2020: DER’s Year in Review

DER's Year-in-Review 2020

Image from Small Family, Happy Family (2019)

2020 was a year like no other. As we look forward to the renewal of Spring and continuing our work in 2021, we want to take a moment to share and celebrate our 2020 accomplishments. Here are just a few highlights from the year.


  • We released eleven fantastic new films for educational and home viewers on DVD and a variety of streaming platforms. The titles (see below) touch on topics from human rights in Burma to human-animal relationships in Patagonia, from buddhist rituals in Japan to the story of a multi-generational post-colonial family in France, as well as a remastered version of The Village, a classic study of Irish peasant culture, and much more.

Here’s a taste of what people are saying:

Life is a Very Strange Thing: “An unusually nuanced, subtle, and insightful foray into the cultural politics of contemporary France.” – Steven Feld, School for Advanced Research, Santa Fe

A Year in the Field: “An intelligent and sensitive film, with numerous insights that ring true for all ethnographic research.” – Adrian Tanner, Memorial University of Newfoundland

  • We reached out to DER filmmakers in different parts of the world for their 90-second perspectives on early days of the pandemic. Those COVID-19 Micro-ethnographies remain available on our website. 
  • We extended our Digital Site License offerings to include “life of file” terms, as a sustainable way for universities to add titles to their digital collections.

DER presents COVID-19 Micro-Ethnographies

Filmmaker Services

We welcomed ten new media projects into our fiscal sponsorship program; for a total of over forty active projects in various stages of production or outreach. Our 2020 roster included projects across a range of media, including Humankind radio-a staple of public radio stations, a photo exhibition titled “Cambodia: War and Beauty,” and Mary Lampson’s upcoming book on documentary editing.

We celebrated the release of ten films in our fiscal sponsorship program. DER-sponsored films premiered and screened (online) at festivals around the world from the Viennale and BigSky, to DocNYC and NYFF, and received accolades for directing, innovation and accessibility, as well as awards for best documentary. To enrich the community of filmmakers, we conducted the following special events

  • We published an interview with Rebecca and Peter Davis, the brother-sister filmmaking team working on a film about the sociologist Robert Putnam, best-known for his book Bowling Alone.  
  • We partnered with Women in Film and Video New England to offer online filmmaker workshops and discussions in documentary film distribution and impact producing. 
  • We hosted a virtual cocktail party with the Society for Visual Anthropology, bringing together anthropological filmmakers from as far as Taiwan and Hong Kong to meet up with colleagues from across the US. 

Collections Management Program

  • We completed color correction, and Spanish and Portuguese subtitling for the Yanomamö films restoration project.
Yanomamö films preservation -

Restoration sample of A FATHER WASHES HIS CHILDREN from the Yanomamö series

  • With the help of Dan Moore, a cinema studies graduate student at NYU, we have been researching John Marshall’s 1970s filmmaking work on policing and community unrest, conducted in association with the former Lemberg Center for the Study of Violence (Brandeis University). Best known of these is Marshall’s Pittsburgh Police Films, but Marshall made three other films. Among the Lemberg papers, we found a publication “You Are Our Problem” that serves as a study guide for Marshall’s little-known film of the same name and that points to the blind spots of white institutions and communities in fostering inner-city poverty and unrest. All chillingly contemporary.
Images from John Marshall's PITTSBURGH POLICE film series

Images from John Marshall's PITTSBURGH POLICE film series

Films Released in 2020

Small Family, Happy Family (2019)

Fireland Dogs (2019)

Mother, Daughter, Sister (2019)

Sittwe (2017)

Voices of the Rainforest (2019)

The Village – Remastered Edition (1968 / 2020)

A Long Way Home (2018)

Life is a Very Strange Thing (2018)

Forsaken Fragments (1958-2010)

The Buddha Mummies of North Japan (2017)

The Healer and the Psychiatrist (2020)


Please help us move forward with this important work and consider a donation to DER today. 



Marshall Exhibit at !Khwa tuu San Cultural Center

Exhibition in South Africa featuring the Marshall films: Bringing Back the Archive

We are delighted to announce an exhibition featuring John Marshall’s films and Marshall expedition photos now open at the !Khwa ttu San Heritage Center outside Cape Town, South Africa. The exhibit opened in September 2023, following a multi-year collaboration between !Khwa ttu, Harvard’s Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology, and DER.

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N/um Tchai (1969)

DER Receives 2023 Preservation Grant from NFPF

DER is excited to announce that we are recipients of a 2023 preservation grant from the National Film Preservation Foundation to restore two of John Marshall’s films – BITTER MELONS (1971) and N/UM TCHAI (1969).

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