Special Initiatives

Robert Gardner in India, 1985

Robert Gardner in India, 1985

“For we are people who believe that the world of tomorrow, this world we are now in the process of building, will only be viable if it recognizes the differences among various cultures and if we do not deny the existence of these cultures by trying to transform them into images of ourselves. In order to achieve this, we must know these other cultures; to acquire this knowledge, there is no better tool than ethnographic film.” – Jean Rouch 

Adopt-A-Film: Become a film parent today!

Through the Adopt-A-Film program you can contribute to the restoration, long-term preservation and creation of new high quality digital masters of your favorite 16mm films in the DER collection. Some of the films at the top of our list for preservation work include the remaining titles in the Yanomamo collection (….), Marshall films such as BITTER MELONS and N/UM TCHAI, titles from the Alaskan Native Film Series by Sarah Elder and Leonard Kamerling, and films by Margaret Mead and Gregory Bateson including TRANCE AND DANCE IN BALI. Please contact us at for more information about becoming a parent of your favorite DER titles!

We recently worked on preservation and digitization of selected films from the Yanomamö film collection.  Our heartfelt thanks to the following donors who have ‘adopted’ films in this collection. Their donations were used towards preservation and digitization:

Arrow Game – Emilie de Brigard
Children’s Magical Death
– Friends and Alumni of the University of Southern California
Climbing the Peach Palm – Peter Dow
Magical Death – University of Southern California
A Man Called “Bee”: Studying the Yanomamö – Robert Lemelson
A Man and His Wife Make a Hammock – Sue Marshall Cabezas
Friends and Alumni of the Culture and Media Program, NYU
Friends and Alumni of Temple University

Yanomamö Films Preservation Initiative

In 2017, in partnership with the Smithsonian’s National Anthropological Archives, DER received a $33,500 matching grant from the National Film Preservation Foundation to preserve nine titles from the series of Yanomamö films made by anthropologist Napoleon Chagnon and filmmaker Timothy Asch. In the fall of the same year, we raised an additional $26,000, fulfilling the grant’s matching requirement and enabling us to not only preserve but remaster the films.

Under the terms of the NFPF grant, for each film we will create a new 16mm preservation print that will go directly into cold storage at the National Anthropological Film Collection (NAFC, formerly the Human Studies Film Archives) in the National Anthropological Archives (Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of Natural History) Smithsonian Institution. In addition, we will create a high definition digital master while will also be saved in the Smithsonian’s DAM (digital asset management) system, and be available to DER for distribution purposes.

There are 21 titles in all in the Yanomamö series. Preservation of two of these films, The Ax Fight and The Feast, was completed in the early 2000s. We’d like to complete preservation work and create high definition digital masters for ALL of the titles in the collection.  If you would like more information about the Yanomamö films preservation project or you would like to help, please contact us at or 617-926-0491.

Please donate today and help us complete work on all the films.

Learn more about our Yanomamo fundraising campaign on Kickstarter.

Cinepedia Ethnographica

With support from the National Endowment for the Humanities, DER is developing plans to create an online union catalogue of ethnographic and folklore films. The purpose of the catalogue is to increase visibility and findability of films in these genres and to serve researchers, exhibitors, and community members interested in films documenting diverse cultural traditions and social processes around the world.