The DER catalog is one of the most historically important resources of ethnographic and cross-cultural film in the world today. With over 850 titles, spanning nearly 100 years, the catalog serves as a compendium of cultures, communities and lives around the world representing the past and present. While our catalog offers an unrivaled historical perspective, it also continues to grow and thrive. Each year, we curate about a dozen new titles prioritizing underrepresented voices that explore contemporary cultural struggles and artistic traditions, and offer longitudinal views of changing communities, cultures, and identities. DER stewards films based on the integrity of the content and the ethical relationships nurtured between filmmakers and participants. In this spirit we continue to evolve our catalog, seeking stories that present individuals from around the world in their full dignity and in ways that reflect their place in an ever changing world.
DER has curated four distinct yet overlapping collections representing our catalog. You can browse the complete collection here.
ART, PERFORMANCE, AND EXPRESSION
The Art, Performance and Expression Collection comprises works about material culture practices such as boatmaking, textile traditions, and weaving as well as performative arts such as dance, theater, and musical traditions. Our films situate these practices in local social and cultural contexts, highlighting the continuity and evolution of these practices. Many films illustrate the vital connection between cultural sustainability and individuals’ or groups’ capacity to express themselves in a creative and practical manner. Profiles of individual artists, artisans, and collectives such as the portrait of experimental Iranian artist Monir Farmanfarmaian, avant garde painter Mark Tobey, and canoe-builder Earl Nyholm show the artist at work. Our films about musical traditions explore practices rooted in communal experience, or in relationship to history and the local environment, reflective of personal mastery. Within this eclectic collection, we are proud to present the wide-ranging forms of artistic expression across diverse communities.
DER holds a collection of historically significant ethnographic films, including John Marshall’s films on the Ju/’hoansi “Bushmen” and the Yanomamo film series produced by Tim Asch and Napoleon Chagnon. We also distribute the collected works of Robert Gardner, the Alaskan Native Heritage Films by Sarah Elder and Leonard Kammerling, and other seminal works in the development of anthropological filmmaking, including over 25 films/collections preserved at the Smithsonian’s Human Studies Film Archive. Many of the anthropological films made in the 1960s through 1980s, while rooted in research, were shaped by a concern with so-called “disappearing cultures.” While anthropologists today focus on the ways in which cultures undergo change and communities persist, the films nevertheless have enormous value as documents of life prior to the rapid transformations brought on by incorporation into larger political and economic systems. We remain dedicated to ensuring the preservation and access of these historical documents by continuing to update and restore the films to maintain access for newer generations. While they are the products of an earlier era, the films remain valuable documents for researchers and for the communities whose lives have been documented.
Our Global Cultures Collection offers stories of diverse cultures and communities in every corner of the planet through films that situate communities and individuals within the framework of local values as well as wider economic and political systems. The collection also includes important works about anthropologists and anthropological filmmakers such as Margaret Mead, Franz Boas, Asen Balikci, and Jean Rouch, and films focusing on approaches, techniques, and challenges of conducting field work, such as the classic A Man Called “Bee” to the more recent A Year in the Field.
Collectively, the catalog serves as a study of changing film practices in light of commitments to ensure that individuals from different cultures are represented with dignity. Evolving concerns about filmmaker-subject relationships are explored in films that have become mainstays in college classrooms, including Poto Mitan: Pillars of the Global Economy, (un)veiled: Muslim Women Talk About Hijab, Framing the Other, and Stori Tumbuna: Ancestors’ Tales.
The Indigenous Communities Collection highlights the shared experiences of Indigenous people worldwide while also examining the uniqueness of individual lives and community histories: from members of the Ju/hoansi communities and other San “bushmen” groups in southern Africa, to Aboriginal Australians, to members of the Netsilik in North America. At the heart of our collection are works by veteran and emerging Indigenous filmmakers such as Victor Masayesva, Jr. and Ben-Alex Dupris, respectively, and works that are the product of close collaboration between community members and filmmakers such as Vincent Carelli’s monumental Video in the Villages Collection, and the recent crowd pleaser Smokin’ Fish. New acquisitions such as Ophir address contemporary struggles for sovereignty, community initiatives for addressing language loss and the challenges of cultural perseverance in the face of external hostility and internal strife. Addressing a wide range of topics such as belief systems, healing practices, land and water, language, and cultural change and revitalization efforts, our collection reflects the significant transformations and great adversity as contemporary Indigenous communities continue to thrive worldwide.
We’ve created some dedicated tools for searching this collection. You can access our Interactive Film Map, Culture Group Index and Indigenous Studies Subject Categories here.