Thank you, Viscult 2018!

27.10.2018

Thank you everyone who joined Viscult 2018 - film festival!

We would like as a team if you leave us feedback from the event!

.Florencia Bohtlingk "La Flor Settlers" - interview

27.10.2018

We watched at Wednesday 24.10 Florencia Bohtlingk's filmdocument "La Flor Settlers" (Argentina, 2017)

Filmdocumentary was a pictorial and human documentary about the feeling of belonging and the struggle for the land.

We interviewed Bothlingk about her movie.

Vittoria Paglino "Choir" - Interview

26.10.2018

We interviewed Vittoria Paglino on Thursday 25.10. about her film document "Choir" (UK, 2017)

The document tells about an amateur choir in northern Italy and research about amateurism.

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Viscult is free of charge and open for all.

Jari Kupiainen - Interview

25.10.2018

We interviewed the chief of festival operations of Viscult 2018, doctorate Jari Kupiainen. Here is what he had to say.


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Viscult is free of charge and open for all.

Iara Lee " Burkinabè Rising" - interview

24.10.2018

Viscult 2018 has begun! The program for today can be found here.

At 15:15 (3.15 PM) we are screening Iara Lee's documentary "Burkinabè Rising: the Art of Resistance in Burkina Faso" (Burkina Faso, USA, Bulgary 2018.) The film tells of creative, nonviolent resistance in Burkina Faso. 

Director Iara Lee answered a few questions about the film for us.

What experience did you have in the past regarding to Burkina Faso and people there? How did you become interested in them?

I became interested in Burkina Faso while working with Slow Food International to look at countries with strong movements to protect traditional forms of agriculture. I was in West Africa and learned about the incredible history of resistance in Burkina Faso. This is a place where, just a few years ago--in 2014--popular movements removed a dictator who had been in power for 27 years. It’s a place where the spirit of indepence leader Thomas Sankara still animates the national conversation. I wanted to tell that story and expose more people to this incredible history.

Did you have any doubts about the film when you were making it?

I never had any doubts about the importance of telling the story of creative resistance in Burkina faso and of the remarkable artists and activists there, but we did encounter many challenges while making the film that almost derailed the whole project. Filming in the global South often comes with technical difficulties, such as slow internet and power and water outages. But this time, the problems were even more extreme. I became very ill with some kind of dengue fever while in Burkina Faso. I was stuck in bed while my cameraman conducted many of the interviews. He did not speak French, so I had to record my questions in French on his phone and then he would play them for the interviewees. Interviewing people who spoke various indigenous languages also presented a challenge in post-production, when we needed to translate languages like Mòoré, Dyula, and Gourmanché into English. It was a lot of work, but I think the results show that the effort paid off. I am really proud at the range of people we were able to include in the film.

What did you learn from making this film?

With this film, as with almost all of my films, I did not go in with a set script or a pre-determined agenda. When I started exploring Burkina Faso, I did not know what I would find. The story was created organically as I met different artists and activists, learned their inspiring stories, and followed up on new leads that presented themselves. I think that you will see from the style of the film that it has this sensibility of sort of unfolding organically. Because I follow this method, I am always learning a huge amount as a I go.

What was the best part or most important part of making the film?

The response to the film has been one of the best parts. I made this documentary in the hope of spreading awareness of creative resistance and providing lessons that are not relevant only in Africa, but all over the world. The fact that it has already screened in more than 80 countries has been incredibly rewarding. We’ve received some very positive feedback from audiences, which is very heartening. One Burkinabè viewer called it “a mirror of Burkina Faso’s revolution,” while an audience member in Italy reported that the film prompted a great post-screening discussion about the the lessons that could be applied. In many cases, people who know very little about West Africa going in say that they are inspired to learn more about the region. That is great to hear.

Are you planning to make more films?

Yes. I often have trouble saying “no” to people, especially when they're working on such compelling human rights topics. So I sometimes end up taking on an insane amount of activity. I currently have a bunch of films in various stages of production. There is a documentary about the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone, three decades after the nuclear disaster there. Another project focuses on art and activism in Lesotho. Still another film is about resistance to climate change in Melanesia. And then I have just travelled from Scandinavia, where I was filming about the indigenous Sami people in the arctic.

Earlier this year we also released a second film about Burkina Faso, Burkinabè Bounty. This short film focuses on agroecology and food sovereignty—something I touched on in Burkinabè Rising but thought warranted a closer look. I hope people will be interested to check out that film too!

The theme for this year is Good Life. What does good life mean to you?

To me, a good life means a life in which we are not just enjoying ourselves, but one in which we are all actively trying to make a positive impact. I hope people don’t just watch my films and say they liked it and then go back to their lives. My hope is that people will watch and be inspired to become more proactive. My hope is that they will do more than just go on social media, but will push themselves to get out of their comfort zones and help movements that are organizing on the ground. I hope that my films can be a call to action. Because that sense of social engagement and solidarity is central to my vision of what the good life ultimately is.

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Viscult is free of charge and open for all.

Bob Entrop "Shared Pride" - interview

19.10.2018

Viscult – film festival starts this year with Bob Entrop’s documentary ”Shared Pride” (The Nerherlands 2017) on Wednesday, October 24th at 10:30.

Shared Pride tells us the story of three women who deal with their heritage and identity in Sinti and Roma culture in different ways. This is director Bob Entrop's 12th documentary about the Roma culture, and we interviewed him about his film.

What experience did you have in the past regarding to Roma culture in Europe? How did you become interested in them?

It started in 2004 with the production of my first Sinti movie: the WHITE WHALE. That was the beginning of making friends with this very closed community.After the release and knowing a lot of Sinti who trusted me, especially Lalla Weiss, the spokesman of the Sinti in the Netherlands, we together decided to go on making more movies. One the most important films were A BLUE HOLE IN THE SKY and BROKEN SILENCE dealing about the Holocaust. It was the very first time that Sinti and Roma spoke about what has happened with their familys during 2WW. Both films were broadcasted and show at different festivals, winning prices.

Did you have any doubts about the film when you were making it?

Not at all, because we know each other for a long time and the shooting was based on trust.

What did you learn from making this film?

That it’s still neccessary making more films about new subjects.

What was the best part or most important part of making the film?

I am always happy making a film with Sinti. Friendly people with a rich culture.

Are you planning to make more films?

I have a trackrecord of 325 films. Including 16 movies about the Roma culture. Next year I release OEDOER DROM about a trip of Sinti to India, where they came from along time ago.

The theme for this year is Good Life. What does good life mean to you?

A good life means to me accepting each other with respect.

You can read more about the film here and follow all Viscult updates on Facebook, twitter or instagram.

Viscult is free of charge and open for all. 

Viscult special screenings in the Art Center Ahjo 3.10.2018

26.09.2018

The annual ethnographic documentary film festival Viscult will be held 24.–26.10.2018 at the University of Eastern Finland, Aurora Building. This year’s theme is Good Life. There will be a special Towards Viscult event to introduce this year’s theme:

Join us at the Art Center Ahjo for a Viscult special screening of two new Finnish documentaries on Wednesday, 3 October at 6 pm.

18:00 (6 pm) Ajan niin kauan kuin elän – I’ll Drive as Long as I Live

Dir. Matti Lieskala 2017, 52 min., English subtitles. The director will be present in the screening.

19:30 (7:30 pm) G. J. Ramstedtin maailma – Eastern Memories

Dir. Niklas Kullström & Martti Kaartinen 2018, 86 min., English subtitles. 

The theme will be introduced by University Lecturer Taina Kinnunen from the University of Eastern Finland.

Viscult 2018 - Program is here!

25.09.2018

The annual ethnographic documentary film Viscult will be held 24.–26.10.2018 at the University of Eastern Finland, Aurora Building. This year’s theme is Good Life.

The program of Viscult 2018 has been published. The program includes new documentaries, lecture and workshops. See the whole program in here.

Viscult 2018 – program is being built

29.03.2018

Almost 120 films were submitted to Viscult 2018 under the theme of "Good Life". The selection committee will now watch all the films and the selections will be made by mid-June. The program will be published at the end of August!

Viscult 2018: Call for Films

19.01.2018

The annual Viscult Film Festival of anthropological and ethnographic documentaries will be held 24.–26.10.2018 in Joensuu, Finland. The theme of Viscult 2018 is Good Life.

What is good life and how do ethnographic films depict and discuss its forms and aspirations? How are desires for a good life socially structured and played out in different cultures and groups? Who has access to a good life?

Conceptions about the ingredients for a good life vary. Cultural models of a good life find their basis in social organizations and power structures, gender, economy, religion, and the environment. The foundation for a good life is often fragile. How are prerequisites for a good life protected and secured in different situations?

Does culture change due to aspirations for a good life or do changes in culture and ways of life condition such goals? How does modernization or climate change, for example, affect the prerequisites for a good life? How do individually and collectively constructed conceptions of a good life match with each other, and what kind of tensions may emerge? What kind of moral and ethical questions link up with desires for a good life and with alienation thereof?

Viscult calls out for new and recent ethnographic films that deal with the prerequisites for a good life and their fulfilment in cultures around the world.

We are now inviting documentary filmmakers to send in preview versions of their recent films relevant to the theme of Good Life. A specialist jury will watch the received films for selection in the Viscult program. The organizing committee looks forward to inviting selected directors or producers to Joensuu, to attend the Festival in person and to introduce themselves and their work to the Festival audience. However, invitations will be dependent on the festival’s funding situation.

