Panel 16: Indigenous Lands and Visual Rhetoric in Ecomedia I (pre-formed)



Panel 16: Indigenous Lands and Visual Rhetoric in Ecomedia I (pre-formed by the Indigenous Ecocriticism SIG)

Chair: Kyle Bladow (Assistant Professor of Native American Studies, Northland College)

Respondent: Salma Monani (Associate Professor of Environmental Studies, Gettysburg College)

This panel explores ecomedia practices around the world, highlighting three projects from three separate continents, each using documentary-style film and video with Indigenous themes. Land is a recurring theme in the papers, as panelists consider Indigenous rights, connections to place, and land use conflicts. The panelists advance the conference’s investigation of contradictions arising from ecomedia production and consumption, posing questions about ecological relations and their influences on Indigenous identity and political sovereignty. The panel further considers a range of media practices (feature documentary, documentary-style fictional drama, and social media video and drone footage), all contributing to the ongoing definition of ecomedia.

Black Bodies, White Earth: Mapping a Modern Aeta Consciousness Toward an Ecocinema of the Philippines

Rogelio Garcia (Ph.D. candidate in English, University of Oregon)

“Living/Dying with Water: Indigenous Histories and Bioregionalism in The Pearl Button

Matthew Holtmeier (Assistant Professor of Screen Studies, Ithaca College)

“Decolonizing Drones: Aerial Media in the #NoDAPL Struggle”

Emily Roehl (Ph.D. candidate in American Studies, University of Texas at Austin)

Q & A

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20 replies
  1. mholtmeier says:

    Hi everyone,

    I’m looking forward to the discussion at this conference, and wanted to leave a little starting comment per the suggestion of Bridgitte and the conference organizers.

    I thought to start I’d give a little context on why I created this presentation, how it came to take this form, and reflect on some of the points made in the opening keynotes.

    This project started as a facet of my research into bioregional media. In an article on Kelly Reichardt, I describe the goals of this project:

    “beyond the emphasis on place I am looking for a way to think through the visual representation of ‘inhabitating’ in a bioregional sense: how are individuals shaped by their particular environments, politically, philosophically and practically? More specifically, how does a bioregion contributes to the production of subjectivity in bringing together a set of dispositives that include the local environment, the social formations that exist within it, and the mental states of the subjects that inhabit said bioregion?” (Holtmeier 2017: 478)

    Looking at the work of Reichardt provided a preliminary foray, but raised many more questions for me. Of these questions, I attempt to target two with this presentation. First, how might bioregional discourse disentangle inhabitation from problematic notions of the ecological indian, or the subsumption of indigenous lives under the aegis of sustainability/capitalism? Second, what forms might bioregional media take outwith the context of American/Western narrative film?

    Patricio Guzmán’s The Pearl Button (2015) answers the first by offering a critical bioregionalism that avoids environmental utopianism associated with indigenous experiences. The film argues that we cannot understand inhabitation in the Tierra del Fuego without the violent history of colonialism. The Pearl Button answers the second via the perspective of southern Chile, but even more so in its attempt to produce the filmic equivalent of cosomovisions, which Joni Adamson aligns with indigenous worldviews.

    It is this last point that makes me return to the opening talks by Alexa Weik von Mossner and Sean Cubitt. At the end of his talk, Cubitt poses this question about how we might remake the way we communicate between phyla. Earlier he discusses the shifting nature of earlier philosophical dichotomies between man and nature as cybernetic feedback loops have increasingly made us into cyborgs. When he posed this question, it made me think of Scott MacDonald’s The Garden in the Machine and the role of political modernism in relation to shaping the way ‘we communicate between phyla.’

    I don’t think I’m necessarily suggesting that with bioregional media there is a return to political modernism, as I think bioregional media takes many forms, but that the way that Guzmán approaches the question of inhabitation (via media) is radically different from Reichardt, and by virtue of his cosmovisions far closer to the avant-garde than narrative form. This reminds me of Mossner’s points about affect and cognition that shape subjectivity. While Mossner highlights some (relatively) mainstream ways this takes shape, eco-horror, what are the possibilities of Guzmán’s cosmovisions or a more avant-garde approach to non-Western relationships with the environment?

