Before the Festival of Visual Culture, there was not a regular forum for anthropological and ethnographic films in Finland. Joensuu had all the necessary qualities needed for starting the festival: technical skills, cultural interest on subject and other suitable facilities.
The first international festival of ethnographic, anthropological and documentary film, the Festival of Visual Culture was organised by the Arts Council North Karelia, North Karelian Polytechnic/Media Program, The University of Joensuu and the City of Joensuu in the autumn of 2001.
Alongside with the festival has been arranged a lecture series of visual anthropology held by the ethnographic film-makers whose films are screened in the festival.
The Festival of Visual Culture is the first festival in the world to stream films to the Internet in real-time. So the films and discussions can be seen all over the world.
Most directors of the films have visited Joensuu during the festival. The films have covered the whole world, about 50 countries: Nordic Countries, The rest of Europe, Middle and Far East, Oceania, Africa, North America and Latin America. Among these are some of the most famous ethnographic film-makers, such as Asen Balikci, Colette Piault and Peter Biella. The Finnish directors include Lasse Naukkarinen, Jouko Aaltonen, Iiris Härmä & Visa Koiso-Kanttila and Arto Halonen. Many films have also had their premieres in Joensuu.
City of Joensuu has a long history of cultural cooperation with Russia. The festival is the natural continuum for this development. The development has brought several interesting Russian archive films from Moscow, as well as contemporary Russian ethnographic films.
In addition to the Russian connection with NAAVA (National Association of Audio-Visual Archives) and Lomonosov Moscow State University, also other significant representatives of several ethnographic institutes have visited Joensuu during these years: these institutes include NAFA (Nordic Anthropological Film Association), IWF Goettingen and Tartu Festival of Visual Culture, This has enabled to develop wider international cooperation between the institutes and other ethnographic festivals.
2006: "Urban Life"
2004: "Borders - the physical and cultural barriers between people and nations"
2003: Viscult in Petrozavodsk -"Man at the Turn of the Century"
2002: "NAFA goes On-Line" - other themes: "Islam", Colette Piault -retrospective, "Self-rule and human rights " and student films
2001: "Strangers in Society"