The main program of Viscult 2018 will be streamed live as a real-time Internet broadcast, so the events can be followed from across the world. Therefore the selection process will prefer those films that can be streamed. The organizers also reserve the right to use trailers and other promotional materials of the selected films in the advertising and marketing of Viscult.

The films should be submitted by March 15, 2018.

Viscult focuses on anthropological and ethnographic documentaries. The program consists of film screenings, student-focused workshops and plenary lectures. The events are free for all.

For the preview by the festival jury, please send a link to streaming services, preferably Vimeo or YouTube. A download link to Dropbox or similar is also accepted. Please also send us the password to access the film, if needed. Please make sure that the film file is available for the Viscult jury until the end of June.

Viscult is organized by the North Karelian Regional Film Association together with Karelia University of Applied Sciences and the Cultural Research section of the School of Humanities at the University of Eastern Finland. Associated festival partner is the student association Nefa-Joensuu.

“There are many different ways of being visible”

27.10.2017

We sat down with Anouk Houtman to discuss her new documentary Across Gender.

Have you liked Viscult so far?

Yeah, I have! There is a very nice atmosphere I think, like very welcoming and its nice we had the opportunity to go here together with Koosje de Pooter (producer of the film positioning Roma), so that was a nice thing. Yesterday I saw quite a few nice films and I really liked the first section yesterday what was about female autonomy. Issues they were telling were really impressing. Yeah, it’s a nice lively place in Joensuu.

Are you going to see Joensuu or other parts in Finland?

I’ve been thinking maybe of going to sauna, but I’m not sure.

Have you been sauna before?

Yeas, in Netherlands, but not in Finland and we thought while we are in Finland we should go and try it in here. We were in Helsinki two days before coming here, but we don’t have much more time, because on Friday we’ll go straight to airport and go home.

What films are you interested to watch?

I’m very curious about films that are same section as mine. That’s very interesting. And the film Underground (produced by Julie Høj Thomsen), I saw that in another film festival in Croatia, but I think I missed it, so that would be good to see. I’m also curious about, how Nicobar, a Long way (produced by Richa Hushing) is combined in same section as mine film. And of course, yesterday it was also great to see the film by Tina Krüger (Producer of the film Living art). It was nice to see the final version. We studied together so I saw the process and now I saw final cut.

How did you find these people tell their story and was it difficult to get them open up about their lives?

In the beginning, it was difficult to find contact actually. I tried to do it from the Netherlands, but that was bit difficult because I didn’t speak any Indonesian back then. I was trying to send some e-mails, but that didn’t resolve any replays. I was really worried because when I arrived there I had one appointment with one person who in the end is not in the film, but he did help me with the research. Then he connected me to one of the people who has a big role in the film and his name is Tama. Tama actually opened up other doors for me and since then I got involved with his organisation which is called People Like Us. I hang out with them a lot and it was very great time and through him basically I got access to other people’s communities. And then it was suddenly kind of, not easy, but it went well. So, once I had something I was able to meet other people.

How was reception being back in Indonesia?

There haven’t been any screenings yet because it is little bit sensitive topic. So, I promised I would keep them up to date where there would be screenings and so, as it would not be publicly available online. They are fine with me screening it in places but they would like it to remain within thin circles. So, they all have seen it online, but behind password and stuff. They were really happy, I think, with how it turned out and were positive about how it shows they stories, and that was really great for me. It was so important, because you are making this film about their stories, and that would be worst thing ever if they would not approve. But luckily, they liked it.

Do you think there are any changes coming for the LGBT community?

I certainly hope so. There are very active groups working on it and fighting for it, but I’m not the expert on whole political situation. I can say that, at the time my field work, at the beginning of 2016, the whole topic of LGBT community really got extra tense. There were lot of tensions between a few very vigorous religious groups. Some of them turned their focus on the LGBT community and then they started organized anti LGBT demonstrations and hand banners around the city. So, then you really feel, if there will be positive change. Now the focus is shifted a little bit, so it’s not so much focused on this topic, but it still is a sensitive topic. I really can’t answer, if there will be good change but there are definitely good people working on it.

What do you hope your audience will learn watching your film?

I hope that it shows that there are many different ways of being visible or negotiating your visibility as a transgender person. I think there are often lots of stereotypes surrounding this, or people don’t fully understand it, and that’s why I try to show different people for different groups. Yes, you can be religious and transgender and yes, you can create a safe place for this and you can be an activist and you can show a different possibility. I really hope that’s something that people can see.

What was the most memorable moment while making this film?

There is a positive thing that I can think of and a negative one. The positive example was the demonstration by One Billion Rising. They were also organising in Jakarta and I was also filming there, and working with them, so I was kind of part of their media team. We shared our footage and that was really great thing because there were so many different communities working together on this demonstration. There were feminist organisations, there were LGBT activists, there were people from the Visibility organisation and they all came together and it had a very positive vibe even though it was a serious issue. That really stuck with me.

A more negative one that was not fun was the moment that we realised that there would be an anti LGBT demonstration. They decided to counter this and organised a counter demonstration against this hate group. They planned to march towards the palace where the anti-demonstration was being held, but the police stopped them. They were not allowed to leave from the parking lot where they were organizing themselves, and this kind of turned into somewhat violent because they tried to move forward anyway, and the police tried to push them back. Everybody got a bit cautious, and went little bit hiding. Not completely, but they didn’t leave their offices, for example, because they would be easily found, and people knew their names. So that was a negative thing that really stuck with me odiously. 

Confident and creative people in Eldon

27.10.2017

Jessica Bollag spent some time in Eldon and now tells her experiences in her new film I’m not leaving Eldon.  

Viscult’s theme for this year is autonomy. How does your movie fit to that theme? Where did you get the idea for this documentary?

I wish the people from Eldon would answer this question by themselves, but here I try to do it as good as I can on behalf of them. The film talks about people from a small town that are experiencing changes due to the agricultural industrialization. Since in the last decades the competition for farmers was strong, a lot of people from rural regions in Iowa have sold their land to big farms and multinational corporations. Now these companies are earning most of all the profit coming out of the agricultural production. At the same time, they are the most important job sources for the people in Eldon. So, I would say that there has been a sort of proletarization, which is always associated with the loss of autonomy.

How close to your heart was this subject, could you identify with the people on the film?

I grew up in a part of Switzerland that is also economically fragile. As I met the protagonists I wanted to put an effort in giving them a voice of their own. So, I would say that the subject was close to my heart, but also to my experiences.

Did you have any difficulties in finding these people to talk about their home place?

I met the first local informant and protagonist Ellen in Costa Rica in 2009. One year later she invited me to attend her wedding in Eldon. For me this was the first occasion to get in touch with all the other future protagonists, before even thinking about making a movie four years later.


What kind of things did you learn from the local people?

To enjoy the simple things in life and to take your time to do things in your own rhythm. It was also inspiring to see how creative people in Eldon are. For instance, once the protagonist Kurt used old car seats to build a horse buggy.

In the description of the film it is stated that creative solutions and strong sense of community are essential for the people. Could you give us some examples of that?

In my eyes, the strong sense of community especially consists in sharing things, for instance the horse buggies. We once made a trip to the country side and people shared their horse buggies with whoever wanted to come along with them. On the other hand, it is seen as very important to help people out in their needs, since generally the local infrastructure is very weak.

Can you tell us what the most important experience was that you had while making this film?

The most important experience was the confidence that I experienced. As I arrived in Eldon, I thought that people would be critical about the presence of the camera. But I felt that there was a lot of trust and that the protagonists were willing to talk about their personal and daily life. 

Lauluja saameksi, ruotsiksi, suomeksi ja englanniksi

27.10.2017

Tommi E. Virtanen kertoo musiikin tärkeydestä dokumentissaan Bookmark Love.

Tämän vuoden Viscultin teema on autonomia. Miten tämä näkyy sinun dokumentissa?

Saamelaiset on integroitu osaksi Suomea. Elokuvallani haluan tehdä heidät näkyväksi ja osoittaa, kuinka heidänkin todellisuus voi olla hyvin monikulttuurista ja kiinni tässä päivässä. Usein saamelaiset esitetään mediassa vain historiansa kautta.

Miten kiinnostuit ohjaamaan elokuvan Jolanda Maggasta?

Jolanda tuli RIMLAB-projektimme myötä. Olin seuraamassa Lapissa nuoria biisintekijöitä ja kuulin lahjakkaasta saamelaislaulajattaresta. Hänen erikoinen sukutaustansa, äiti suomenruotsalainen ja isä saamelainen, lisäsi kiinnostavuutta.

Millaisia ajatuksia toivoisit Viscultin kävijöille heräävän heidän nähtyään dokumenttisi?

Kuinka arvokasta monikulttuurisuus on.

Opitko jotain uutta elokuvasi päähenkilöltä?

Kuinka tärkeää läsnäolo on musiikissa. Jolandalla se oli poikkeuksellista.

Kykenetkö nostamaan esiin hienoimpia kokemuksia Bookmark Loven teosta?

Biisinteon taltiointi ja tuon hetken ainutlaatuisuuden tajuaminen. Jälkikäteen ajateltuna hienoa on myös oman ymmärryksen lisääminen.

Millaisen vastaanoton Bookmark Love on saanut saamelaisten keskuudessa?

En ole vielä saanut palautetta saamelaisilta.

