ETHNOFEST: A REAL SENSE OF WHAT’S COOKING IN VISUAL ANTHROPOLOGY

Friday March 6th, 2020

Tamaris Vier, our lovely Hospitality Assistant, wrote an insightful and moving article about Ethnofest.
Enjoy it!

ETHNOFEST: A REAL SENSE OF WHAT’S COOKING IN VISUAL ANTHROPOLOGY

Athens Ethnographic Film Festival celebrated its 10th anniversary and therefore invited its audience for a 7-day experience full of creativity, connection, and visually inspired mind-travels.

Divided into thematic sections, a broad variety of captivating anthropological documentaries takes the viewers to different places all over the world, expanding one’s horizon by giving an insight into different living conditions and customs, different societies and cultures. Besides the films themselves, Ethnofest’s program provides a collection of remarkable side events, including an exhibition with student projects at The Art Foundation gallery (T.A.F.), a masterclass about anthropological films, and presentations and panel discussions, held at the Astor cinema and the Panteion University. On top of that, Q&As after the screenings give space for a direct dialogue with the directors.
Filmmaker and anthropologist Mattijs van de Port is participating in Ethnofest for the third consecutive year. His film Knots and Holes. An essay film on the life of nets is screened at the festival for the second time. He mentions the festival’s “audacity in programming” as something he appreciates particularly.

“Mixing experimental films with student films and anthropological ‘blockbusters’ with films speaking to regional issues or activists agenda’s, there were even films made for kids. So if you want a real sense of what’s cooking in visual anthropology, Ethnofest is the place to be.”

‘Inspiration’ is a term one stumbles upon multiple times when asking filmmakers, team members, or viewers what Ethnofest means to them. Student Filmmaker Natascha describes the festival as an “eye-opener” in terms of possibilities of how to use the camera as a research tool. She cites the film Voices of the Rainforest as an example of the various ways of translating information in visual anthropology, since it is exploring a soundscape and therefore using the medium of sound.
The various places to explore and interesting perspectives presented examine a wide range of methods and approaches to filming. Some of them document places and people in a very immediate way, while others enable a more abstract access and work with allegories and metaphors in order to draw and transmit a profound picture.
Coordination & Communication Manager Leda describes Ethnofest as an emotional experience which highlights the importance of ethnographic films having a lasting effect on the viewer. She calls it “the power of change”.

“For me Ethnofest represents the power of change, which reaches beyond the festival itself.”

And indeed watching those films changes one’s way of seeing things, reaching beyond the time frame of the festival. Ethnographic films do not only transmit information but encourage empathy, spread awareness and give impulses to become an active part of what’s happening around us in the spirit of a collective responsibility.
Ethnofest provides space for realities, which are foreign to us such as for those we are living in ourselves. We are listening to shepherds telling old tales about werewolves in the mountains of Northern Portugal, before being swept away to a social circus in South Africa, and transported to an animal market in Algeria.
At the same time we get to take a look at the place where we are, Athens, and witness the gentrification of the city. We learn about how inhabitants of Lesvos deal with the arrival of refugees and explore the tradition of polyphonic songs in the mountainous region Epirus.

For Head of Hospitality Nektaria the festival is “a meeting point, a place to get inspired, learn and create relationships”. The films create connection and community.

“Everyone is part of Ethnofest, this is visual anthropology!”

The exceptional community spirit of Ethnofest is palpable and creates an outstanding atmosphere. After the screenings the foyer is filled with people, all engaged in lively discussions about the films they’ve just watched. There is no separation between filmmakers, team members, and audience; exchange and dialogue are an important part of the experience, the low threshold and open-minded communication building bridges between people. Academic Coordinator Pafsanias loves the social space the festival creates and its networking opportunities. Anthropology is a field which is occupied mostly by academia and carried out by social scientists, he explains. As the only non-institutional event for anthropology in Greece, Ethnofest allows a broader audience access to anthropologic subjects.

“The festival creates a connection between academia and the Athenian society”

On Wednesday everything comes to an emotional end and closes with a short trailer featuring Ethnofest, which was recorded during the festival. Event Co-Founder Konstantinos seems tired, but proud and happy, he’s full of warm words and thanksgiving. Him and others have been working a lot to make this festival possible for ten years in a row. It is a remarkable achievement and a milestone for the evolution of visual anthropology in Greece and without question a cultural event of international significance, which is definitely worth a visit. In the end it is simple: Ethnofest is the place to be!
www.ethnofest.gr