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Call for papers for thematic issue (jso 147): Filming (in) the Pacific

This issue of the Journal de la Société des Océanistes aims to assemble the first collection of articles on the many issues of representation raised by the filmography of the Southern Pacific, as recently done for performance arts (Condevaux, Le Roux & Schuft, 2016). Pacific Islanders have long fascinated Westerners who have expressed their perceived singularity and foreigness through an array of visual and literary représentations. (Smith, 1985; Thomas, 1997; Manderson & Jolly eds, 1997). The arrival of moving images soon prompted them to record and save what then appeared to be threatened cultural practices, in the Pacific (Jordan, 1992) as much as in rural Europe (Lynch, 2017).

The Pacific has been a privileged site for filming since the technology was invented in the late nineteenth century (Griffiths, 1997). Anthropologists, explorers, and filmmakers recorded moving images in order to enlighten viewers, revealing Pacific peoples and documenting their existence, which had only been “discovered” over the preceding century. Oceania has an especially rich film heritage: the 1970 unesco inventory already documented 341 ethnographic films of the region. Gaston Méliès, brother of the renowned George Méliès (director of the 1902 classic, A Trip to the Moon), crisscrossed the region with a large film crew in 1912-1913 on a quest for exotic subjects. Recently, several films for the general public (including one of Disney’s most recent films, Vaiana Moana) have renewed this interest in the Pacific, reconnecting with a long-running Hollywood tradition that began with Flaherty and Murnau’s Tabu (1931) and several versions of the story of Mutiny on the Bounty, which starred some of the biggest names in Hollywood.

An analysis of the body of films on the Pacific makes it possible to explore how various Pacific societies have been represented on the screen since the invention of the very first audio-visual recording technologies (Langton, 1993). The first films were essentially colonial scientific efforts to study and record the traditions of peoples thought to be primitive in order to make them known to a Western public, in line with the “salvage ethnography” common at the time in France (Laferté, 2017). Recent productions, including Indigenous film and video, inform us of the variety of ways in which Pacific societies choose to visually represent themselves, for themselves (Deger, 2006) and for an increasingly global viewership, whether through amateur videos or exceptionally polished films (such as Vilsoni Hereniko’s The Land of Eyes, the first feature-length film from Fiji, presented at Oscars in 2005).

Between these two extremes – a cinema that made Pacific peoples into objects of curiosity, and another which saw them seize the camera to become authors and directors (Ginsburg, 2005) – the Pacific has also inspired some remarkable creative documentary films: Bob Connolly and Robin Anderson’s famous trilogy on the Highlanders of Papua New Guinea (Connolly & Morel, 1992), Cannibal Tours (1988) by Dennis O’Rourke, and Trobriand Cricket by Gary Kildea and Jerry Leach (1975). Some of these films took more distance from ethnological discourse than others, and following Jean Rouch’s practice, many broke with the naturalism and quest for authenticity of classic ethnographic films (Colleyn, 2012). They are engaged in a kind of cinema where Pacific peoples become actors, speaking and acting, no longer content to merely illustrate a culture by replaying rituals for a filmmaker’s needs.

While some of these audio-visual productions remain fairly confidential outside of a rather niche audience, others have won prizes at international festivals or are seen by millions on YouTube (De Largy Healy, 2013). To ever-greater publics, they reveal situations, ways of being, worldviews, and sensibilities that until recently were only accessible through the intermediation of anthropologists, journalists, documentary filmmakers, and directors of fictional films. Taking the form of feature films, television series (Meet the Natives on UK Channel Four), online videos, music videos, web-documentaries, digital archives, and smartphone applications, over the past 20 years the audio-visual production of Oceania has undergone unprecedented growth, with its own circuits of dissemination, web portals, discussion forums, specialized television channels (Maori TV) and festivals such as fifo (Festival International du Film Océanien), held annually in Papeete (French Polynesia).

Taken as colonialist propaganda, works of art, reserves of exoticism, indigenous political assertions, or scientific documents, these audio-visual resources can lead to a wide range of studies and enquiry (MacDougall, 1991). Today these filmed images are proliferating and being renewed in new creative forms, while also serving Pacific people as a cultural heritage resource. We aim to understand what these historical and contemporary cinematographic resources might reveal of the concerned societies, political situations, conflicts, and distinctive histories in which they are embedded, the values that they emphasize, and the knowledge that they are intended to convey and share. Beyond the seductive idea of “shared anthropology” and the reversal of the gaze demanded by some recent projects, the filmography of the Pacific conveys the persistence of an exoticizing tropism. As Tarcisius Kabutaulaka, a researcher from the Solomon Islands, suggests, films placing Papuans or other Pacific peoples at the heart of the filmic device and claiming to offer us “their” view of Euro-Americans continue to make the (good) savage the central object of curiosity (2015).