Autonomy in the midst of football and Olympic games

27.10.2017

David Bert Joris Dhert unfolds how he made his latest documentary.

How did you end up deciding to make this specific documentary?

I had moved to Rio de Janeiro in 2011. For my work back then, I was involved in the lowest regions of society, the conflicts in the favelas and the drug- and crime prevention programs for kids growing up in those areas. The future for Brazil looked promising and the country was seen as one of the upcoming economic giants. Nobody doubted that opportunity would knock on many doors with the city soon to host both the World Cup and the Olympic Games. Everybody was making plans and dreaming of a better life. From the energy in the air you could already tell that the coming years were going to be phenomenal, which they definitely turned out to be. With the simple question What will the sports events in a couple of years have changed for the lives of the citizens of Rio?, I gave my curiosity a go and started looking for stories on the street. I picked out three people and started filming their walk of life over time. Not much later, euphoria made place for mass disillusion and evictions, gas masks, threatening phones and imprisonments became part of the daily lives in Rio ahead of the sports events.

What have you learned from the experience?

Not easy to pick something specific, the list of things you learn when making a film is extensive and the process itself takes some years, so it marks yourself as a person in many ways. After a period of six years in another country, you end up embracing another language for your feelings, another culture and you become another you. Gradually you get into a position where you can get an outside perspective of yourself from two different cultural perspectives. An exercise in relativity. As for the filming process, my method was based on long term observation and for months in a row during shooting I tried to enter as much time as possible in the perspective of my subjects. Their truth became my truth, which got me to closely feel what they felt, experience what they experienced, be under pressure, feel helpless and see the raw face of reality behind the glamorous sports events several times. Going down that ladder helps you see the power games behind the maquillage of politics clearly, and see the plastic that the corporations present us as if they were diamonds. In a tragicomic way, our species seems to master the art of turning simple exciting things into complex anonymous constructions we gradually lose control of and eventually become destructive to ourselves. Just like these sports tournaments with glorious ideals have become the catalysts for homelessness and misery on a large scale: in the years of the World Cup and the Olympics, 22 059 families lost their homes in the city of Rio de Janeiro alone. It has become routine to read FIFA and IOC in the same line as the words corruption and scandal. The same can be told of politics. And the more the situation will move to these extremes, the quicker it will come to an extreme and violent clash.

How can autonomy be seen in the movie?

A healthy leaf reveals the root of the tree: you cannot understand Brazil properly without understanding its indigenous question. Not to be mistaken with the country’s past: indigenous Brazil is very much present - and future - with an indigenous population that is steadily on the rise. That is the reason why I wanted a clear indigenous line for the film. And as the evolution of the events that occurred during the filming period showed, the colonial deny/divide/rule came to the surface once more. From the indigenous perspective, little does it matter if the term is colonization, post-colonization, neo-colonization, national colonization, entrepreneurial colonization, globalization, oppression: if the gunman stands in front of you, he will kill you all the same. The cry for help of the indigenous movement of Rio de Janeiro, often misunderstood by the worlds large press agencies as ’squatters’, exactly stems back to that overall pressure on the indigenous territories spread all over Brazil, marked by assassinations and a violent war for territory for the sake of goods that are principally destined for export, and thus fuelled by the large international corporations that bring our food into our supermarkets (meat, soy, sugar cane), bring the minerals to our boutiques and so on. Whereas autonomy is an optimum for all, to feel autonomous is a privilege for the minority while it remains an unreachable state of being for the rest. The question is: what does the privileged minority do with its feeling of autonomy? Look away to be able to say wir haben es nicht gewusst should not be the answer. Carefree consumption cannot be part of autonomy.

Was it difficult to find people who were willing to tell everyone their story?

In fact, it was not: when people are in trouble, they are looking for help. And there were so many stories of misery ahead of the FIFA World Cup and the Olympic Games in Rio. For people who lost their homes, their collaboration with filmmakers and photographers was a way to denounce the injustice they suffered or a way to look for help. For people under threat, it served as a shelter. For local society, the filmmakers and photographers that were there to look behind the glamorous curtains of the sports events were a welcome counterweight for the local good news illusion shows of TV Globo and were received with appreciation and local support. The most challenging part of assembling the participants for the overall balance of this film in specific was to find someone who would possibly have a chance to improve his or her life during the sports events, excluding politicians and business men. I was happy I eventually ran into a story like that in the shadows of the Maracanã stadium.

Has your view on football or Olympic games changed after making the documentary, and if it has, how?


We should not be too naïve to think that highly lucrative corporate events like these do not cause endurance, pain and sacrifices on the other edge of the scale. However, even after going through hard times in the years ahead of the events, once the football games were on - much more than the Olympics - they brought excitement all over town. It showed the duality of the sports events and gave insight in why an innocent and enjoyable sport had become a billion-business industry: it is so hard not to enjoy the games and the excitement they bring. So, on the same day there would be and violence in protest marches and hooking up with friends to watch the games afterwards. It had nothing to do with fair play and was like “war without the shooting”, to cite Orson Welles, but then with the shooting. It certainly gave the sports events classic baselines a new twist. For The Game, For The World. All In One RhythmTM. There Can Only Be One Winner.

What kind of a message would you like for viewers to take with them after watching the documentary?

The great thing about film and photography is that it allows for many readings. Cultural ones, collective ones, personal ones, explicit ones, intuitive ones. It is a multi-layered expression of multi-layered realities and everybody reads from his or her own perspective. What do film makers know about their audience? Rather than imposing one, I would like to know that viewers are finding messages that are intrinsically theirs.

You can keep following the actual situation in Rio de Janeiro on the page of the film: www.facebook.com/wemustbedreaming

Movie trailer: https://youtu.be/IrxkzHJD44U

Many dances and brave people

26.10.2017

Davor Borić answers our questions about his new document Danuša’s Mara.

How did you come up with the idea for the film? How did you find these women on your film?

  Idea of a film came from brother ZvonkoMartić (he is a prior of monastery at BuškoJezero and he is also ethologist) and our researcherVidoBagur ,  who made photo monography about customs of Croats in Bosnia and Herzegovina. We came to Lug and Brankovići and met Marica Filipović and that was it.  She is a woman of great energy and we liked her a lot and made a film trough her. 

Has your film helped people to recognize this part of the culture?

We still did not show film anywhere (you will have world premiere), but I think it will be great for viewers in Croatia and abroad to see how this small community with Marica and great people in villages folk ensemble keep and present their culture.  (film will be shown in regular program at Croatian national radio television in November).

In what ways have women's roles changed in recent years, if any?

II think women's role changed in recent years. But it is really difficult to answer. Changes are very small and it is still patriarchal society.

Did these people surprise you in some way?

There were no surprises for me (only so many different dances that all looks the same).

Are the Croats a significant minority in the Bosnia and Herzegovina region, where you filmed your documentary?

I think that in this part of Bosnia Croatas and Muslims are 50:50 and Serbs are minority.

In your opinion, what was the most important thing you learned from these people?

I learned from Marica that you can be brave and strong and live your life in dignity and hard work.

Different side of the Roma community

25.10.2017

We sat down with Koosje de Pooter and talked about her new documentary, Positioning Roma.

Have you liked Viscult so far?

Yeah, I really liked it. I have been on one festival before, which was in Gottingen and this is also very nice. Also, very small too, like one screening room but yeah, I like it so far. It’s intimate.

Are you going to see Joensuu or other part of Finland?

Yes. We went to Helsinki for two days and then we came here, but it’s three days only, until the festival ends and then we go back home.

What did you like about Helsinki?

Yeah, I liked it. The city itself wasn’t very interesting, like the city centre, but we did go to Suomenlinna and it was really nice. And we also did walks in the park and more in the nature and that was really nice.

What films are you interested to see?

Yeah, I was interested specially in female autonomy part, because I studied genre studies last year and I have always been really interested in films about female characters. I also wanted to do it in my film, but I couldn’t because I didn’t have any access to females there. That was a pity, but I managed to do something else. And I really liked Facing Fears (film by Almut Dieden) and also Living Arts, it is from a friend of ours (Tina Krueger), so that is nice. And I also like the Underground (film by Julie Høj Thomsen).This is about homeless people, which also interests me. And Shashamane (film by Giulia Amati) also, a film about Jamaica.

Had you been in Ghent before making this documentary? Did you have any previous knowledge of the situation over there?

Yeah, because I grew up there partly. I am from Netherlands and Belgium is really, really close. I had to travel half an hour by car and I am already in Ghent. From 3 years old to 19, I went to school there, so I made clear from the beginning, that when I was doing field work, I would do this. And Roma people has been problematic, so to speak. I wanted to do this many, many years and I wanted to shine different kind of light to this problem, because it’s always very negative and one sided in the media. So, I wanted to show how they do have an agency and how they do take up things for them self and try to negotiate about their situation. So yeah, this is what I did.

How did you tangled upon this group and making this film?

It wasn’t really easy. I went there few months before we had to do the field work. It wasn’t easy, because at first, I wanted to do something with women and that really wasn’t working, because they didn’t want me to film them or to pay any attention to them. It was really hard to find any connection with them. It wasn’t so nice actually, but then I found this one guy, who is one of my main characters, Tibor. He actually knew my mother, because she is teaching also in Ghent and his children are in my mother’s school and he was “okay, okay, I’m willing to give you a change because I know her”, and suddenly he started to see what I could to this community and give them different voice and different way. So, it was easier but still not easy. Sometimes I went along and they said you can’t film this and that. And that’s also why I chose not only to focus on him and Martin’s organisation, but also charity organisation.