    I’m thinking of one example in particular where Guzmán ‘tricks’ the viewer into a cosmovision. A trick is a strange thing to call it, but the power of his editing often relies on the viewers expectations from a sequence of shots. You can see the example 15:30 into my presentation here (with my narration, sorry) as he transitions from images of the cosmos to extreme close-ups on the body paint of the Selk’nam.

    I’m going to cut this short, because this comment is running a bit long… But I’d love to hear them if anyone has any thoughts!


  2. Bridgitte Barclay, Aurora University says:

    Rogelio, Matthew, and Emily. Thank you for your excellent presentations. I love the connections of (re)mapping and process in all of your talks and of the use of close ups, scale, framing, and focus as parts of creating empathy. I’m wondering what films/visual media you all have used in classrooms that work well to create empathy and/or action? And, like you Matthew, I was thinking of connections with your panel and the plenary speakers, specifically, Alexa Weik von Mossner’s plenary presentation about veganism and ecomedia in which she talks about what is off putting (horror) and what creates empathy and how different audiences react. I wonder what overlap there is with empathy and with the engagement, boredom, scale, regionalism covered in your panel.

    • eroehl says:

      Thank you for your comments, Bridgitte! I think you’re absolutely right that one of the ties that binds these three presentations together is the concept of (re)mapping. In the case of Myron Dewey / Digital Smoke Signals, I think it is critical that the (re)mapping made possible by the drone and the aerial perspective is represented as a precarious process. Unlike the colonial gaze, or an uninterrupted field of vision that makes military reconnaissance and resource exploration possible, the vision produced by Dewey’s drone is at times hazy and interrupted. Drones, like bodies, freeze in subzero temperatures when attacked with water canons. Drones and bodies don’t bear the same weight of violence in the context of contemporary energy development, but I think one of the great contributions that Dewey has made to aerial and drone media is to make the difficulty of representation visible on a quasi-public forum (Facebook). Dewey’s persistence in documenting the actions of the energy company, the police, and their hired mercenaries and the large archive of footage he has compiled on Facebook models a politically engaged media-making practice and at the same time maps a landscape being rapidly transformed by energy.

      • Bridgitte Barclay, Aurora University says:

        Great points, Emily. It’s such interesting stuff. Thank you for writing so thoughtfully about it.

      • Matthew Holtmeier, Ithaca College says:

        Hi Emily and Bridgitte,

        I like this thread about the mapping/remapping of an environment and the role of pathos therein. This has clear ramifications for media’s role in shaping bioregional imaginaries, but even more specifically the (re) part of the mapping suggests the multiplicity of affects that might be layered/networked within a map. In other words, not just a landscape in terms of space, but a landscape with the layers of time/history and scale (whether micro or macro, bacterial or geological).

        Emily, I like your point about the materiality of the drone here, and your reflections on water. Similar to in The Pearl Button, water here can be a source of life or a source of violence when the water cannon is turned against the protesters/drones in the freezing weather. Also that the landscape then becomes a site of protest or a site of surveillance, even when viewed via the same technology (drones used by protesters/drones used by security firms).

        I think this goes to your point, Bridgitte, about the role of affect in relation to the maps we create. It is really the same territory, but it has been re-mapped by different constituents that build different relationships with the territory. I’m not sure empathy is always the goal, the security forces certainly don’t want to create empathy with the protesters, but they are nonetheless trying to build another affective relationship with that landscape and its inhabitants.

        In the case of The Pearl Button (I use the term bioregion, but we might substitute it with map), the map is densely layered via the differing scales and temporalities, but also ways of inhabiting. While we wouldn’t call colonialism a type of ‘living-in-place,’ it certainly is a way of inhabiting the land, and one that was radically incompatible with the indigenous presence. Guzmán gives us both though, in order to add two more layers (or more) to the map, such that it becomes densely compacted with layers of emotion – though you’re right that in The Pearl Button it is largely empathy, for both indigenous peoples and disappeared peoples (though I talk about the latter little in this talk).

        Thank you for starting off this thread, Bridgitte!

    • ElioGarcia says:

      Thank you for your comment, Bridgitte!

