DER Documentary

In Search of the Hamat'sa: A Tale of Headhunting


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by Aaron Glass
color, 33 min, 2004




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The Hamat'sa (or "Cannibal Dance") is the most important-and highly represented-ceremony of the Kwakwaka'wakw (Kwakiutl) people of British Columbia. This film traces the history of anthropological depictions of the dance and, through the return of archival materials to a First Nations community, presents some of the ways in which diverse attitudes toward this history inform current performances of the Hamat'sa. With a secondary focus on the filmmaker's fieldwork experience, the film also attends specifically to the ethics of ethnographic representation and to the renegotiation of relationships between anthropologists and their research partners.

The material for this film was gathered and shot over the year between 2002 and 2003 during the course of research for Glass's dissertation in Socio-Cultural Anthropology. The research process consisted of extensive archival work - in which he traced the history of ethnographic representation of the Hamat'sa (in texts, film and photography, art gallery and museum display, and intercultural performance) - followed by an eight month period of residence in the Kwakwaka'wakw community of Alert Bay, BC. The film was edited in a documentary filmmaking course in the Program for Culture and Media at New York University. It is intended to communicate some of the complex issues involved in representing indigenous peoples and their expressive practices, especially as anthropological materials increasingly end up back in Native communities where they are used and debated as one kind of historical resource among many.

"...Glass is to be commended in his filming, as well as his writing and editing. It is provocative without being pompous, sympathetic but not romantic, and reflexive without being overly self-obsessed." — Alexander D. King, Museum Anthropology Review

Film Festivals, Screenings, Awards
Ethnographic Film Festival of Montreal. Montreal, January, 2005
Encuentro (Hemispheric Institute), Belo Horizonte, Brazil, 2005
Northeastern Anthropological Association, Lake Placid, NY, 2005
Museum of Anthropology, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC, 2005
Royal Anthropological Institute Film Festival, Oxford, England, 2005
Congress on Dance Research International Conference, Montreal, QB, 2005
Moving Pictures 3, Institute of European Ethnology, University of Humboldt, Berlin, Germany, 2005
Bilan du Film Ethnographique, Musee de l'Homme, Paris, France, 2006
Beeld voor Beeld Festival, Amsterdam, Holland, 2006
20th Pärnu International Film Festival, Pärnu, Estonia, 2006
XIII Sardinia International Ethnographic Film Festival, Nuoro, Italy, 2006
Mediating Camera: 3rd International Visual Anthropology Film Festival, Moscow, 2006
Society for Visual Anthropology Film Festival, San Jose, CA, 2006
Simon Fraser University, Vancouver, BC, 2006
8th Astra Ethnographic Film Festival, Sibiu, Romania, 2006
Taiwan International Ethnographic Film Festival, Taiwan, 2009
Society for Cultural Anthropology Meeting, Long Beach, CA, 2008
Margaret Mead Film & Video Festival, New York, 2008
Australian Anthropological Society Film Festival, Sydney, 2009

Related Resources
Reviewed in Visual Anthropology Review 25(1): 101-02 (2009)
Reviewed in Museum Anthropology Review 1(2):107-09 (2007)
Reviewed in IUScholarWorks Journals Vol 1, No 2 (2007)

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