aspect of Ethnic Boundary Maintenance'. Folk (Copenhagen), Vol. 16/17, pp. 459-74.

M. Bovin, 1985. `Nomades "Sauvages" et Paysans "Civilisés": Wodaabe et Kanuri au Borno'. Journal des Africanistes, Vol. 55, No. 1/2, pp. 53-73.

M. Bovin, 1990. `Nomads of the Drought: Fulbe and Wodaabe Nomads between Power and Marginalisation (Burkina Faso and Niger Republic)'. In M. Bovin and L. Manger (eds.) Adaptive Strategies in African Arid Lands. Scandinavian Institute of African Studies, Uppsala.

M. Bovin, 1990. `"Mariages de la Maison" et "Mariages de la Brousse" dans les Sociétés Peules, WoDaaBe et Kanuri autour du Lac Tchad'. In N. Echard et al (eds.) 4ème Colloque MEGA-TCHAD. ORSTOM and CNRS, Paris.

M. Dupire, 1975 (1962). Peuls Nomades. Etude Descriptive des WoDaaBe du Sahel Nigérien. Institut d'Ethnologie, Paris.

J. Picton, 1988. Review of the film. Anthropology Today, Vol. 4, No. 5, p. 23.

C. Ver Eecke, 1989. Review of the film. American Anthropologist, Vol. 91, pp. 835-36.

C. White, 1984. `Herd Reconstruction; The Role of Credit Among WoDaabe Herders in Central Niger'. Cambridge Anthropology Vol.9, No.2, pp.30-42.

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Witchcraft among the Azande is suitable for showing in undergraduate and graduate classes on topics of religion, philosophy, and African ethnography. It could also be stimulating to discussions of psychology and medicine. The success of the Granada series on public television in England indicates its appeal to a much wider audience as well. P. Leis

52 minutes Colour 1981
Film-maker: André Singer
Anthropologist: John Ryle

Evans-Pritchard's book Witchcraft, Oracles and Magic among the Azande has become a classic of both ethnography and theories of witchcraft. Now, anthropologist John Ryle and film-maker André Singer, who was himself one of Evans-Pritchard's students and has published on the Azande, have teamed together to produce the film Witchcraft among the Azande for Granada Television's Disappearing World series. Singer wanted to learn for himself the accuracy of Evans-Pritchard's analysis and to note the changes since the original fieldwork carried out between 1926 and 1930.

Among the Azande, witchcraft is considered to be a major danger. They believe that witchcraft can be inherited and that a person can be a witch, causing others harm, without realising her or his influence. Because of this danger, effective means of diagnosing witchcraft are, for them, vital. One method is through the use of an oracle. Several kinds of oracles are explored in the film, the most important being benge, a poison which is fed to baby chickens. The chick's death or survival provides the oracle's answer. Azande also use benge to judge other evidence in a court before a chief.

Anthropologists have long argued about the nature and significance of beliefs in witchcraft and sorcery and, more generally, about the similarities and differences between `traditional' thought and Western science. This film treads a delicate path, exploring an explanation of reality incomprehensible to a majority of Westerners and, at the same time, trying to portray the Azande as a clear-thinking, and almost familiar group of people. In this aim the film succeeds by creating a tension whereby the oracle's answers are important to the viewers because they have become involved and are forming their own opinions about the guilt or innocence of the defendants.

Zande is not a static society and much has changed since Evans-Pritchard's original fieldwork. The area filmed is influenced by Catholicism; people are Christian, but the church cannot give answers to many of the questions of the Azande people. The older people see their children abandoning traditional moral and other values. For this schism, the older people seem to blame the government more than the church as the church teaches a value system consonant with the traditional one. Yet, alongside the Christian influence and changes among the younger generation, the power of beliefs in witchcraft and oracles remains. If Singer wanted to give support to Evans-Pritchard's ethnography, he has done so with Witchcraft among the Azande. Catalogue number (VHS): RA/VHS141 £8.

J. Beattie, 1982. Review of the film. RAIN, No. 50, pp. 19-20.

M. Douglas, 1967. `Witch Beliefs in Central Africa'. Africa, Vol. 37, pp. 72-80.

M. Douglas (ed.), 1970. Witchcraft Confessions and Accusations. Tavistock, London.

E.E. Evans-Pritchard, 1937. Witchcraft, Oracles and Magic among the Azande. Faber and Faber, London.

E.E. Evans-Pritchard, 1971. The Azande: History and Political Institutions, Clarendon Press, Oxford.

E.E. Evans-Pritchard, 1974.(ed.) Man and Woman among the Azande. Faber and Faber, London.

E. Gero, 1968. Death among the Azande of the Sudan (Beliefs, Rites, Cults). Nigrizia Press, Bologna. [A Catholic priest's impressions of witchcraft after living with the Azande for thirty years.]

R. Horton, 1967. `African Traditional Thought and Western Science. 1 and 2'. Africa, Vol. 37, pp. 50-71 and pp. 155-87. [African ideas of causation, differences from Western beliefs.]

P. Leis, 1984. Review of the film. American Anthropologist, Vol. 86, pp. 1066-67.

L.Mair, 1969. Witchcraft, Weidenfield and Nicholson, London.

C.C. Reining, 1966. The Zande Scheme, Northwestern University Press, Evanston Illinois. [Later history.]

A. Retel-Laurentin, 1969. Oracles et Ordalies chez les Nzakara, Mouton, Paris.

A. Singer and B. Street (eds.), 1972. Zande Themes: Essays presented to Sir Edward Evans-Pritchard. Basil Blackwell, Oxford.

A. Singer with L. Woodhead, 1988. Disappearing World: Television and Anthropology. Granada Television Ltd., Boxtree.

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