Are there any changes coming for the Roma community?

Yeah, I really hope so. Because there is more and more attention to them being there. City itself has to manage how to deal with this very large group. Which is growing in the city. There are changes on the way, but it is really, really slow. It is always very bureaucratic. They can do these certain things, because there are rules. It is also in my film, there are rules, so I can’t do anything else. That is a bit of a pity. The city (Ghent) has to stick up with these rules and can’t go further. There are changes, but they are really slow.

How have the city’s policymakers reacted making this film, or how has the reception been in Belgium altogether?

Yes, for example, this one guy from the city which I interviewed, said it was fine what I did. But he wanted to manage the interview, which was all scripted. He would not do anything else. So, for me, it was that there were so much more under the surface that they would not talk about. I haven’t screen it in Belgium, this is my first screening in a festival. I have shown it for the participants and they partially liked it. For example, Tibor said “yeah, you could have been more positive. You could have included me more”. I said to him “yes, but you would not let me film you more”. But the people who have seen it, said it shined a different light on this problem that is always shown in a negative way in the media. I show the people themselves, what they are doing, that they do have a voice and they are doing activities and stuff, but people don’t see it, because it is not that big.

Autonomy is this year’s theme, how well does your documentary fits to this theme?

I think it goes throughout the whole film, like for example, this one organisation especially really try to get recognized as a group, and that they have rights and they have a voice and it’s like this whole conversation with the city and charity organisations. We’re all trying to do the same thing, which is like helping them and letting them be there, but they are doing it so different ways that sometimes they don’t work together. Especially these organisations I think they are Roma activists, and this is where autonomy theme really comes to front row.

What would you hope for your audience will learn after watching your documentary?

I think that minority groups are really struggling in these cities. And they do have a voice and they do want to do stuff, plan activities to raise their voice, but people have to listen and it’s not always that easy. And I hope people see different side of Roma community.

Autonomy in art

24.10.2017

Tina Krüger paints us a picture of different kinds of contemporary African art. 

Where did you get the idea for this documentary? Were you already familiar with the artists or are you an artist yourself?

The idea for the documentary Living Art started during my MA studies in Visual Anthropology at the University Leiden in The Netherlands. I wanted to do my research about a topic that is also of personal interest for me. I found that the contemporary art scene in Maputo would be very interesting and challenging for me. I have been living in Maputo for almost 10 years and the art world was always a big part of my life here. Most of my friends are artists and as an artist myself I have worked in some collaborations over the years. Approaching this already familiar environment from an academic viewpoint would hopefully open a new understanding and generate new insights into the aesthetics and inspirations of Maputo’s contemporary art. I also saw it as an opportunity to explore the connection between art and anthropology, especially in the mode of representation of research results. This is why the result of my research is a documentary that uses both ethnographic and artistic approaches. I have coined it an aesthetic ethnography.

I already knew the artists I worked with on this project. Some are friends of mine; others were acquaintances and became friends throughout the process of the research and filming. I asked them to be part of the film and research because I found that their works represented much of what seem to be the aesthetics tendencies in contemporary art here in Maputo. Also I wanted to focus my work on young emerging talents, and all the artists represented in the film are well known and up coming talents in Maputo.

Autonomy is the theme of this year's Viscult Film Festival. Can you tell how your documentary fits to this theme? Is autonomy visible in the artists' creations?

There is definitely a strong autonomy to the artists work. All of them work on their own terms, with no institutional or other organized support. Most of the artists that appear in Living Art work on topics that are critical of social problems, politics, environmental issues, etc. Their art is self sustained. It is not created commercially, for example in the case of David Aguacheiro. His sculptures made of exhaust pipes and other recycled materials are not artworks that are easily sold, but that is not his purpose. He has a strong message to communicate, and works for that, leaving other factors behind. Shot B’s graffitis have faced a situation where an entire wall was painted white because of politically critical content in his images. Jazz P is an artist who immigrated to Mozambique from the neighboring country Swaziland and her gaining a position and momentum in the local art world to the point of being able to live off her art is a constant struggle. Nevertheless all of them keep going against all odds.

As for the film itself, I think it fits well into the autonomy theme because it too stands on its own two feet between different genres. Is has elements of traditional observational ethnographic film, but at the same time is not what you would call a conventional ethnographic film. Is explores some more artistic storytelling devices, but then again is not purely artistic enough to be considered an experimental art film.

Could you share your favourite memory of working with these artists?

I filmed with the artists over a period of more than a year, so naturally there were many memorable moments. If I had to choose one it would probably be the filming of the street performance with Idio Chichava, because it reminded me of the immediacy and unpredictability of documentary filmmaking. We had set out to Maputo’s downtown with a plan of how to start the performance. In this downtown area, street vendors sell second hand clothes, and some of them hang these clothes in the trees to make them visible to potential customers. Our idea was to hang the garbage suit that Idio would wear during the performance amidst these clothes that are for sale and to observe the passer-byes reactions. We didn’t expect the uproar that this would cause amongst the vendors. It almost looked like we had to abort the performance when in the middle of a heated discussion Idio started his performance. In the blink of an eye the confusion stopped and Idio’s movements caught everybody’s attention. It was a great experience to witness how his art reached out to the population on the streets and managed to calm what could almost be called a conflict down to quiet curiosity.

How does African art differ from European art? What kind of features are typical to it?

I wouldn’t say that there is or isn’t a difference between African and European art. From my point of view I wouldn’t even label it like that. From what I have found during my research, before being of a certain nationality, each artist is an individual, with a particular way of seeing and understanding the world around them, and a unique way of expressing this in their creations. Of course we can sometimes identify certain influences from a cultural background that might be rooted in the artist’s home country or continent, but especially for contemporary arts I don’t think that this is what identifies it. Even just looking at a group as small as the seven artists I worked with, between them they express completely different, sometimes even contrasting aesthetics and topics in their works, all the while supposedly being from the ‘same’ background.

What was the best thing about making this film? Can you tell us the most important thing you learned while making this film?

As I already mentioned it was quite the challenge for me to conduct a research and make a film in a familiar environment, and more importantly with people that are part of my ‘normal’ life. I was afraid that our personal relationships could negatively influence the filmmaking process. It turned out that it was in fact a huge advantage. My being close to the artists personally allowed me to invade their personal space and really get close. I feel that this closeness translates into the film, and I’ve already had feedback from audiences saying that they could also feel the closeness between the camera and the protagonists.

What I also learned was that it is a well working possibility to break conventional research patterns, and incorporate my artistic vision into the ethnographic work. The result is something in between the two disciplines: ethnography of art - artistic ethnography.

Playful women and traditional men

24.10.2017

Martin Gruber takes us journey to the village, where two opposite traditions coexist together. 

How did you come by this extraordinary village and the ritual? 

I was invited by Frank, the co-director to the village to make some films for him. He studied the Nalu language and had been there for quite some time before my arrival.

What did you learn from the women of the village? Did it take time for them to get used to you?

I learned from them how they were able to contest male dominance with wit, humour and performances. I think they quickly got used to our presence and playfully integrated us in their ritual.

Did you have any big challenges during the filming? If there’s anything you could have done differently what would it be?

It was a very big challenge to film for the entire four days of the ritual - especially as we did not have a place in the village but had to commute for half an hour by boat to another village where we were sleeping, charging batteries, transferring data, ect. I would have done a proper research before and after the ritual if I had the chance to film it again. The women’s perspective seems missing but on the other hand they refused to explain their perspective to us on our terms but chose to play with us on their terms. I think this can be seen as a form of resistance.  

Are you in touch with the people from the village anymore? Do you ever plan to go back?

I have not been in touch myself since the filming but Frank has been there. I would love to continue my research and filming there but do not have the opportunity right now.

Is there anything specific you would hope for the audience to understand or feel about the documentary?

I would like the film to be able to convey the atmosphere and the women’s power and ingenuity to create this particular space.

Did you eventually understand how these two rituals could coexistence? Can you find any similarities of that kind of coexistence in your own daily life?

Even though the two rituals are usually not performed on the same occasion, the co-existence of these institutions did not seem to be a problem for the participants. Only the Imam argued strongly against the secret society. More generally, I experienced the coexistence of different belief systems as rather common – in different African countries but also in other parts of the world including Germany. I guess it is not unusual for people to borrow from or draw from different sources in their „sense-making“. 

Personally, while I consider myself as a rather rational person, I sometimes find myself in situations that I would call „supernatural“. Some strange coincidences or encounters with people.

About Partners Of Viscult

23.10.2017

The Viscult Film Festival focuses on ethnographic documentaries, and the festival has multiple connections with educational institutions in Joensuu and elsewhere. The real-time Internet streaming broadcast allows the following of the film program for distant audiences, and schools can use the Viscult contents in their teaching. Educational objectives are supported by expert plenary lectures and student oriented workshops. The festival partners also include selected academic publishers with publications relevant to the Viscult themes and contents, and to the study of these topics.

Links:

Gaudeamus

Suomalaisen kirjallisuuden seura

Vastapaino

Urban autonomies

20.10.2017

Julie Høj Thomsen and Jan-Holger Hennies' documentaries show us the daily life of an undocumented refugee in Denmark and three unhoused people in Berlin.


