DER Documentary

Into the Field

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by Alyssa Grossman
color, 28 min, 2006

Non-profit, K-12, and Individual pricing also available
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This film examines the everyday secular lives of nuns residing in the Romanian Orthodox monastery of Varatec. The majority of the 450 members of this monastery live as small groups in private houses, much like regular villagers, rather than inside the walls of the communal abbey. Throughout the year, they integrate their duties at home with their religious responsibilities to their community and to the church.

By visually exploring the social aesthetics of the monastery, the film depicts certain aspects of the nuns' everyday, lived experiences. Instead of exclusively focusing on the spiritual qualities of monastery existence, it documents the secular aspects of the nuns' relationships, activities, and routines, and offers a glimpse into the concrete ways in which they negotiate their identities within the separate yet connected spaces of home and church.

The film also incorporates brief sequences of stop-motion animation, demonstrating some of the trials and tribulations that anthropologists sometimes encounter during filming and fieldwork. Intended as a reflexive meta-commentary, these passages point to some of the unpredictable and often uncontrollable processes of ethnographic investigation.

“Visually, Grossman captures the dazzling Romanian countryside in summer as well as the women's calmness and happiness with the life they have chosen... an interesting ethnographic field study of a small but vibrant closed community in central post-Soviet Europe. Recommended for undergraduates.” — Linda Frederiksen, Washington State University, Educational Media Reviews Online (EMRO)

Related Resources
Review: American Anthropologist 111(1):103-104, February 2009, by Alice Forbess

Film Festivals, Screenings, Awards
Mostra Etnografica, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, 2006
European Association for Social Anthropology Conference, Bristol, UK, 2006
International Festival of Ethnological Film, Serbia, 2006
Honorable Mention Student Section, Iowa City Int'l Documentary Festival, Iowa City, IA, 2006
Best Student Film, Astra Filmfest, Sibiu, Romania, 2006
Student Award for Excellence, Society for Visual Anthropology/American
Anthropological Association Film and Video Festival, San Jose, CA, 2006
Eyes & Lenses IV - Competition of Ethnographic and Anthropologic Films, Poland, 2007
International Ethnographic Film Festival of the Royal Anthropological Institute, UK, 2007
EURORAMA, Ethnographic Film Festival, Trento, Italy, 2007
Torun Film Festival, Torun, Poland, 2007
Art and Culture Exhibition Centre, Ethnographic Film Festival, Chiang Mai, Thailand, 2007
Honorable Mention, Black Maria Film & Video Festival, US, 2007
New Directions Film Festival, Manchester, UK, 2007
CRONOGRAF International Documentary Film Festival, Republic of Moldova, 2008

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