Centrul Astra Film

                                                              

Astra Film Festival

Astra Film Festival 2004

Portrait John Marshall


 ASTRA FILM FEST 2004 celebrates the work of John Marshall in a special program which includes:

The screening of all five parts of A Kalahary Family, followed by discussions.

A Kalahary Family is the definitive work of the world-renowned ethnographic filmmaker. It is the extraordinary story of a people's transition fron a hunting-gathering existence to life as citizens of a complex, global economy. This series is made with a lifetime of documentation, research, and personal contact with the Ju/'hoansi ( Bushmen) of Nyae Nyae, and edited from more than two million feet of films and hundreds of hours of video. It is the product of a fourteen-year collaborative effort involving media professionals and scholars in the fields of anthropology, history, archeology, and ethnographic film.

A Kalahary Family is a five-part, six-hour series documenting fifty years in the lives of the Ju/'hoansi of southern Africa, from 1951 to 2000. These once independent hunter-gatherers experience dispossession, confinement to a homeland, and the chaos of war. Then, as hope for Namibian independence and the end of apartheid grows, Ju/'hoansi fight to establish farming communities and reclaim their traditional lands. The series challenges stereotypes of "primitive Bushmen" with images of the development projects Ju/'hoansi are carrying our themselves.

Panel: Pittsburg Police film series
Panel: Pittsburg Police film series

Any discussion of police work in America inevitably evokes ambivalent responses, touching, as it does, on our deeply rooted but not always shared notions of privacy and social responsibility, of individual freedom and the law, of order, of violence, and of the use and abuse of power. The role of the police has been as variously defined, historically, as our own responses, a history that has helped to shape the often frustrating and difficult roles in which policemen find themselves in this society. John Marshall made a 20 part series of films about Pittsburgh police in 1970-73. Since then, the films have been used in police training and in law schools to ground discussion in pre-trial law and constitutional law, particularly the 4th and 5th.

Amendments. Sequences from the Pittsburg series selection, presented by the author himself, are:
After the Game, b/w, 9'
The 4th and 5th and the Exclusionary Rule, b/w, 80'
Inside/Outside Station 9, b/w, 90'
Investigation of a Hit and Run, b/w, 35'
901/904, b/w, 65'
Three Domestics, b/w, 36'
The discussion will focus on:
- An outline of the Pittsburgh Project, the author's and the producer's intentions and expectations;
-  How cinema verite documentary filmmaking can be and has been used;
- A comparison based on John Marshall's own experience, regarding the making of ethnographic/documentary films about a foreign culture, and about one's own society (Ju'hoansi films, the Pittsburgh series, Titicut Follies).

In 1950, Laurence Marshall, (John Marshall's father) retired as President from Raytheon Corp., the giant electronics firm he founded before WWII. Laurence was not one to waste his time on frivolous pursuits so the retirement  was an opportunity for him to get to know his son better. As a young boy, John, always wanted to go to Africa, He read books about exploring in Africa like Jock of the Bushveld by Percy Fitzpatrick. The Marshalls had heard about an interesting looking for a lost city in the Kalahari Desert and contacted the Peabody Museum at Harvard University and the Smithsonian Institution to see if there might be some interest in a Kalahari expedition. The director of the Peabody at that time, J.O. Brew, suggested that they go look for some "wild Bushmen" while they searched for a lost city. In 1950, the entire Marshall family went off on the first of many expeditions to the Kalahari desert in South West Africa (now Namibia). Laurence Marshall assigned the jobs. Lorna Marshall (John's mother) was to do the ethnography, Elizabeth (later, Elizabeth Marshall Thomas) was to write a book, and John was to make the movies. On their second expedition they did indeed encounter a group of Bushmen living deep in the desert, who had no direct contact with whites. They were still living by their ancient hunting and gathering ways. These Bushmen began a relationship with the Marshalls that has continued through three generations. John began working with a little hand-held Bell and Howell camera and loads of Kodak film in 100-foot-rolls. The film came with a few instructions on how to make a movie, that and a shopping list of subject areas for anthropologists in the field was all that John had as he launched into what became a lifetime work; filming the Bushmen of the Kalahari. He was a teenager in 1950 and got captivated by hunting. John Marshall's first film The Hunters (1957) which he shot from 1950-52, became a classic and it enjoyed phenomenal success. It was shown in theaters, and was purchased by every major American and European university with a film collection. For many years John has repudiated The Hunters on the grounds that it is an artistic creation, a product of his own imagination and that consequently, it misrepresents the real nature of the culture. Throughout his career he has used this to argue for a more meaningful collaboration between anthropology and documentary filmmakers. The general stylistic principle guiding most of John Marshall's filmmaking has been cinema verite, further elaborated by him with the concepts of "sequence” and "slot". He argues that his method and product are merely "reporting" and that true meaning comes from "immersing" the viewer in the ordinary life of the people through "sequences", snatches of reality. John Marshall continued his film documentation of the Ju/hoansi throughout the 1950's. Due in part to the political of apartheid, Marshall was not allowed to enter South Africa from the early 1960's and throughout much of the 1970's as his close relationship with the Bushmen was seen as a threat to the status quo. By 1960 John further the developed Cinema verite while working with D.A. Pennebaker and Ricky Leacock. Later, he went to work for NBC, shooting the civil war in Cyprus. From 1969 to 1971 Marshall shot and produced his groundbreaking Pittsburgh Police Series. Seen against the background of the civil rights upheaval, filmed in black and white, Cinema Verite, these films were precursors to such TV programs as Hill Street Blues and "reality" TV shows like Cops.