Where did you get the idea for your documentary?

Julie Høj Thomsen:

‘Underground’ is my dissertation film for the MA in Visual Anthropology at the University of Manchester. It doesn’t show in the film, but the main character ‘Ali’ is actually my partner. His situation is of course something that affects me a lot personally. So already when I started the MA I knew that I wanted to make a film about the issues of migration, asylum seekers and migration politics. However, it was rather late in the research process I came up with the idea of making a film about and with ‘Ali’. But when I got the idea, I talked to ‘Ali’ about it and we agreed that it would be an interesting and challenging project to do together.

I think my indignation about how Europe, and in this case Denmark, treats migrants and refugees was my main motivation. Knowing ‘Ali’ personally has given me an insight into the many challenges you meet as an undocumented migrant, and I wanted more people to have this knowledge. Undocumented migrants are a group rarely spoken about or with in Danish media, and for that reason I found it important to tell a story from the perspective of an undocumented migrant.

Jan-Holger Hennies:

Initially I became interested in issues around homelessness by perceiving the on-going processes of excluding unhoused people from public spaces in cities worldwide. Manchester, where I studied at that time, gave some infamous examples. Reading more about homelessness and unhoused people I became slightly dissatisfied of how their actions and tactics for survival – food, money, bodily needs – were the most emphasised, often framing them as mere surviving bodies and thus furthering the dehumanisation of “the homeless”. The actual film “Urban Minds” then became the project for my MA thesis in Visual Anthropology. In Berlin, where I had lived for several years, I wanted to portray the “homeless city” from a standpoint that looked at the everyday, the emotive and affective planes of unhoused living. At that point, I had no idea with whom I would end up working or how the actual style of the film would evolve.

Jan-Holger Hennies, was it hard to find the people starring in your film?

Yes and no. To get in touch with possible protagonists I started volunteering at a night shelter and a day café for unhoused people in Berlin. For about a month or so I was just getting to know different people and tried to figure out where my film could be going. It was this time that really helped me to question my own stereotypes about the topic. Within this period I also got to know the film’s later protagonists, whom were all living in totally distinct conditions and hence collaboration ensued in quite different ways. Most notably Andrea – which is not her real name – wanted to stay anonymous but was interested in narrating a few episodes of her experiences. To me, including her was really important as the experience of being unhoused is drastically influenced by one’s gender. She thus wrote down some of her stories, we recorded them with her voice and I then proceeded to film around the places she described in order to find an audio-visual language for her narrations. This among other things brought me to cross half of Berlin in the night, walking with a camera.

Likewise, due to their social milieus, their everyday routines, sleeping situations, substance use, shooting with the other two protagonists came with heavy restrictions of where, what and when to film. The actual style of the film – combining quite different approaches to filmmaking into one – was born out of these stark differences between the encountered situations.

Julie Høj Thomsen, how can autonomy be seen in your documentary?

‘Ali’ has acted autonomously firstly by leaving his ‘home country’ Iran and crossing several borders. After this he acted autonomously when he decided to stay in Denmark, even though his asylum case was rejected. As an undocumented migrant, he lives in the geographical area of Denmark, but has no connection to or support from the state. Instead he is reliant on his own initiative and his social relations in order to sustain his own life.

Jan-Holger Hennies, what would you hope your audience learned from your documentary? 

When we think of homeless people we tend to think of the stereotype poor person begging in the streets, merely surviving, stripped of all individuality. It is therefore necessary to rethink one’s perception of homelessness – the term includes a vast diversity of unhoused people in distinct conditions and situations, living social lives, having their problems, managing their everyday, even creating notions of home in different spaces. Only if we can look past the economic needs – which of course are important – we are able to really grasp the individual humans that are dealing with their situations in their individual manners. And not everything a homeless person does or thinks is centred around his or her living conditions. To me it was extremely important to step away from any sort of moralism and pity within my film and treat the people I made it with and about simply as human beings. In times where “the homeless” is mostly perceived as a threat to the public sphere, this fact often seems to be forgotten.

Julie Høj Thomsen, what was the most challenging part in the process of making the document? What was the most rewarding moment?

The most challenging part was to figure out how to make a film about someone you cannot show. How to make it visually interesting and how to show ‘Ali’s personality without showing his face. Another challenging part was to make a film with and about my own partner, but I think we actually managed that challenge well.

I guess the most rewarding aspect of the film is that ‘Ali’ liked it and that he has actually started to make films himself after this project. Besides from that it has been rewarding to show the film and see people’s reactions. Generally, people have been very touched by Ali’s situation.

 Jan-Holger Hennies, how has the reception been back in Germany? Has the view on homeless people changed?

That would be great. However, as I haven’t been to Germany a lot lately the film has not been screened there often and will have its actual German premiere at a festival later in October. I’m really looking forward to engaging with the audience at this occasion. Still, the few personal screenings with the protagonists or other friends always led to interesting conversations about our general (mis)perception of “the homeless”. But to really change the overall view on unhoused people it will sadly need a lot more.

Julie Høj Thomsen, how do you view the future for people like Ali? Is there a chance that people won't have to live “underground”?

That’s a very hard question! Well my hope is of course that there will be a time, where freedom of movement is not only for money, goods and services, but also for human beings. The current political situation in Denmark, and Europe, doesn’t leave much hope for that though. However, I see people resist as well, ‘Ali’ being one example, but also more popular movements resisting current migration- and asylum-politics. Of course, my hope is that these popular movements will manage to affect policies on the area. But at the moment rejected asylum seekers, like ‘Ali’, are met with more surveillance and criminalization.

Jan-Holger Hennies, have you been keeping contact with the people starring in your film? How are they doing now?

Currently I do not live in Berlin anymore but I keep in touch with Micha, one of the protagonists, over Facebook and will sure visit when I happen to be there. He also is in contact with other people starring in the film. They are all doing well as far as one can know through such channels. However, with one person I have lost contact over the distance and will need to trace back the steps to day cafés and night shelters to visit again. I really hope I can get in touch.

Can you tell us what is the most important thing you learned while making your film?

Julie Høj Thomsen:

 I think the most important thing I learned or got out of the project, was a better understanding of what it is to be in ‘Ali’s situation. As mentioned before I knew ‘Ali’ very well before making the film, but making the film gave me the opportunity to ask question, I might not have asked otherwise. Viewing your partner not only through the camera lens, but also through an academic lens is a very strange and sometimes objectifying process, but I actually think it gave me some important insight, that helps me to understand him.Since it is only my second independent film, I of course also learned a whole lot about filmmaking.

Jan-Holger Hennies:

Apart from the issues raised above, for me this film was my first solo-project and facing that many restrictions and difficult situations in which the filmmaking took place was quite a challenge. At times I had no idea how everything could possibly combine into one film. A major help was watching Michael Glawogger’s film “Megacities” which consists of vignettes into several people’s everyday life on the margins of big cities worldwide (highly recommended!). The individual episodes thereby drastically differ in style in order to do what best fits the specific occasion. Once I had seen this and freed myself of thinking in more traditional filmmaking conventions, the project really came to life. For my current work on a web-documentary about Mexican clandestine gravesites and the role of Human Rights forensics – again facing many restrictions – this keeps helping me.

Julie Høj Thomsen: Underground, Friday 27th, Joensuu Science Park

Jan-Holger Hennies: Stadtgeister, Friday 27th, Joensuu Science Park

A Journey Through Exuma Cays

17.10.2017

Siri Linn Brandsøy and Suneeta Rani Gill tell us about their film that was a result of their three-week journey in Exuma Cays. 

© Tarjei Langeland

Why did you decide to make a short film series rather than one longer documentary?

Siri Linn: We worked on this project in collaboration with A Sustainable Future for Exuma research lab. Over the course of a three-year period they did fieldwork and research across numerous cays in Exuma and wanted us to make a series of short films representing the diversity of livelihoods on these islands. Together we identified four islands that we, the filmmakers, would visit during our three-week trip, making a short portrait film at each stop. In addition to this we made a 24-minute conversational piece that weaves together many of the interviews that we did and the places we visited over the course of the entire trip.

What kind of an experience was your three weeks in the Bahamas?

Suneeta: Producing five short films in three weeks was an intense, challenging and incredible experience. Since we didn’t have much time we always had to be switched on and ready to improvise. We woke up every morning before sunrise and worked until sunset. In the evenings when we were eating dinner we would observe tourists who were so full of energy after a day in the sun, while we were almost falling asleep in our seats while planning the next day’s shoot. There wasn’t time to laze around on the beach, but we did enjoy working in such a beautiful setting and meeting so many kind and interesting people who welcomed us into their lives. Being out there, spending time with them and getting to be part of their lives is why we do what we do. We love people and we love to tell stories together with them.


In what way does autonomy feature in your film?

Siri Linn: Autonomy is there in several ways. First of all, in the authorship; all the underwater filming was done by either Kimble or Dwayne and as co-makers they chose what to capture on camera. Kimble was especially excited to be contributing to the film in this way. For many people in Little Farmer’s Cay, including Dwayne and Kimble, learning to fish, having access to fishing grounds and being able to navigate the sea aren’t only traditions passed down through generations, they also provide them with a sense of control over their own lives. With these skills, they can provide for themselves and their families, they can continue to pass on this knowledge and they can do so in the place they call home. Rather than seeking work in urban areas far from home they have found a way of making a living in a place where they have a sense of rootedness.