We are looking for papers addressing the filmic representation of particular groups; distinctive works or filmmakers; film used as a source of knowledge of the past by researchers or descendants of the relevant groups; and/or how the moving image became established in research as well as in the lives of Pacific peoples (video recorders, mobile phones, television). We are also open to considerations of the particular position of the moving image among other forms for representing the Pacific. We would also like the issue to assemble reviews and critiques of recent fictional or documentary films devoted to the Pacific. Interviews with directors, technicians, and festival organizers would also be complementary to this unique collection of perspectives on the filmography of Oceania.

Contact

For more detailed information, please contact the issue coordinators:

- Jessica De Largy Healy: j.delargyhealy@orange.fr

- Éric Wittersheim: eric.wittersheim@ehess.fr

Planning and submission process

- December 2017: submit your paper (60 000 signs maximum) to the issue coordinators (Jessica De Largy Healy, Éric Wittersheim) and to the jso editing committee (Raphaëlle Chossenot : Raphaelle.CHOSSENOT@cnrs.fr and Isabelle Leblic : leblic@vjf.cnrs.fr )

- January-March 2018: first review process by the issue coordinators

- March 2018: external review process by the jso editing committee

- May 2018: reviews sent to the authors by jso editing committee

- July 2018: reception of the final versions of the paper

Note to the authors

The jso is the only francophone journal on the Pacific and must therefore privilege the publication of the paper version of the articles in French (in order to meet the requirements set by the Centre National du Livre who funds the journal). Papers in English, if accepted, must be translated in French by the authors. In the online version, both versions (French and English) will be published.

Bibliographie

Colleyn Jean-Paul, 2012. Champ et hors-champ de l’anthropologie visuelle, L’Homme 203-204, pp. 457-480.

Condevaux Aurélie, Géraldine Le Roux & Laura Schuft (éds), 2016. Journal de la société des océanistes 142-143 : Du corps à l’image. La réinvention des performances culturelles en Océanie (https://jso.revues.org/7464).

Connolly Bob & Alain Morel, 1992. «Rigueur et passion. Entretien avec le cinéaste Bob Connolly, Terrain 19, pp. 159-170 (http://terrain.revues.org/3053).

Deger Jennifer, 2006. Shimmering Screens. Making Media in an Aboriginal Community. Minneapolis, London, University of Minnesota Press.

De Largy Healy Jessica, 2013. Yolngu Zorba meets Superman: Australian Aboriginal people, mediated publicness and the culture of sharing on the Internet, Anthrovision 1 (1), (http://anthrovision.revues.org/362).

Ginsburg Faye, 2005. The Parallax Effect: the Impact of Aboriginal Media on Ethnographic Film, Visual Anthropology Review 11(2), pp. 64-76.

Griffiths Alison, 1997. Knowledge and Visuality in Turn of the Century Anthropology: the Early Ethnographic Cinema of Alfred Cort Haddon and Walter Baldwin Spencer, Visual Anthropology Review 12 (2), pp. 18-43.

Jordan Pierre, 1992. Cinema/Cinéma/Kino, Paris, Ramsay-La Villette.

Kabutaulaka Tarcisius, 2015. Re-Presenting Melanesia: Ignoble Savages and Melanesian Alter-Natives, The Contemporary Pacific 27 (1), pp. 110-146.

Langton Marcia, 1993. 'Well I heard it on the Radio and I saw it on the Television…': An essay for the Australian Film Commission on the Politics and Aesthetics of Filmmaking by and about Aboriginal People and Things, Sydney, Australian Film Commission.

Laferté Gilles, 2017. Le film ethnographique comme archives. L'œuvre de Jean-Dominique Lajoux, Études rurales 199 : La Caméra explore les champs, pp. 15-32.

Lynch Edouard (ed.), 2017. Études rurales 199 : La Caméra explore les champs.

MacDougall Douglas, 1991. Whose Story Is It?, Visual Anthropology Review 7 (2), pp. 2-10.

Smith Bernard, 1985. European Vision and the South Pacific, Yale University Press.

Thomas Nicholas, 1997. In Oceania: Visions, Artifacts, Histories, Duke University Press.

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