DER Documentary

6 Generations

6 Generations
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by Paul Goldsmith, ASC
color, 57 min, 2011




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Ernestine De Soto is a Chumash Native American whose mother Mary Yee was the last speaker of her native Barbareņo language. In 6 Generations, her family reaches back to the days the Spanish arrived in Santa Barbara and made first contact. Ernestine tells this history from the perspective of her female ancestors, making her a unique link with the past.

Famous anthropologist John Peabody Harrington, whose work focused on native peoples of California, started research with her family in 1913 and continued with three generations for nearly 50 years. This inspired Ernestine's mother to begin taking notes and, combined with mission records (which survived intact from the late 1700s), they form the heart of this story. Because of these circumstances, her story, possible only in California, is unique in America.

The impact of loss of land, language, culture and life itself is made all the more clear as this story is told in Native American voices, who describe the events as they experienced them. Ultimately, it is a story of survival and the fierce endurance of Ernestine's ancestors, particularly the women.

“This is history as autobiography, foregrounding the power of language and telling a checkered tale of cultural survival in the extreme. The time depth is simply astonishing, and the narrative is frank and true and sometimes stark. 6 Generations is a home run. I cannot recommend it highly enough.” — David Hurst Thomas, Current Anthropology
“Some films do not deserve a review so much as a rhapsody, and 6 Generations is one of these special films. There are some productions that go beyond ethnography to find the heart of a people — and show how individual anthropologists can transcend the professional limitations of their discipline and really engage fellow human beings — and 6 Generations is just such an achievement… This would be a particularly effective film to use in the classroom… Suitable for college courses in cultural anthropology, anthropology of gender, anthropology of colonialism/globalization, and Native American studies, as well as general audiences.” — Jack David Eller, Anthropology Review Database

Film Festivals, Screenings, Awards
Honorable Mention, The Archaeology Channel International Film and Video Festival, 2012
Best Film, The Archaeology Channel International Film and Video Festival, 2012
Narration, The Archaeology Channel International Film and Video Festival, 2012
Public Education Value, The Archaeology Channel International Film and Video Festival, 2012
Script, The Archaeology Channel International Film and Video Festival, 2012
Music, The Archaeology Channel International Film and Video Festival, 2012
Inspiration, The Archaeology Channel International Film and Video Festival, 2012
Audience Favorite, The Archaeology Channel International Film and Video Festival, 2012
Special Mention, Increasing the Awareness of the Ethnographic Record, The Archaeology Channel International Film and Video Festival, 2012

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