      With regards to films I have used in the classroom to create empathy, I have found Arnel Mardoquio’s 2011 film Crossfire to have affected my students who were taking up ethnic literature with me in the Philippines. The film tells the story of dispersed indigenous communities in Southern Philippines trying to survive being caught in the armed conflict between rebels and the government. The affective connection has much to do with the vernacular language which many of my students speak, the proximity of the area of the indigenous community to where I was teaching, and the kind of familiarity that my students have with the indigenous community since my class was a mixture of indigenous and non-indigenous students. Also, the narrative is easy to follow and digest for learners who otherwise find it difficult to focus when given an avant-garde film such as Manoro which I discussed in my presentation. To make Manoro work, a scaffolding was necessary in terms of aesthetic vocabularies and anthropological background (since by geography the Aetas in the film are found in the Northern part of the country).

      The “action” part is I guess the more difficult aspect to assess. I so agree with Alexa von Mossner regarding the direction we must take as ecomedia scholars: pay attention to more empirical studies on spectatorship to be able to see how the endurance of affect, or empathy, or awareness, can be sustained for transformation into action.

      The discussion about empathy is complex when talking about the representation of indigenous communities, especially for a film scholar like me who is outside the indigenous communities that I am working with. There is a constant need to balance creating/highlighting the space for agency and emphasizing the direness and the urgency of the situation. In a sense, mediating for an already empowered subject might weaken the film’s call to action toward its audience while paying attention more on the ‘helplessness’ of the situation will lead to the denial of their agency. While horror may invoke trauma for affective connection, it can also demean peoples as merely suffering entities.

      • Bridgitte Barclay, Aurora University says:

        I’ll be sure to check out Crossfire. And thank you for your comments.

  3. rlmurray50 says:

    Hi Rogelio, Matthew, and Emily,

    Thank you for your informative and provocative presentations.

    Rogelio–Thank you for introducing me to films such as *Manoro*. With its indigenous source and focus, the film sounds like a “must see” for our work on indigenous filmmakers. Your reading connects the film with the slow cinema discussed in earlier panels. Intriguing.

    Matthew–Surprisingly enough, my co-writer and I have been watching *The Battle of Chile* (bit by bit in the evening) as part of our study of Latin American film and its contexts. I’m looking forward to watching *The Pearl Button*, which I see is available on Amazon. Thank you for your enlightening reading of the film.

    Emily–Thank you for your reading of the #NoDAPL Struggle. I have only seen the struggle through social media and documentaries such as AWAKE, A Dream from Standing Rock (on Netflix).

    The focus on place and displacement–home–and ecology (the study of homes) resonated for me in each of these presentations. But I also wondered about how the media you all explore might also align with the tenets of slow eco-cinema.

    • ElioGarcia says:

      Thank you for your comment, rlmurray!

      Thinking about Manoro as a slow ecocinema, while I have argued in my presentation that avant-gardism has its own challenges in e(a)ffectively engaging its audience, I missed to point out the economic context necessary to explain why Manoro for example as a slow ecocinema is not only an aesthetic choice but also a consequence of its being an independent film. Being an independent film in the Philippines means lack of capital that may impose limitations to craft—the material condition of filmmaking shaping the mode or feel or quality of the picture. Mendoza, the filmmaker, has worked through these limitations, I imagine, but the result is a picture that mainstream audience is not familiar with.

  4. csoles says:

    Emily– Great talk! As you know, I am interested in drone cinematograpy and this talk is a super-sharp analysis of its implications in a real-life (documentary) situation with real social actors. I like the way you point to the drone’s material presence as something that can be used in several different ambivalent ways, and that can even be damaged and taken out of the sky by hostile forces. It is a subjective presence participating in the events it captures, not an “omnicient eye” or the like.

    Along similar lines, your analysis of those overhead shots remind me (as a horror film guy) of Hitchcock’s famous extreme overhead shot from late in The Birds, which also depicts the people of Bodega Bay as ant-like swarmers beset by chaos. Your description of police shooting water protectors with a water cannon sounds like a horrifying scene as well.

    • eroehl says:

      Thank you for these comments! You’re right that the scene depicted in Dewey’s drone video is horrific. I’d be interested to follow this line of thought further by considering how drone aesthetics (particularly amateur drone videos created in harsh atmospheric conditions) mirror a kind of shaky-cam horror aesthetic (like, say, Blair Witch Project). I am not as familiar with the writing on shaky-cam aesthetics and horror film generally, but I think there are some interesting connections, particularly as far as viewer experience is concerned (creating discomfort), though in the case of live-streaming drone video, there is a greater likelihood of the video producing boredom instead of suspense because of the pacing.