© Tarjei Langeland


How does your view of the Bahamas differ compared to people who go there just for a holiday? Do you plan to go back any time soon?

Suneeta: That would depend on what type of tourist someone is and what one seeks when one goes travelling. Some people travel and engage with locals beyond service-oriented interactions, while others remain in their own world, choosing to enjoy a life of leisure without reflecting much on the lives of others. We are always interested in getting to know local people and their ways of life when we travel. Especially when working on a documentary project like this, the level of interaction runs deep.

Siri Linn: Through spending time with the locals and asking them to share parts of their lives with us I think we came closer to understanding how they see and experience life on the cays. Although there is always a gap between our subjective views, our approach is intersubjective. In the process we made friends who we are still in touch with and if we have the opportunity to go back to do other projects there we would definitely return.


What do you hope this documentary will teach viewers?

Suneeta: First, we hope that those who are featured in this film feel it is an accurate reflection of our time spent with them. For other viewers, we hope that through watching and listening they get a sense of what it is like to be from a small island like Little Farmer’s Cay and what a special relationship people there have with the sea.

Siri Linn: We also hope it makes people ask questions that we don’t address directly in the film. That it makes them think about the relationship we have to the landscapes and seascapes around us and go beyond thinking of them merely as resources to be used at will. For them to continue sustaining our lives we also have to sustain them. Take care of them. We live in a time when there's still so much we don't know about the ocean, yet many see it as an arena that we can control to exploit for oil and food, or waste disposal. If the sea isn’t an integral part of our daily lives we might not think about the bigger picture that we are all part of, while someone like Dwayne perceives the changes and experiences the up close.

( In The Waters of Little Farmer's Cay, October 27th, Joensuu Science Park)

Empowering Girls

17.10.2017

Another amazing documentary presented In Viscult 2017 is called The Girls' Club. We interviewed Stefania Donaera, the director, and learned more about women's rights in Africa. 

1. How did you come up with the idea of making a film about this exact primary school of Chicunguluine?

My main interest as an activist and director is women’s rights and also my previous works there about women. The first one, Francilene, was film in North east Brasil in a community of women living of substantive agriculture and fighting for the right to land. The second one, Wayward and stubborn was filmed in Bangladesh and it’s about acid survivors, women who have suffered from acid attack, used mainly by men against women to disfigure the victim.

Traveling in Africa I came across the girls’ clubs, which is a methodology to empower girls by addressing underlying gender inequalities both in school and in the community and I was so impressed by how effective and transformative it is.

2. Was it hard to get the women to share their story?

I got to know the community through a local and international NGO, ActionAid, which has been working in that area for the last 12 years so the trust was easily established. I’ve also learned in time how to approach people and explain the respect I have for them either as a group and as single people. Since I speak Portuguese in this case I could have a direct relationship with the girls and their families

3. Do you know what the reception has been like in Mozambique? What did the male audience think of the film?

The young protagonists were really amused by the result. Seeing themselves in a video for the first time was the most exciting thing for them. The reflection on the contents will come with time and with the matron who coordinates the groups. The groups are also attended by boys and the families of the girls are often involved in the meeting to facilitate the process of empowerment of the girls so they were not particularly surprised about the declarations given in the documentary

4. Do you know if the local government is making an effort to battle the problem and improving the state of women?

Especially in the countryside it takes time to shift people’s minds and their approach to life, so one thing is changing the legal framework about women’s rights and the other is a real improvement in the life conditions of women and girls

5. Can you tell the most important thing you learned from the people you filmed? Has your view on something changed during the project?

Seeing the enthusiasm of the girls and how they respond to the smallest investment of time and resources when it comes to having better chances and real opportunities to be protagonist of their lives is always a strong lesson for me, to appreciate the freedom I’ve been given and to keep on promoting my works to contribute to this kind of processes of empowerment.

(The Girls' Club, 27th of October, Joensuu Science Park)

Facing Fears On Both Sides

13.10.2017

Almut Dieden tells us about her documentary on female autonomy

1. How did you end up making this documentary?

“Facing Fears” is my dissertation film for the MA Visual Anthropology in Manchester, UK. I had been volunteering in a charity in Manchester called MASH, that supports female sex workers. There, I met so many incredibly strong women. For the first few weeks of the dissertation project, I just talked to the women who came to the daily drop-in centre, without a camera or a microphone between us. Their experiences were very diverse, yet there were a few themes that most stories had in common: the violence female sex workers face, and the stigma surrounding their profession. With “Facing Fears”, I wanted to create a film that talks about these issues, and also challenges stereotypes surrounding race, gender, sex work and drug use. The film shows one woman’s life who has lived through rape, abuse, death of her twin sister and son, yet without defining the character as a victim, as just “a sex worker” or “a drug addict”. Rather, she is a sister, a mother, an aunt, a friend, a choir singer, a hobby cook, a poet, a human being with hopes and dreams.

2. How did you find this brave woman to tell her story to the world? Was it difficult for Jackie to open up?

About one month after starting the research, one of the charity’s staff members introduced me to Jackie, who used to come to the centre before she got into rehab and quit sex work. We immediately got along - and soon after started our collaboration. It was like we had both been waiting for each other - Jackie wanted to tell her story, and I was there to give her voice a platform. Before we started filming, we took time to get to know each other, to become friends, to share our visions of the film. It was very important for both of us to build this relationship, because we knew that the summer would take us on an emotional rollercoaster through Jackie’s life. I believe this intimacy was pivotal - it would have been impossible to make the film without our mutual trust and close collaboration throughout the production.

3. How did the documentary change you and your views?

From a filmmaking perspective, making “Facing Fears” showed me what kind of documentaries I want to work on in the future: Intimate, in-depth stories that are based on a close collaboration between filmmaker and protagonist(s). As this is my first solo project, of course I also learned a lot along the way, about camerawork, collaboration, storytelling, editing, etc.

On a personal level, just by spending time with Jackie and listening to her stories, I felt inspired and empowered in so many ways. She has this amazing ability to “infect” others with her courage and positive outlook on life. Also, while working on this documentary I became aware of the many subconscious stereotypes - not just about sex work or addiction - in my head. I hope that becoming conscious of my prejudices is the first step to overcome them.

4. Did you personally had to face some of your own fears while making the film?

Yes! After the first week of editing, Jackie came to the editing suite to look through the footage and the rough cut. That was one of the scariest moments I ever experienced, being exposed to the criticism of my protagonist. But Jackie was the best editorial advisor I could have wished for. She also was there for the premiere and for my graduation, and her words of encouragement helped to overcome my general fear of showing my work to the public.

5. What was your most memorable moment while making this film?

Getting on the train to Glasgow with Jackie - it felt very symbolic, like both our lives were moving forward to new adventures and exciting opportunities, and we were lucky enough to share that moment.

6. The theme in Viscult 2017 is autonomy. How can this be seen in your documentary?

Autonomy is about independence and self-determination. “For a life full of pride, and freedom from drugs, I chose recovery, it felt so good” - these are Jackie’s words, written in a poem while she was in rehab. Autonomy for Jackie is also about emotionally liberating herself from the trauma and pain and fears that have been part of her family for generations. To sum it up in Jackie’s words: “That’s what it is, it’s facing fears and facing feelings. Because I’m in recovery and working through the process of having a healthy fear, I don’t have to go back to use drugs to bury that pain. Just let it come up. The quicker you accept it, the quicker it comes up, the quicker you re-heal.”

Facing Fears, presented on the 25th of October, Joensuu Science Park

"This is not the life I wanted but I thank God for everything"

06.10.2017

We would like to introduce you to some of the documentaries presented in the event. One of them is called 2 girls - directed by Marco Speroni. Read the interview here

How did you end up creating this film and what did you learn in the process of making it?

The journey of this documentary started when I met an international team of researchers - all women - who were working on the field in Bangladesh and Ethiopia. I follow them for a year getting closer to the girls, getting in this way the most important key for making documentaries: the access. Otherwise it would be very difficult or even impossible to get so close with our cameras to the girls in countries like that. 

In the process, I learned how the girls, not only Lota and Tigist but also others I met, can be so generous, brave, and sweet, despite the hard, tough situation they live.

How did you manage to contact these two young women and was it easy for them to tell everyone about their personal lives?

Thanks to the researchers I got the trust of the girls. Without the researchers, I couldn’t have that chance. Telling their stories was an act of trust by the girls. For example, at first the Ethiopian girl was available to tell her story but she didn’t want to show her face. Perfectly understandable since Ethiopia is a very religious country and her work is not exactly in that way. It was both a matter of trust and a great act of bravery that she changed her mind showing her face to the camera. 

On the introduction of the film it is stated that the two girls believe in a better future despite their troubles. Has the documentary helped them even more with their positive attitude?

I’d really like to think that the documentary helped them to improve their condition but unfortunately a documentary never changes lives. It just can be an important tool to let the audience aware of situations like these and possibly to raise attention to those countries and the poverty in where they live. Luckily they both have a very positive attitude, strong will and inner strength to fight for a better future. With all my heart I hope they will make it.

What is your most unforgettable moment during the filming?

I have many sweet and touching memories I keep in my heart. The smiles of the people living in the poorest slum of Dhaka, their generosity inviting you to have a cup of tea despite their terrible poverty, the sweetness and shyness of other girls I met in those countries. The courage of Tigist allowing us to follow her in the night work in the streets of Addis Ababa and again the sweetness of the other girls I met in Addis doing the same job of Tigist.

