DER Documentary

Dead Birds Re-encountered

by Robert Gardner
color, 46 min, 2013



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In 1961, Robert Gardner organized an expedition to the Highlands of New Guinea to film the Dani people. He stayed for six months to create an essay on the themes of violence and death most dramatically witnessed within the intense ritual warfare between rival Dani villages, and ultimately on the role of violence in human life and culture. The end result was his seminal film, Dead Birds.

Twenty-eight years later, Gardner returned to the Dani villages to see what had become of the people he had met and to show them the film. Dead Birds Re-encountered is a captivating, reflexive epilogue. The film observes the changes nearly three decades have brought to Dani life and culture, raising questions about modernization, tourism, cross-cultural relations, and the meaning of friendship.

"I have been told by people who know better that it is a risky business returning to a place where you have enjoyed some remarkable experience. But I will say that going back to the Highlands of Western New Guinea (aka West Papua) was enormously engaging. I saw people I cared for deeply and who became part of my life wherever I lived. Making a film about all this was not at all difficult." — Robert Gardner

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