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Society for Visual Anthropology Film & Media Festival

International film festival

2023 November, Toronto, Canada

The Society for Visual Anthropology Film & Media Festival (SVAFMF) in Toronto is excited to present 53 films in 16 thematic blocks over the four days of the festival, representing the best of ethnographic film and media this year. Many of the films were produced during or just after the height of the pandemic, and there is a sense of a discipline in transition—from the confinements of lockdown to the openness of collaboration and co-creation, from the constraints of disciplinary conventions to the freedom of performance and artistic exploration.

On Wednesday, the festival opens with the screening block "First Nations." The block includes an animated short film about the impact of polar bear management policies on Inuit communities and two feature films on the resurgence of indigenous cultural practices in Canada. On Wednesday evening, the block "Places in Transition" presents a diverse range of short films about the cultural production of place, including the film that was awarded honorable mention for Best Short, Addresses (Direcciones), about the absence of street addresses in Costa Rica.

Thursday begins with "Ability and Disability." The screening block includes the film Destiny, which was awarded honorable mention for Best Feature. The day continues with the blocks. "Co-Created," "The Past in the Present," and "Anthropologists at Work." Smile4Kime, which received honorable mention for the Jean Rouch Award, plays in "Co-Created." Filmmakers and participants will be present at the screenings of both Above and Below the Ground (in "Co-Created") and Ichi: Marks in Time (in "Anthropologists at Work").

On Friday, the program includes the blocks "Pilgrimage, Ritual, and Religion," "The Biopolitics of Sport," "Ethnofictions," and "Forests in Transition" and an invited screening of Making Sweet Tea, directed by John L. Jackson, Jr. and Nora Gross. The winner of the Jean Rouch Award, La Tumba Mambi, plays in "Ethnofictions," and the winner of the Best Student Film award, The Memory of Glitch, screens in "Forests in Transition." On Friday evening, John L. Jackson, Jr. will be present to discuss Making Sweet Tea, which chronicles the journey of a southern-born, black gay researcher and performer as he travels home to come to terms with his past and to reconnect with six black gay men he interviewed for the book Sweet Tea: Black Gay Men of the South—An Oral History.

Saturday's program includes the blocks "Ecologies in Transition," "Memento Mori," "Folktales for the Future," "Art in Action," and "Kinship and Marriage in Transition." Among the films are Toang (in "Ecologies in Transition"), which was awarded honorable mention for Best Student Film; Co-Husband (in "Kinship and Marriage in Transition"), winner for Best Short Film; and Sama in the Forest (in "Folktales for the Future"), winner of the Best Feature award, the highest honor in the festival. The film explores the subversive role of women’s folktales in a patriarchal society in Madhubani, Bihar, India. In creative collaboration with local community members, the film highlights the tale of Sama, a princess who wanders into the forest and befriends a young man, only to be slandered by a muckraking confidante of the king, who is also Lord Krishna, and subsequently cursed and banished by her father.

The last day of the festival, Sunday, includes the block "Islands in Transition" and a reprise of the award-winning films.

The films in this year's program were carefully selected from a record number of submissions through a rigorous process that included an initial screening by a prescreener and at least one of the co-directors, a second round of selection by both co-directors, and finally, deliberations by the jury. Joining the co-directors on the jury this year were Natasha Raheja (Assistant Professor of Anthropology at Cornell University) and Gwyneth Talley (Assistant Professor of Anthropology at The American University in Cairo). Both Natasha and Gwyneth screened films in the festival before joining the jury, and we are grateful for their contributions over the years. We thoroughly enjoyed the lively conversations that resulted in this year's program.

The festival is an ongoing collaborative effort. Filmmakers work with participants and other filmmakers to produce these cinematic works. Co-directors work with prescreeners and the jury to arrive at a program. The Society for Visual Anthropology works with the American Anthropological Association to make it possible to screen the films. Attendees view the films and engage in conversation with each other and with filmmakers and participants. The conversations continue after the festival, generating new collaborations and new work.

The Festival is held as part of the American Anthropological Association (AAA) Annual Meeting, giving filmmakers and distributors broad access to an audience of thousands of anthropologists, educators, and other attendees. The 2023 AAA meeting will be held jointly with the Canadian Anthropology Society/société canadienne d’anthropologie (CASCA) at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre in Toronto, Canada. This will be the in-person venue for the SVA Film & Media Festival as well. The 2023 conference theme is "Transitions."

Society for Visual Anthropology Film & Media Festival
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