Representation Of The Indigenous Essay

2885 words - 12 pages

In the early stages of documentary film making one of the first directors of early documentary Robert Flaherty demonstrated an early understanding for the construction of documentary film. His films aimed to uncover and discuss the unknown truths about indigenous peoples around the global. In the Film “Moana” made in 1926, Robert Flaherty travels deep into the Samoan islands to try and undercover the mysteries surrounding this small exotic tribal culture. Flaherty’s film tries to uncover and provide truths about this group of people, but he brings into question problems regarding the representation of the tribe in ethnographic documentary films. Comparing Robert Flaherty’s films and his second feature length film “Moana” to Bruce Parry’s Documentary series on BBC entitled “Tribe” I will attempt to bridge the gap and discuss the evolution of documentary starting from the birth of the genre, to the post-modern state of contemporary ethnographic documentary film today that attempts to tackle the reoccurring and persistent questions regarding the reality of tribal life and the representation of the indigenous person.
The concept of representation is valuable when looking at the depiction of indigenous people as in both cases Robert Flaherty and Bruce Parry seek to depict a certain level of truth regarding the realities and major cultural components of tribal culture. Robert Flaherty takes a “raiders” approach to understanding indigenous people. He maintains a western ideology of life and applies this criterion as the basis for his study of the Samoan and other Indigenous people. However, Bruce Parry utilizes a more ambiguous approach to his research as he tries to depict the humanity and the cultural importance of these people and their cultural ways in context of their understanding of the world rather than from a western point of view. This approach to research is called the “double-outsidedness” approach taking the knowledge of another’s culture and trying to see their cultural discourses through your own cultural eyes.
The idea of reality and its relationship towards representations of reality starts by understanding that media and the medium represents everything based on what exists or has once existed at some point in time. The basic assumption of documentary is that the images provide reference or marker points towards events that have occurred outside of the filmic world. The degree in which people can interpret representations is based upon how far these images are distorted or reflect what we understand to be the real world. Richard Dyer correlates representation to pleasure, he denotes that pleasure must occur within representations in order for people to fully engage in the personas of given characters. In both Documentary films we see two types of pleasure. The first one is the comical pleasure provided by the satirical humour of Robert Flaherty’s documentaries in which he distorts and mimics the reality of the Indigenous life by...

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