What was the most challenging part in the making of the film? Was it difficult for you to not get emotionally affected by the girls’ stories?

The most challenging part in making the film was in Addis Ababa where I had to deal with so many limitations and practical issues and troubles. 

I got more and more emotionally affected over time, even when I was in the editing room watching and listening to them on and on. I can say that today I’m even more emotional affected by the girls and their stories then when I started filming. This documentary is part of my life and it will be forever.

Were you familiar with the local cultures and policies beforehand or was everything completely new for you?

I was familiar with the Bangladesh culture as I went many times in East and Far East countries. I was less familiar with the Ethiopian culture but luckily my D.O.P. Riccardo was indeed very familiar with it and this was a great help.

This year’s theme in Viscult is autonomy. How is this visible in your documentary?

“Autonomy” is a perfect theme for “2 Girls” subject. Lota and Tigist are linked by the same journey from poverty and abuses to the hell of the extremely difficult life in Dhaka and Addis Ababa. They left their villages seeking for a better life and getting a job to save money to send to their families. Things went very hard, especially for the Ethiopian girl, but they are still fighting for a life that, maybe tomorrow, will be better.

What is the message you want to tell the world through your film?

The best and true message is delivered just by the two girls telling their stories to different audiences in the world. With their courage and their strength, they show how to survive in those situation, how you have to adapt your hopes and goals to the reality of the life, how keep going to fight for a better life. The most touching message is told by Tigist, the Ethiopian girl, at the end of the documentary: “I love to pray God to help me quit this job. This is not the life I wanted but I thank God for everything. I want to quit this job. Forever. Despite the feeling that I hide I try to be happy and live a normal life. Life is fine”.

(2 Girls, presented on 27th of October in Joensuu Science Park)

Viscult 2017 -program is here!

29.09.2017

The program of Viscult 2017 has been published. The program includes new documentaries, lectures and workshops. See the whole program in here.

Viscult 2017 - program is being built

29.05.2017

Over 120 films were submitted to Viscult 2017 under the theme of "Autonomy". The selection committee has watched all the films and the selections will be made by mid-June. The program will be published at the end of August!

Viscult 2017: Call for Films

20.01.2017

The annual Viscult Film Festival of anthropological and ethnographic documentaries will be held 25.–27.10.2017 in Joensuu, Finland. The theme of Viscult 2017 is Autonomy.

Viscult 2017 calls for anthropological and ethnographic documentary films that address the issues of cultural self-determination and autonomy. Everyone shares the objective of strengthening one’s control of life and the desire to decide upon one’s own affairs. Autonomy is also the basic condition for the cultural survival of indigenous groups and ethnocultural minorities. The improvement of a group or individual situation is both supported and obstructed by cultural models, traditions and everyday practices. For example, gender, seniority, social class and intra-family relations may complicate the lives of fragile members in groups. The ownership of local resources is a fundamental survival issue for indigenous and local cultures. Globalization challenges individual and group attempts at autonomy everywhere, as common global culture and global technologies change the cultural everyday in profound ways. The Internet enables fresh forms of social agency, and the collective power of the net can be channelled to promote individual and group efforts. How does the theme of autonomy influence the documentary film process? What are the cinematic ways to mediate individual and group autonomy attempts in a documentary? What sort of ethical comprehension is needed in these documentary processes?

We are now inviting documentary filmmakers to send in preview versions of their recent films relevant to the theme of Autonomy. A specialist jury will watch the received films for selection in the Viscult program. The organizing committee looks forward to inviting selected directors or producers to Joensuu, to attend the Festival in person and to introduce themselves and their work to the Festival audience. The number of invitations depends on the festival budget. The main program of Viscult 2017 will be streamed real-time on the net. Therefore the selection process will prefer those films that can be streamed. The organizers also reserve the right to use trailers of the selected films in the advertising and marketing of Viscult 2017. The films should be submitted by March 15, 2017.

The Viscult Film Festival focuses especially on anthropological and ethnographic documentaries. The program consists of film screenings, student-focused workshops and plenary lectures. The events are free for all. Moreover, the majority of the films in the program will be streamed live as real-time Internet broadcasts, so the events can be followed from across the world.

For the preview by the festival jury, please send a link to streaming services, preferably Vimeo or YouTube. A link to Dropbox or similar is also accepted. Also, please send us the password to access the film, if needed. Please make sure that the film file is available for the Viscult jury until the end of June. In case a streaming link cannot be provided, please send a DVD copy of your film to the following address:

Pohjois-Karjalan alueellinen elokuvayhdistys
Kirkkokatu 27
80100 Joensuu
Finland

The received DVDs will not be returned but stored in the Festival Archive.

Viscult 2017 is organized by the North Karelia Regional Film Association together with Karelia University of Applied Sciences and the Cultural Research section of the School of Humanities at the University of Eastern Finland. Associated festival partners are the student associations Muuvi and Nefa-Joensuu. 

Becky's Journey - R.I.P. Becky

28.10.2016

The main character of the film has died in Nigeria, following her 3rd attempt to reach Europe. Please take a moment to read a post-mortem-script written by the director Sine Plambech.

Becky is dead

Becky’s life became a little blueprint of the world situation. She is not the first of the migrants I have worked with who have died and will most likely not be the last. Becky was 28 years old.

Rest in Peace, Becky. You will always be in my heart’ it said on a Facebook page a couple of months ago.

I often receive Facebook messages and posts, text messages and calls from the female migrants I have interviewed during my research as an anthropologist on migration and trafficking from Nigeria and Thailand to Europe.

Everything from travel plans, questions about the best routes to Europe, selfies with kissy faces and sunglasses, photos of new-born babies, food pictures to quick messages on whether they can borrow money from me.

Death notices come up from time to time. A brother is dead in the Sahara desert on the way to Europe, a Thai woman was stabbed by a client in a brothel in Denmark, another one killed in a traffic accident in Thailand. A friend of Becky wrote the notice about Becky’s death.

I hadn’t heard from Becky in a few months. It wasn’t unusual. She had earlier lost her telephone to armed robbers, had countless new numbers, no money for Internet or been in her village or in Sahara without Internet coverage.

Last time we spoke Becky was about to cross the border from Nigeria to Niger. This was Becky’s third attempt to reach Italy through Niger and Libya. I had been waiting to hear from her. Then came this sad R.I.P.

I asked her Facebook friend what had happened. I thought she might have died on the way to Europe – in the desert or the sea. But that’s not how Becky died.

Europe is real

I knew Becky for five years. She died at 28. The first time I met her, she was laughing when she entered a small hot living room with red painted walls in a house on the outskirts of Benin City in the Southern Nigeria. A city from where most Nigerian women, who sell sex on the streets of Europe, begin their journey.

In the living room I was interviewing Faith and her mother. Faith had just been deported from Italy after selling sex on the street for six years. Faith knew more women who had been deported from Europe and women who, like Becky, dreamed of going to Europe.

After the first meeting with Becky, she and I spent a lot of time together. Becky was a driven zipped lip girl – a woman who, as Becky explained it, doesn’t say anything about anything to anyone, because that is the best way to protect yourself in Nigeria. But she did want to tell, vividly and with rich detail, about her life and her travels towards Europe to a harmless anthropologist.

We ended up making the documentary film Becky’s Journey with a small Nigerian film crew. Because Becky had a dream of becoming someone – to be famous – a dream of being seen and heard. She was fearless and sensitive. She had many and conflicting reasons for dreaming of Europe. Poverty was just one of them. One day Becky emptied the fridge for the chocolate I brought from Denmark for late field note writings. »Yes – I ate it all,« she admitted bluntly. »I love your chocolate. It’s real. Everything in Nigeria is fake. I love the shoes my (Nigerian, ed.) aunt in Italy sent me too. They are real. That’s why I love Europe. Europe is real.«

Women’s migration from Nigeria

Becky travelled from Edo State in the Southern Nigeria. The number of asylum seeking Nigerians, who arrive in Europe, has tripled in the last eight years, and even though the chances of being granted asylum are minimal for Nigerians, the numbers continue to rise – many travel via Benin City.

What is unusual compared to other groups of migrants and refugees is that much more than 50 percent of the Nigerian migrants are women. The Edo State in Nigeria is thus one among a few places primarily in the Global South, from where women in particular travel to the Global North for marriage, the sex industry or become involved in trafficking. From here women most often travel through so called ’intimate migrations’ – that is, the migration is linked to contact with a man or men – sex clients or husbands.

The flows of intimate migrations are growing rapidly on a global scale. The research project I am responsible for, Women, Sex and Borders – Seeing Migration, Sex Work and Trafficking from the Global South, looks at this phenomenon through fieldwork in two sites – Edo state in Nigeria and Isaan in the North-eastern Thailand. In these areas female migration is an everyday condition, a strategy and an emotional state. Children miss their mothers abroad, old parents are dependent on the money being sent home, and everyone knows someone with a daughter in Europe.

Here information on new migration laws are received over the phone from the people who already left, read on Facebook or are heard through village gossip. In these areas the families and the development depends on the money of the migrants, but simultaneously migration control is blocking the usual routes to Europe. Thus, I have been working as an anthropologist on migration and in particular women’s migration for 13 years. Becky is not the first migrant I have worked with, who has died as a result – direct or indirect – from migration and/or bordercontrol.

