DER Documentary

Aymara Leadership

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by Hubert Smith
color, 29 min, 1984

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The theme of leadership is difficult to convey, especially in another culture, in which outsiders often do not recognize subtle cues and implicit understandings that play so important a role in the exercise and acceptance of authority. This film helps viewers, even if they have no prior familiarity with the Aymara, to appreciate the ways in which a young man manages to minimize conflicts, resolve disputes, and generally promote the social welfare in a community where age and experience have traditionally been highly valued.

This bold venture in ethnographic filmmaking attempts to convey the meanings and methods of a theme that most people consider inherently abstract, and to do so in a document brief enough to be used in the classroom. Beyond that, it imaginatively combines the techniques of slow motion, instant replay, and freeze-frame in ways that vividly show how body language, conformity to local norms of kinship and propriety, and other factors interact as we watch a self-taught master of conflict management at work.

This film stands well on its own merits, although many will also appreciate it as an impressive addition to Smith's already distinguished oeuvre of ethnographic films. Here, as in the earlier work he did on the Bolivian Aymara for the Faces of Change collection (including the universally acclaimed classic, Spirit Possession of Alejandro Mamani; The Children Know, on education and links to the nation; Viracocha, stressing interethnic relations; Magic and Cathlocism; Potato Planters; and Andean Women; all available from DER in 16mm or video), he uses the observational mode. Most of what we see and hear is natural workaday activity and conversation (colloquially translated in English subtitles).

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Related Films
The Bolivia series in the Faces of Change collection

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Supported By Massachusetts Cultural Council National Endowment for the Humanities National Endowment for the Arts