  5. Mtrono says:

    Hi Matthew,

    This is a wonderful visual essay you’ve created. It think that your use of the word ‘trick’ is entirely apt, what with the surprise/delight one feels when watching the sequence you describe (cinema has ever toyed with us, is a delicious and productive mischief since Méliès). It’s a dissolve sequence, of course, which immediately got me thinking (in the new materialist mode) about the fact that those persons in the shots WILL become (are, already?) stardust and therefore stars (their post-death vision already realized) and about Alaimo’s chapter “Dwelling in the Dissolve” that I cite in my forthcoming book to talk about biome/subject boundaries (inter/intra actions etc.) that, in the context of ecocinema studies, connects cinema to discourses in a nifty way. As per my remarks to you in the other thread, I want to say here too that your voice at 15:31 combining with the dissolve beings into the world a new piece of ecocinema–your visual essay! It counts. You apologize for talking over it in your preamble above when i think what we should do instead is more positively value what we do as ecocritics when we create visual essays (also a theme I harp on in the book). Dude, you audiovisually remixed Guzman into a new creative-discursive mode. It counts, and for me (if gaining insight is the aim) is coeval to Guzman. Ecocinema doesn’t always yield the insights the way we say it does in our critical labours, not all magically on its own. As I argue in a forthcoming book chapter, vigorous reception in the form of creative remixes that add to the original ecofilm carry their own ideo-affective force. Thanks again Matthew.

    • Matthew Holtmeier, Ithaca College says:

      Hi Mario,

      Thank you for the comments and kind words! Yes, I would like to develop this into more of a video essay, but it would take slightly different form. The narration here is all very formal/conference papery, whereas in revised format I would like to let the film speak for itself at times while at others drawing out and investigating particular aspects of it. I read this and other comments you posted where you mention a book project in the works, and I am very interested in reading it when it is out! Particularly in terms of considering the role of the eco-critic in relation to producing work such as this.

      The point about stardust resonates with the film and a response to Kyle I made a little bit ago below this thread. The Kawésqar in particular are in a precarious position, as there are only seven speakers left. This is Guzmán’s most melancholy cosmovision: that the Selk’Nam lived with and returned to the stars, a cycle sadly spurred on by colonialism. I think you’re right too, this really does resonate with Alaimo’s work as well as your own. This is what drew me to the bioregional perspective of Guzmán’s film, which I talk about in terms of a critical bioregionalism. Rather than a representation of the Tierra del Fuego, he gives us the ‘dizzying interconnectedness’ that you were discussing in panel two via his multi-scalar strategies and collage. The critical element comes in for me because films take positions on these interconnections though – so that colonialism is not just part of the ecology, but a malignant force that nonetheless has shaped environmental histories.

      This is also why I find myself drawn to Félix Guattari’s ecosophy. I agree with Sean Cubitt’s post elsewhere that Guattari’s ecosophy is ‘too 1970s,’ but at the same time, as a question of scale, I find his three ecologies often useful whereas the dizzying interconnectedness can result in the obfuscation of visible connections. While I wouldn’t privilege one approach over the other, from Guattari to Timothy Morton we get different types of access to ecological interconnection. I think we could approach a film from either perspective, with the agency of the eco-critic activist that you discuss, and yield fruitful results.

      Thank you again for your comments here and in other threads!

  6. kiuwaichu says:

    HI Elio,
    This is Kiu-wai Chu from Panel 4 “Global Politics and Narratives”.
    Thanks for your insightful presentation on Mendoza’s Manoro. You have indeed pointed out some major challenges faced by slow ecocinema and especially in non-Western contexts, such as the difficulty in searching for and engaging a greater audience worldwide.
    In an article I recently submitted to the journal Asian Cinema (to be published in early 2019) I have discussed the post-disaster realism in a range of Asian films including Mendoza’s Trap/Taklub. I wonder if you have discussed Taklub in your writing too? While I haven’t seen Manoro, from your presentation I get the sense that Mendoza has established his style already when he made Manoro back in 2005. Taklub (2016) and Manoro seem to have a lot in common, such as blurring the boundaries between documentary and fiction; casting of nonprofessional actors (except for the lead played by Nora Aunor); using slow and contemplative long takes; and real life environment as backdrops, etc.
    What I wish to ask is, is there any major changes in the aesthetics and concerns in these two Mendoza films? With both films having strong focus on environmental issues), and with Mendoza being a more prominent award winning director now, would you say that Taklub has done a better job in conveying its message as an ecocinema, finding and engaging the audience more readily?

