Moving Images / Shifting Voices - (Re-)Negotiating Authorship and Essayistic Montage in Ethnographic Cinema

In our presentation we will discuss processes of (re-negotiating) authorship and practices of essayistic montage in the making of our feature-length film “Tarantism Revisited” (forth. 2021). The film is based on artistic ethnographic research and multimodally explores the phenomenon of Apulian tarantism, a spider possession cult that has been incorporated into the Catholic saint veneration of St. Paul in Southern Italy.

The film approaches tarantism from the perspective of Anna, an illiterate farm worker. In intimate letters written between 1959 and 1965 to anthropologist Annabella Rossi, Anna describes her personal experiences of illness, suffering and healing through tarantism. These letters are a unique historic document and constitute the dramaturgical backbone of our film. Anna’s subjective descriptions are juxtaposed or underlined by archival audio-visual materials from post-war Italy (films, TV shows, photographs, music and sound recordings) as well as footage from our own ethnographic research (i.e. visually through tableaux vivants, photographic series and drawings and sonically through polyphone soundscape combing field recordings, archival sound, music and interviews with voice-overs of Annas letters).

As filmmakers and ethnographers, we revisit – hence the title – the sites, landscapes and archival materials related to the phenomenon of Apulian tarantism and analyse the survival and utilization of these iconic images through montage and an open narrative form. At the same time, we also collect voices from the field that describe the phenomenon of tarantism from various perspectives and assemble them into a sound montage that is juxtaposed to or adds to the letters. All in all, we aim at creating a tight and entangled web of images and voices – reaching from the past into the present. This practice leads us to discuss notions of authorship in ethnographic cinema with a focus on the assemblage of fictionalized texts, letters and various other archival sources.

Prof. Dr. Michaela Schäuble

Prof. Dr. Michaela Schäuble is an anthropologist and filmmaker with an interest in multimodal ethnography and practice-based artistic research. Since 2014 she is professor for media anthropology at the University of Bern and co-founder of the EMB – Ethnographic Media Space Bern. Currently, she is heading three large research projects on a.) the Ecological Imperative / Environmental Humanities, b.) Big Data / Tech Imaginaries and Human Transformation and c.) the role of rituals in religious conflicts. As a graduate from and lecturer at the Granada Centre for Visual Anthropology (GCVA) at Manchester University (2013/2014), she uses audio-visual media to conduct ethnographic research on trance, performance and re-enactments in the Mediterranean.  Her award-winning documentaries have been shown at numerous international film festivals and in museums (including Grassi Museum Leipzig, Schwules Museum Berlin, Zentrum Paul Klee Bern). She has an interest in experimental media practices such as essay film, montage and animation and published in Visual Anthropology Review, Visual Anthropology, Cultural Anthropology, AnthroVision, among others. In addition, she regularly writes book, film and exhibition reviews for newspapers and curates film programs for festivals. She is currently in post-production with a feature-length essayistic documentary entitled Tarantism Revisited (with Anja Dreschke).

Dr. Anja Dreschke

Anja Dreschke is a visual and media anthropologist, filmmaker and curator. Her research interests and publications focus on the theory and practice of audiovisual media at the intersection of experimental ethnography, essayistic film and artistic research. She teaches audiovisual anthropology and media ethnography at universities, film schools and art academies and realizes films, photo essays, video installations and multimodal digital publications and exhibitions. She also works as a curator in the field of anthropology, media, film and art for film festivals, museums and other cultural institutions [].

Go back