854058386_495534869f_oThe first ever ethnographic film festival in Paris was a runaway success with 89 short films screened over 30 hours from 42 countries (see map) on subjects ranging from working in a slaughterhouse in the United States to a girl in Mongolia who loves horses.

Co-sponsored by the ISSC and the Society for Social Studies of Science (4S), the filmfest was so successful that it is returning next year, 9-12 April 2015, to the same venue, Ciné 13 Théâtre, considered ‘the best fringe theatre in the world by filmfest director, Wesley Shrum. He should know, having filmed for many years at the Edinburgh fringe festival in Scotland and elsewhere. Listen to an interview with Wes Shrum on how the 2014 festival went and what it is all about.

Films are rated and selected based on the contribution they make to understanding the social world. The festival is not about social justice per se but many films are – for example Greg Scott’s Abandominium about the lives of five heroin addicts squatting in an abandoned apartment in Chicago, Willem Trimmers’ Framing the Other, about a tourist whose ideas about taking photos of exotic tribal people are shaken when she meets a Mursi woman in in Ethiopia, or Humanexus, Ying-Fang Shen’s reflection on humanity’s search to connect with one another, from cave drawings to tweeting.

This is a festival for academic filmmakers – part festival, part academic conference – a place where directors and watch and discuss their films.  More and more academics are using film to present and communicate their research world (400 submissions were received) for the greater narrative power film brings and means of reaching a wider audience.

On the back of the success of the festival, the Journal of Video Ethnography has just been launched by DePaul University’s Social Science Research Center in Chicago, USA. It promotes the social scientific use of video and film to explore and present society, systems, and cultures. It fills an important gap in scholarly publishing and will establish rigorous guidelines and standards (including peer review) for evaluating and creating ethnographic films; submissions will be reviewed and assessed as articles submitted to print journals are. 

Not only could you watch some fabulous films; there was also a great display of original art – each piece inspired by one of the films and produced by students from the Lee Magnet Academy of Baton Rouge, Louisiana in the United States.

Spread over four floors, the theatre is spacious. You could watch any film on demand you may have missed, meet with fellow directors, or simply chat and network, the bar apparently serving the cheapest beer and wine in the Montmartre, if not Paris! Additional features next year will include 30 minutes of Q&A with the directors after each session, free food and subsidised beer and wine for film directors and free tours of the Montmartre area, focusing on film and art.

See the 2014 filmfest programme for more information about each film and the artwork from students at the Lee Magnet Academy of Baton Rouge. And don’t forget to put the 2015 dates (9-12 April) in your diary!

Photo credit weegeebored, Flickr