Country Auction & Country Auction Study Film

In 1983 three ethnographers and a documentary filmmaker produced a collaborative filmic exploration of the core values of a rural Central Pennsylvania community through a visual analysis of an estate sale. The resulting film was titled "A Country Auction: The Paul V. Leitzel Estate Sale." It was made possible because the ethnographers had already spent one year each conducting field work locally and had collectively decided that an estate sale enacted the values they had discovered in their studies. They teamed with a filmmaker who served as an outsider and foil to their in-depth knowledge of the community. The film combined the techniques of observational film style with reflexive elements, interviews, sparse voice-over narration together with deliberate breaks in the narrative flow of the events designed to make the audience aware that they were viewing a constructed piece of filmic research and not "a slice of life" documentary.

A Country Auction Study Film

Produced and Directed by Milton Machuca and Jay Ruby

The Study film is a critical examination of the methods and theories underlying the making of an innovative and collaborately produced ethnographic documentary – A Country Auction: The Paul V. Leitzel Estate Sale. At the 25th anniversary of the release of the Auction film, the four co-producers – three ethnographers and a documentary filmmaker - met to reflect upon and critically access the successes and failures of this film and to compare it to more conventionally observational films. The Auction film is a stylistical hybrid. It contains interviews in which the questioner is visible, voice-over narration, a montage of black and white photographs that are used to explain the producers' approach, sequences that violated the temporal narrative of the event and, of course, some observational footage. The discussion is interspersed with film clips and still photographs from the film that illuminate the discussion. The purpose of the Study film is to explore the potential and limitations producing a film that is a record of ethnographic field research and that reflexively exposes the assumptions of the makers.

Produced and Directed by Milton Machuca and Jay Ruby

Jay Ruby

Jay Ruby, an emeritus professor of Anthropology and former director of a graduate program in the anthropology of visual communication at Temple University in Philadelphia, has been exploring the relationship between cultures and pictures for over thirty years. His research interests revolve around the application of anthropological insights to the production and comprehension of photographs, film, and television. For the past two decades, he has conducted ethnographic studies of pictorial communication in Juniata County,PA. a rural American community, and more recently in his hometown, Oak Park, Illinois. A founding member and past president of the Society for the Anthropology of Visual Communication, past president and trustee of International Film Seminars, Ruby holds advisory and board memberships in a number of national and international organizations and is president of the Center for Visual Communication, a research co- operative.