 

A Kalahary Family- A Far Country

Director: John Marshall
Country: U.S.A.
Year: 1951-2001
Length: 86

Toma Tsamko, a Ju/`hoan hunter of the Kalahari Desert` recalls his first encounter with the ethnographic filmmaker, John Marshall, in 1951. John, his sister and their parents had come to the Kalahari to study the last independent hunter-gatherers in southern Africa. A FAR COUNTRY documents on the lives of the ju/`hoansi engaged in their ancient economy based on hunting game with poison arrows and gathering wild bushfoods. The film also chronicles the early years of a relationship between the Marshall family and the Ju/`hoansi that would last for more than a half century. In their own words, Toma, his wife !U and members of their extended family relate their personal histories and describe the Ju/`hoan society. Toma recounts the tale of a day-long giraffe hunt. We learn that the maker of the arrow that kills the giraffe owns the meat and determines how it is divided. But, !U counters, “Women do important things, just like men. It’s we women who feed the people”. And indeed, the Marshalls learn that bushfood gathered by women and girls provided 80% of the Ju/`hoan diet. Ju/`hoansi were self-sufficient in the 1950’s, but the old life was hard. “We were owners of thirst and owners of hunger”, says Toma. As the film ends, many Ju/`hoansi are imagining a different life. A Far Country is the first part of the five-part series A Kalahari Family

 

A Kalahary Family- Real Water

Director: John Marshall
Country: U.S.A.
Year: 1951-2001
Length: 56

Throughout 1983 Ju/’hoan movement out to Tsumkwe gains momentum. Three farming communities are established and the people are busy milking and managing their cattle. However, the fledgling communities face a new threat. The department of Nature Conservation is planning to establish a game reserve on Ju/’hoan land where people will be forbidden to have livestock or plant crops. They will be encouraged to act like “Bushmen” – dress in skins, gather bush-foods, and hunt for the amusement of tourists. REAL WATER documents a decade of grassroot efforts by the Ju/’hoansi to stake a claim to their traditional lands. As conflict intensifies, John Marshall and the people decide to drill their own boreholes. With more water the reason people can establish more farms and strengthen their claim. Meanwhile, International pressure for South Africa to leave South West Africa escalates. Better relations between Ju/’hoansi and the government become possible. Tsamko, Toma’s son leads a delegation to the capitol with a petition protesting the game reserve. Finally, the department of Nature Conservation announces that instead of game reserve, it will promote trophy hunting, definitely the lesser of two evils. Looking forward to a more democratic future, delegates from the farming communities meet for the first all - Ju/’hoansi convention to write down the laws by which they hope to govern their land.         

A Kalahary Family- Standing Tall

Director: John Marshall
Country: U.S.A.
Year: 1951-2001
Length: 55

In 1989, after twelve decades of colonial rule, South West Africa is about to become independent Namibia. Twenty-eight Ju/’hoan farming communities have been established, but the people’s legal claim to their traditional lands in Nyae Nyae remains in question. STANDING TALL documents the efforts of members of the Ju/’hoan  farmers’ co-op to find their relatives in white ranching districts and black ethnic homelands and help them return to Nyae Nyae and farm. The film depicts the desperate lives of the dispossessed Bushmen-poor, hungry, exploited – among whom the co-op members meet /Qui Chapman. /Qui, a highly skilled Ju/’hoan farmer, works for a white rancher and earns 120 Rand ($80 US) a month. Forced to buy his family needs from the rancher’s store, essencially /Qui works for cornmeal.
Political activity heats up as independence approaches. South West African People’s Organization, or SWAPO, the Ju/`hoansi believe are most likely to support Ju/`hoan farming and they celebrate SWAPo’s victory in the 1991 UN-sponsored national election. UN troops help relocate /Qui Chapman’s family to a barehole in Nyae Nyae. With little more than a pump and few tools /Qui dances for joy as his family looks forward finally to farming their own land.       

A Kalahary Family- Death by Myth

Director: John Marshall
Country: U.S.A.
Year: 1951-2001
Length: 86

By 1992, Namibian independence is attracting unprecedented levels of international aid for the Ju/’hoansi, but people complain that the development foundation no longer services theirs farms. DEATH BY MYTH documents the shift in policy from farming to wildlife management and cultural tourism. As John Marshall and the Ju/’hoansi attempt to rally support for farming, we witness the power of the “Bushman myth”. This myth – a belief that Ju/’hoansi are born to hunt and uniquely capable of living in harmony with nature – denies Ju/’hoansi the humanity to change their economy and survive on their own.
Ju/’hoansi endure their cattle being killed by lions and their water pumps destroyed by elephants. In 1994, Ju/’hoansi vote unanimously to dismiss the directors of the foundation, but their actions do little to stop natural resources development or the money pouring in to implement it. In 1996, with promises of great wealth, Ju/’hoansi vote to establish a nature conservancy. What did they really understand about the policy they were endorsing? The film ends in the year 2000 when the Ju/’hoansi conservancy members receive a meager 75 Namibian dollars (approximately $ 10.50 US) each – their profit from two years of trophy hunting. As more farms fail, many people are forced to return to the squalor and disease of Tsumkwe.