    Thanks again and I look forward to reading more of your work (on Fillippino ecocinema, or broader slow cinema) in the near future. Stay in touch, please keep us posted on the Facebook group I’m managing on “Asian Ecocriticism” :


    • ElioGarcia says:

      Hello Kiu-wai!

      I am thrilled to hear about your work on Mendoza since I have been working on his films for a while now. I am currently writing on visions of post-Haiyan Philippines in Lav Diaz’s Storm Children and Brillante Mendoza’s Taklub with attention to duration and gaze. I am excited to read your project on post-disaster realism in Asian films; it would be a great reference.

      You are right about Mendoza’s ultra-neorealist aesthetics: it’s been established since the release of Masahista (2005) which was given the Golden Leopard in Locarno. Gaining more recognition, following, and financial support from both government and private entities, Mendoza proceeds creating more films in somewhat the same realist mode but with varying degrees. In Manoro as well as Tirador (2007), Serbis (2008), or Ma Rosa (2016), the realism is extreme in terms of long take, non-acting performance, mise-en-scene, etc. I find the verite style in Manoro and Tirador very similar. Taklub is on the mellow side, almost close to mainstream drama films, similar to Thy Womb (2012) which also starred Nora Aunor. Taklub is obviously a bigger production with a cast of seasoned professional actors like Aunor, Julio Diaz, and Lou Veloso who navigate between mainstream and independent film projects. They do a really nice job of appearing “natural” with their acting techniques.

      Taklub, with Aunor’s star power, Mendoza’s bigger stature as a filmmaker, a better production funding (with support from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources), and Haiyan’s immediate impact to Philippine population, and a less avant-garde approach, is more accessible and popular than Manoro which was performed by non-professional and Aeta actors, an earlier work in Mendoza’s corpus, meagerly funded, a narrative that is farther from the disaster of the Pinatubo eruption in 1991. So, yes, you are right that Taklub conveys its message more clearly and engages its audience more readily based on these considerations.

      Thanks so much, Kiu-wai, for your comments and questions. And for the link to the community 🙂


  7. Joseph Heumann, Eastern Illinois University says:

    Thanks to Emily, Matthew and Rogelio for getting us up to speed on three examinations of First Nation cultures. The Philippines has so many interesting films makers, so thanks for cluing us in on these specific works. I have started to track them down. Guzman is one of Chile’s great filmmakers but creating the historical connection to Chile’s past and the first inhabitants was eye opening. And the struggle to document the on going battles against the encroachment of oil development on First Nation lands was given a great angle with the drone recordings. All new ways of looking, hearing and thinking about these global issues.

  8. kbladow says:

    Hats off to Elio, Matt, and Emily for these enriching presentations! I appreciate your insightful analyses of the films and drone footage as well as your connections with and contributions to ecomedia theory.

    Echoing some of the preceding comments, I am also interested in the use of Goeman’s concept of (re)mapping for ecomedia. Applying the term to these works, it seems like many of the relevant scenes also emphasize embodiment (e.g., bare feet on earth, stars transforming into body paint, the drone and water protectors’ physical vulnerability). I would echo Emily’s point that this (re)mapping challenges colonial cartographic impulses and strategies. As Emily points out, even though drone footage might connote an impervious, “god’s-eye” omniscience because of its aerial perspective (a tendency TigerSwan no doubt exploits), the vulnerability of the drone to water cannons in Dewey’s recording interrupts such assumptions.