As long as the man pays

Becky didn’t just want to go to Europe because she was poor or wanted ‘real’ goods. She also wanted to be free. She wanted to free herself from her family’s and Nigeria’s shackles. Before she attempted to get to Europe the first time she converted from Islam to Christianity.

Becky was raised in a Muslim family in the inland state Adamawa, where Boko Haram are now raging. But »Muslim women don’t travel to Europe and do what I want to do,« Becky explained. So she travelled to the Southern Nigeria and became a Christian. She wanted to decide for herself whom to date; her family didn’t want to meet her non-Muslim boyfriends. But as she explained:

»I want to live like a white woman – I want to decide for myself«.

The first time she tried to reach Europe she used the money for school, her father had given her, to pay for counterfeit travel documents. But she was stopped already in the airport in Nigeria. Nigerian border control officers are trained by European police officers to detect counterfeit documents and particular to prevent women who are under suspicion of travelling via a trafficking network.

The women are stopped already before they get on the plane causing the women frustration when they loose both their ticket and the opportunity to reach Europe. They are often placed in counter-trafficking centres in Nigeria, paid for by donations from European countries, in an attempt to make them give up their dream of Europe.

This didn’t stop Becky – for her it meant that she couldn’t get on a plane, but had to choose a longer and even more dangerous and expensive journey through the Sahara desert. Becky knew that she was going to sell sex to make money, if she came to Europe. »If you don’t want to sell sex, then stay away from Europe.«

She knew someone who sold sex in Italy, who told her: »We make love anywhere – as long as there is a man who will pay for it.«

Becky believed, that migration and selling sex was the option she had to improve her life.

»The people I have met, who have sold sex, have looked beautiful, when they came back to Nigeria,« she said.

Thus, in 2011 she began her second attempt at migration. A female ‘madam’, who was already in Italy, now paid for the travel costs.

With 36 other migrants she travelled through the Sahara desert to Libya. From Libya they would cross the Mediterranean sea to Italy. After 10 days in the desert there was no more food and water. A young man, sitting right next to Becky on the back of the truck, died.

When they finally arrived in Libya, the civil war broke loose, and it was no longer possible to cross the sea. After hiding in Libya for two months she had to go back to Nigeria. On the way back her friend died.

The friend was nine months pregnant with a Libyan man, a sex client she had met while they were waiting to cross the ocean. She went in the labour in the desert, but the placenta was stuck. A fellow travelling woman told them, that the placenta could be pushed out, if the woman giving birth bit hard in a spoon. The little group of women and men stood by helplessly and watched the woman die.

Now Becky had a dead friend and a new-born baby in her arms. She delivered the baby to its grandmother in Benin City with a message that her daughter would call soon. Since then the film about Becky did well and sometimes it was possible to get money from screenings around the world. We sent the money to Becky. But the small amount of money and two failed attempts did not make Becky give up her dream of Europe, and towards the ending of 2015 she tried again.

Women as Smugglers

Becky’s third attempt was also through the desert. Before that she asked me if I knew if boats were still arriving in Italy from Libya.

»Yes, they do,« I said. »But Becky, it’s very dangerous. Don’t travel that way. Have you heard about all the boats that sink in the Mediterranean?«

»Yes, of course I know,« Becky replied, »I watch everyday on CNN. But I’m not afraid. If I die, I don’t care. If I get the opportunity to cross the sea, I will do it. I won’t stop before I reach Italy. I’ll do it for me and my family. But I hope that my madam can take me on a plane to Italy.«

Becky’s madam wanted 60.000 Euros to get Becky to Italy by sea. But then something happened. Becky negotiated the amount to 30.000 Euros. In return Becky would travel around Edo state and find five other women to bring along. Becky became an agent and trafficker herself.

Typically, the images we see of trafficking dominated by tragedy, exploitation and death are done by men. We see images of the trafficker – a man in handcuffs – and perceptions of the criminal, deviant man from the Global South enhances.

The women, on the other hand, are portrayed as the victims who are transported passively, and as I have earlier written, more often drown. But women are not just passive in trafficking. They may not be captains of the ships. But research shows, that women also take part in trafficking and the migration industry.

Women recruit, negotiate prices, instalment plans, collect wire transfers, clean the temporary housing where migrants sleep before they can be smuggled, cook the food and some are drivers.

Research on human trafficking and smuggling shows that there are three typical ways into the world of smuggling; via social networks or »the entrepreneurship of coincidence«; the person seeks out or is at the place where the demand for smuggling exist. The third way – which is typical for women – is, when the smuggling is part of the woman’s own migration. Becky got a cheaper ticket to Europe, if she took part herself.

One of the last photos she sent me was a selfie of her with four other woman – all of them all dressed up with make-up. These were the women who were going with her to Europe, and they were drinking beer at a bar on plastic chairs in Benin City to celebrate that they would begin the travel to Europe the next day. A farewell party.

Becky against the world

Becky’s life is a portrait of the political and economic reality. A kind of blueprint of the world situation. Her life provides important knowledge of the many conditions that determine the routes of migrants – that doesn’t have anything to do with welfare models in Northern Europe. The small, lived and dreaming human life complicated and made impossible by conditions that were out of her control.

Becky’s trajectories were entangled with everything from Islam (which she converted from); Boko Haram (who up until now have killed six of her family members); the fall of Gaddafi in Libya (which thwarted her second attempt to reach Europe); EU’s migration control (who forced her to indebt herself to get to Italy) and corruption in Nigeria (a rich country in which the wealth is not distributed particularly).

Becky asked me:

»What do I say Sine when I get to Italy, if police takes me – do I say that I’m a victim of trafficking or escaped Boko Haram?«

The line between migrant and refugee is not always clear. Many are both at the same time.

Her third attempt to reach Europe did not succeed – she had to turn around – was stopped in Niger. On the way back she got pregnant. The baby died in her womb, and Becky died, because the doctor’s attempts at getting the baby out in the worn down clinic failed. Becky died of something as common as a pregnancy. As her friend in the desert.

Every year around 40.000 pregnant women die in Nigeria. With around 180.000 dead women a year Sub-Sahara Africa is the most dangerous place in the world for women to be pregnant. Of all things that could have killed Becky – from Boko Haram to the Mediterranean Sea – it was maternal mortality that killed her in the end.  

- Sine Plambech

Conveying movement through film and text

27.10.2016

Tiia Grøn's workshop on Thursday focused on the differences between film and text.

On Thursday 27.10 Tiia Grøn was having a Conveying movement trough film and text –workshop. Grøn graduated in visual anthropology from The University of Tromsø, and Faces of the Wilderness was her master film. The movie takes place in the Lapland in Finland, in the wilderness area of Käsivarsi. She took some influence to workshop from the process of creation, which made her to think about the differences between the film and the text. Grøn wanted to create a workshop based on this.

The workshop was in English and it was open to everyone. Participants had an small assignment to make a short text and a video clip. Grøn was using her own works as an example, and there was conversation between Grøn and participants of the workshop about the differences between film and text.

First participants wrote their short texts and after that they went outside to film their videos with their phones. The given subject was ”rush.” Participants had a limited time to do this task, but they did got a good taste of how to express something with film and text.

Grøn says that the exercise went well, she thinks it was really interesting to see how they approached this topic, as they came back with different interesting things.

Grøn's film Faces of the Wilderness will be on the screen on Friday 28.9 16:20 pm on Tiedepuisto.

Viscult 2016 program has been published!

14.09.2016

The Viscult 2016 program has now been published! Small changes are still possible.

Check out the program here

Viscult 2016: On the Move

07.06.2016

Viscult 2016: On the Move

Already the 14th Viscult Film Festival of anthropological and ethnographic documentaries will be held 26.–28.10.2016 in Joensuu with the theme On the Move. It focuses on films, which analyse moving and movement as cultural and social activity. The theme will be treated in films, plenary lectures and student oriented workshops. The festival is open and free for anyone interested.

The Viscult 2016 international Call for Films closed in March with over 180 films proposed for selection. This is a record number in the history of Viscult.

Viscult 2016 selected films include Sailing a Sinking Sea by Olivia Wyatt, a documentary on the South Asian Mokens and their sea nomadic culture. Mokens spend eight months each year in small wooden boats living from the sea. The visually impressive documentary balances between mythology and the present in a rich and informative way.

Movement also relates to the body and social classifications. Body Games – Capoeira and Ancestry (directed by Richard Pakleppa, Matthias Röhrig Assunção & Cobra Mansa), filmed in Brazil and Angola, presents the capoeira sports and culture. The Eternal Night of Twelve Moons by Priscila Padilla documents the process of becoming a woman in the indigenous Wayuu culture in Columbia. Among the Wayuu, young women are separated from the village for twelve months. The film analyses the changes of cultural traditions in modernity.

Finnish documentarists are represented by Hanna Hovitie’s Miles to Go Before I Sleep, a story of human trafficking, exile and identity loss in the case of a victim from Congo. Arthur Franck’s Yellow Hair recounts the life of a North American Oglala Lakota tribe member Thomas, who has travelled a long way to find his life’s balance in Finland.

The complete Viscult 2016 program will be released in the end of August!

Viscult Film Festival is organised by the North Karelia Regional Film Association together with Karelia University of Applied Sciences and the Cultural Research section of the School of Humanities at the University of Eastern Finland. Associated festival partners include the student associations Muuvi and Nefa-Joensuu.