Distributed by Cinema Guild, 115 West 30th Street, Suite 800, New York, NY 10001; 212-685-6242
Directed by Stephanie Spray
DVD, color, 88 min.
Anthropology, Area Studies, Communication, Humor, Interpersonal Relations, Marriage, Photography
Date Entered: 10/23/2017Reviewed by Linda Frederiksen, Washington State University, Vancouver, WA
A man and a woman sit on a step and a child rings a nearby bell. Cigarettes are retrieved and lit while bicycles, cars, and birds provide the background sound. The couple, who the director describes in supplemental information as newly-weds, bicker and banter between themselves in Nepalese. The last line of the film, and the only sound that is subtitled, occurs when the husband turns to the camera asking: “Aren’t you uncomfortable?”
Filmed from a stationary mid-range position, the continuous 14-minute shot is unedited, depicting a scene as it occurs with no interference from the filmmaker. An example of the visual anthropology work done at Harvard University’s Sensory Ethnography Lab, the short documentary leaves interpretation of activity entirely up to individual viewers. As Stray writes in her artist’s statement: “…viewers are encouraged to ponder ethical questions regarding the presence of the camera, for what it shares and withholds, as well as that of the filmmaker as she hangs around, delving into the lives of her ‘subjects.’”
Although this very brief glimpse of a small moment in daily life is at first glance amusing, it is best to view the film after learning more about visual ethnography and the filmmaker intentions. Without this background and context, the ways that interaction and conversation occurs, and why it is significant, may be lost.