Casting in Anthropological Filmmaking

Casting in documentary filmmaking is not much discussed. For anthropological filmmaking inspired by observational cinema, this is even less of a theme. However, during the period of fieldwork and filming, we do look for protagonists who can help us to tell a story we think will be of interest to our audiences.

Based on our collaborating projects in Nepal and in India, in this presentation, we will reflect on how we chose our protagonists and how these choices influenced the process of making the films and the stories we told. Our common background is anthropology and film making which guided how we tried to grasp what was going on when we did fieldwork and filming. As Nepalese, Dipesh was an ‘insider’ to the field, while Frode was an ‘outsider’. In these projects, we worked with anthropologists who had done fieldwork over a long period and thus could be seen as having insights as ‘insiders’ as well as ‘outsiders.’

When he defined guidelines for observational cinema, Colin Young’s idea was to move the power away from the people behind the camera to the people in front of the lens. Bringing the perspectives of ‘insiders’ as well as ‘outsiders’ to the filming processes, we tried to strengthen our awareness of whose voices are coming through the screen.

Dr. Dipesh Kharel

Dr. Dipesh Kharel is a visual anthropologist, filmmaker and lecturer at the University of Tokyo. Based on his fieldwork research he has published articles and several award-winning documentary films, notably A Life with Slate (2006), Playing with Nan (2012), Tama Gaun (2015), A Kali Temple Inside Out (2018) and Japani (2020). He has been awarded with various research, ethnographic film and project grants, notably the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science Grants, the University of Tokyo Asia Globalization Studies Grant (2012-2013), The Japan Foundation Grant (2012), Asian Documentary Network Grant, South Korea (2011), Gotenborg International Film Grant, Sweden(2011), The Toyota Foundational International Grant (2017) and Wenner-Gren Foundation Grant, USA (2018).

Prof. Dr. Frode Storaas

Prof. Dr. Frode Storaas is a professor emeritus in visual anthropology at the University Museum of Bergen, Norway. As an anthropologist his main research has been in eastern Africa. As a filmmaker he has worked in several countries. Among his award-winning films are A Kali Temple Inside Out, India (2018) and Tama Gaun, Nepal (2015) (both together with Dipesh Kharel), Making Rain, Mozambique (2007), (together with Liivo Niglas), Our Courtyard (2006), China, (together with He Yuan Wang), Fish On!, USA, (together with Liivo Niglas and Diane Perlov), The Go-Between (2014), Ethiopia, together with Rolf Scott and Getachew Kassa). Storaas was founder and co-editor of Journal of Anthropological Films (

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