    Here are a few points that come to mind considering the panel together—I welcome anyone to take up any of these threads:
    – Audience: I’m wondering how the Indigenous communities included in these works received them, who the primary audiences have been. Is there any record, for instance, of Aeta viewers’ responses to Manoro? Has it been widely assigned to students because it presents Aeta lives, because of its aesthetic cinematic value, or because of its (celebratory? assimilationist?) portrayal of civics and literacy? Have any of the The Pearl Button’s Kawésqar speakers or others commented on the film? Digital Smoke Signals seems pitched to a wide online audience, but does Dewey have particular goals for his Indigenous audience members that diverge from those he has for this global one? For Matt, audience/reception seems especially pertinent when it comes to bioregional inhabitants. Is bioregional cinema especially for the inhabitants of a given bioregion?
    – Temporality seems another promising topic to investigate—no surprise, given the medium—whether in Elio’s comment about the realities of independent cinema producing “slow cinema” effects, the multiscalar (multi-cosmos?) temporality Guzmán portrays (and his redirection of viewers’ expectations via arresting cuts/transitions and speculative imagery), or the life of the drone footage (i.e., what might be made of the immediacy of livestreaming versus later use of the footage, whether in edited documentaries or YouTube videos?) For Elio, I’m wondering whether boredom might in some way count as ecological engagement, or what opportunities emerge in Manoro’s failure to engage a deliberate message or a particular audience.
    – Documentary: each paper touched on elements of documentary form, and the media discussed all disrupt typical documentary tropes: avant-garde slow shots clashing with conventional pacing of narrative or interview-styled documentary, the inclusion of fantastical/speculative elements, and the repurposing of the now-classic aerial shot of produced documentaries (especially nature documentaries) to serve livestream activism. How are current ecological concerns and Indigenous issues reshaping documentary styles? For Emily, how might future drone and related footage (e.g., bodycams, smartphones) add new dimensions to scenography and new dimensions if not new tactics to the staging of protests?

    Thank you again for the excellent panel. May it help all viewers as much as it helped me to better appreciate ecomedia’s uses on and for Indigenous lands.

    • Matthew Holtmeier, Ithaca College says:

      Hi Kyle,

      Many thanks for the questions! Your ideas about audiences are compelling in relation to bioregionalism since, as you say, this entails such specific audiences. I have three different thoughts here:

      I haven’t found any publicity about screenings for indigenous audiences like there has been for Avatar (2009) or Embrace of the Serpent (2015). I wonder if this is partly due to Patricio Guzmán’s mode of production, where he works on a much smaller scale (of production of course, not necessarily content which spans the cosmos). He works with small crews, sometimes just a sound and camera operator, creating political collage. When Ciro Guerra organizes a fictional film using indigenous actors and language, it creates a lot of press, which is leveraged as part of the distribution. While I certainly think it is an ethical ambition to show Embrace of the Serpent to indigenous audiences, I also wouldn’t divorce this from the machinations of capital and the organization of industrial structures.

      Another part of the equation is that there are so few Kawésqar left. Guzmán ruminates on this point in the film, which is partly why he seeks out their perspective, and Wikipedia tells me there are only 7 speakers left (for what Wiki is worth). This shifts the rhetoric of the film I think. Whereas Avatar has been rightly criticized for its white savior syndrome, it suggests that there is a population to save. The Pearl Button is far more melancholy in its acknowledgement that colonialism has decimated the Kawésqar and there is no saving this population. In interviews, Guzmán discusses seeking out their perspectives and expresses a desire to make a film ‘with’ the Kawésqar, which is a nice sentiment for a documentary filmmaker, but I think he follows through well in that when he is not giving the history of colonialism in Chile he lets the Kawésqar speak to their experiences. In this case, and in terms of the audience question, what we miss out on then is the Kawésqar perspective on his political collage (their reception of the film as film – the cosmovisions in the film), but not necessarily the Kawésqar perspective on environment and nation.

      The easiest way to answer the bioregional question about audience more generally is through my teaching. While I haven’t had many opportunities to teach courses that really relate to this content due to institutional structures, I have taught a regional media course in the Pacific Northwest. Perhaps the most enlightening part about that class was the ONE student who took it that was not from the Pacific Northwest. His reaction to his peers was fascinating, because as the outsider he was able to observe their responses to location, environment, and culture that he did not necessarily share. I suppose that’s an anecdote more than any real argument there, but in general I would say while bioregional films may not be made ‘for’ a particular audience, their reception within that bioregion undoubtedly shapes their experience of the film. Many of my students that were more typical mainstream cinemagoers were surprised by how much they loved Old Joy (2006), which is a very subdued indie immersed in the environments of the Pacific Northwest.

      Thank you again for the questions, Kyle!

    • eroehl says:

      Thank you for your comments, Kyle, and for the lovely way you have summed up the conceptual links between these three presentations.

