DER Documentary

Keep the Dance Alive

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by Rina Sherman
part of the The Ovahimba Years Project
color, 75 / 50 min, 2007

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A unique voyage through the music, dance and spirit possession practices of the Ovahimba people of north-western Namibia and south-western Angola, Keep the Dance Alive features remarkable footage of how dance and spirit possession is integrated into everyday life from infancy to death. The documentary presents a singular vision of the Ovahimba people, that of director Rina Sherman who filmed the lives of an Omuhimba family for seven years. She focuses on how singing, rhythm and voice work together with dance and spirit possession to compose a complete imaginary universe and a dense and complex social structure.

Keep the Dance Alive is part of The Ovahimba Years Project, a long-term multi-disciplinary ethnographic study of the Ovahimba and other Otjiherero-language-speaking peoples of northwestern Namibia and southwestern Angola.

Visit the project's website:

"The film itself is quite marvelous, and will be particularly fascinating for those with an interest in anthropology, music, and particularly you ethnomusicologists out there." — Theresa Anasti, Feminist Review
"Sherman's filming is unobtrusive, even in the most intimate of spaces. Some of the strongest moments are those when Sherman both shows and tells us how youth learn these rhythms and movements in and out of various contexts… The film, then, could be useful for classroom discussions, particularly if students have already read about similar practices. In these regards, the supplementary materials and the broader context of the Ovahimba Years project are important to note (, as the film is probably best situated among the larger project's many hard-earned materials… The long-term ethnographic engagement Sherman has achieved cannot be feigned and should be lauded." — Scott Edmondson, American Anthropologist, Vol. 114, No. 1 (Read the full review)

Related Resources
Download the film's study guide: Cinémathéque de la Danse's communiqué (French/English)
The Ovahimba Years: A Multiple Media Ethnographic Study & Cultural Heritage Preservation Program (PDF)
Film review in Video Librarian (PDF)
Rina Sherman discusses Keep the Dance Alive at Tribal Truth

Film Festivals, Screenings, Awards
Institut d'Ethnologie, Neuchatel, 2006
Margaret Mead Film Festival, New York, 2007
RAI International Festival of Ethnographic Film, Manchester, England, 2007
La Cinémathéque de la Danse, Paris, France, 2008
International Festival of Films on Tribal Art & Culture, India, 2008
IV Moscow International Visual Anthropology Festival, Russia, 2008
European Association of Social Anthropologists' Film, Video & New Media Festival, Slovenia, 2008
XXII Pärnu International Film Festival, Estonia, 2008
28th Amiens International Film Festival, France, 2008
16th World Congress of IUAES, Kunming, China, 2009
2nd Women's Film Festival in Chennai, India 2009
16th World Congress of the International Union of Anthropological and Ethnological Sciences (IUAES), Kunming, China, 2009
Dockanema Film Festival, Mozambique, 2009
Pompidou Centre: Vidéodanse 2009
Rina Sherman Retrospective, Musée du Quai Branly, Paris, 2011

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Other films from the The Ovahimba Years Project:
Shake Your Brains
When Visitors Come

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