DER Documentary

!Kung Short Films

!Kung Short Films launch preview watch a demonstration of the films' restoration

From the !Kung series
by John Marshall
color & black and white, 161 minutes, 2009



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Between 1950 and 1958, John Marshall made four expeditions to film the Ju/'hoansi (a group of !Kung Bushmen) of the Nyae Nyae region of Namibia (then South West Africa). Marshall and his family, who together undertook an extensive multi-disciplinary study of Ju/'hoansi, spent the greatest amount of time with the people of /Gautcha, including ≠Oma, !U, Tsamko, N!ai, and /Gunda. During this time, Marshall shot over 300,000 feet of 16mm film (157 hours). He later produced a total of 23 films exclusively from this footage. 15 of those are short films that Marshall referred to as "sequence films." Each focuses on a single event, providing the viewer a brief introduction followed by an uninterrupted sequence.

Although Marshall recorded some sync sound between 1955 and 1958, sync recording in the field was difficult and cumbersome. As a compromise, Marshall made non-sync recordings at the time of filming and later joined this audio to the edited films. Soundtracks were sometimes enhanced with additional ambient sound or sound effects recorded after the fact. This method allowed Marshall a major innovation in ethnographic and documentary film - his subjects could speak for themselves, often accompanied by subtitles.

These shorts were intended as educational films, to be viewed multiple times and with the aid of a study guide. The introduction to each film might identify major characters, outline the basic plot, or offer background information about the event to follow, but then viewers are left to experience the film for themselves, to form their own impressions of what is happening and why. Of course, the films have proven to have a life well beyond the classroom. They are intimate portraits of the daily life and ritual life of ≠Oma and his band during the 1950's. Rich in ethnographic detail, the films' beauty and high emotional content are indicative of the close bond that Marshall had formed with his subjects - a bond that would last all his life.

This collection combines fourteen of Marshall's short !Kung films onto two newly remastered/re-authored DVDs, complete with a full-color booklet containing photos, writings, and additional information about the series.

Disc One:
A Curing Ceremony (bw) (9:00)
Group of Women (6:00)
A Joking Relationship (13:00)
N/um Tchai: The Ceremonial Dance of the !Kung Bushmen (bw) (20:00)
N!owa T'ama: The Melon Tossing Game (15:00)
The Lion Game (5:00)
An Argument About a Marriage (18:00)
Men Bathing (14:00)

Disc Two:
Playing with Scorpions (5:00)
A Rite of Passage (15:00)
Debe's Tantrum (9:00)
The Wasp Nest (13:00)
The Meat Fight (14:00)
Baobab Play (8:00)

Other films in the !Kung series:
Bitter Melons
Children Throw Toy Assegais
First Film
The Hunters
A Kalahari Family
!Kung Bushmen Hunting Equipment
N!ai, Story of a !Kung Woman
Pull Ourselves Up or Die Out
Tug-of-War, Bushmen
!Kung San: Traditional Life
!Kung San: Resettlement



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