      I especially like your question about documentary form and the way new image-making technologies (cell phone cameras, personal drones, bodycams) influence documentary making and its political potential. Something I may not have stated strongly enough in this presentation is that drone video, like cell phone and bodycam video, often fails to produce the effects desired by its distributor. While social media sites make the documentation of police brutality accessible to a broad audience, this kind of visual evidence does not necessarily lead to accountability or convictions, as the case of the 2016 shooting of Philando Castile makes painfully clear. Furthermore, the visual material that Myron Dewey made available through the Digital Smoke Signals Facebook site was used by TigerSwan as a surveillance mechanism.

      Like any social movement tactic, live-streaming drone video has great potential and also pitfalls, and it must be supplemented by other social movement strategies, including local grassroots organizing, legal battles, and other forms of physical and media intervention. For activists, social movement scholars, and media scholars, I think it is useful to think of live-streaming as both a social movement tactic and a document that can later be repurposed as documentary (I develop this “from document to documentary” argument in my dissertation). I am particularly interested in the way aerial photography and video travel, both in terms of social media distribution (as the real-time media tactics of anti-pipeline social movements) but also in terms of their later use as footage in more traditional documentaries (Dewey, for example, uses drone video in the documentary film Awake: A Dream from Standing Rock).

      I am also interested in the use of documentary-like conventions in contemporary art contexts, especially art that responds to energy development. A fascinating case of this kind comes from Indigenous artist Cannupa Hanska Luger and the artist collective Winter Count, who have used drone video of the encampments at Standing Rock in art installations, something that I am calling the “documentary-esque.” If anyone has recommendations for books/resources/artists that might be useful for thinking through the uses of documentary in contemporary art, I would greatly appreciate it.

      Thank you again for your comments, Kyle!

    • ElioGarcia says:

      Many thanks for your thoughtful comments and questions, Kyle. And for organizing this panel.

      I honestly think documentation of indigenous peoples watching themselves is an important way to better understand levels and variations of engagement and to know what they think about the representation taking place in the media. This is not to police artists in their expressions but a means of thinking about the feedback loop that takes place in the network of production, distribution, and consumption. I grapple with this issue as I work with Fourth Cinema since many of the films in the Philippines that deal with indigeneity are not made by indigenous peoples themselves, and for many reasons. Unfortunately, I do not have any data that document how the Aetas think and feel about the film and the issues it tackles though I am sure a number of Aetas have watched it since the film was shown a couple of times to students within the region where the film is set and produced. As an educational material given to senior high school students, Manoro is included for its cultural significance as many curricula in the Philippines now emphasize culture-based education. Students are ushered into heightened awareness of their identities as well as of those “others” close to them via geographical proximity. I gathered some mixed reactions from senior high school students who commented on the film:

      “To be honest i watched this because,we have a recitation in filipino. but i realize this documentary inspired me. that i need to pursue my dreams. i need to appriciate them. i salute jonalyn for being a good example not only in me but to the other teenager or people to be a good person and never give up.”

      “aminin natin kaya natin ito pinapanood dahil sa pilipino” [Let’s admit it: the reason we watch this is because we’re required for our Filipino class]

      “WOW! its so wonderful to know that there is a person that give her life to serve her tribe.. im very impress to her.. a good influence to others..!”

      Some comments and conversations dwell on technical aspects such as sound and language while others only wanted a summary and some paid attention only to narrative. I suppose, as a pedagogical constraint, that advanced lessons on avant-garde cinema and more nuanced thinking about race and ethnicity and environment may not be happening in this level.

      Great question on temporality. Manoro as a slow ecocinema must not be dismissed for its failure to engage its audience. I want to argue that its slowness is an assertion of the cyclicality of time (not to be essentialized of course) among some indigenous cultures and the time that nature needs to recover from the exploitative teleological time of capitalism against the rhythm of modernity of the mainstream audience. Slow films create a negation to our fast-paced lives and the audience capture and willful decision to stay despite the boredom manifest the breaking point of spectatorship from entertainment to education. Instead of locating the onus on the film in the discussion of failure, the cinematic transaction and experience must be described. The failure to engage is exactly an enactment of the greater failure of the majority culture that leaves behind the subaltern in their movement towards modernity.

      Thank you, again, Kyle, for this engaging discussion!


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