Ethnographic Film Series

Ethnographic Film Series

Field research yields audio-visual materials ideal for the presentation of findings in alternative and accessible formats such as film, audio, and the internet. The MLitt in Ethnology and Folklore now has practical film and radio-editing elements to it so, alongside this initiative, we have launched a monthly Ethnographic Film Series, hosted by lecturer in Ethnomusicology, Dr Frances Wilkins. Films cover a range of genres from material culture to song traditions.

Films are normally screened on the first Thursday of each month entry is free and all are welcome. Each film will be followed by a discussion.

Dùthchas | Home (2022)Still from Dùthchas. Credit: Kirsty MacDonald and Andy MacKinnon

Directed by Kirsty MacDonald and Andy MacKinnon

Thursday, 7 March 2024

6:30pm, MR051, MacRobert Building, also on-line via Teams (please email for Teams link) 

For many of us there are two places we can call home – where we were born and where we now live. This film is about the yearning for their birth home felt by those who have left the Isle of Berneray in the Outer Hebrides, and the remembrance of the ever-living past for those who have stayed or returned, when the home in their heart is also where they live.

Andy Mackinnon has worked in creative and collaborative film and contemporary art since the late 80s, and lives on the island of North Uist in the Outer Hebrides. He was director/cinematographer/producer of the Scottish BAFTA nominated £300k budget feature documentary TRANSITION, the first Scottish documentary to make the official selection at IDFA in 2000. In 2000 he worked with Taigh Chearsabhagh Museum & Arts Centre to make the participatory documentary feature Passing Places - The Real Outer Hebrides. He is passionate about environmental issues and the islands where he now lives. 

Kirsty MacDonald has over twenty years’ experience in the Gaelic language and cultural sector. A native of North Uist, she is fluent in Scottish Gaelic, and has a love of indigenous minority cultures and languages, history and ethnology.  As well as researching and presenting archaeology series 'Talamh Tròcair', she has contributed to several broadcast productions for BBC Alba. such as An Dotair Mòr (2014), An Cràdh/Endo What? (2015), An Taistealaiche/ The Far Traveller (2019), Iorram/Boat Song (2019) and Maorach: Hebridean Shellfish (2021).

Previous film showings were as follows


Dances of Goa (2018), followed by Q&A with FilmmakerStill from Dances of Goa. Credit: Nalini Elvino De Sousa

Directed by Nalini Elvino De Sousa

Thursday, 1 February 2024

6:30pm, MR051, MacRobert Building

Travelling through the villages of Goa, India, a team of youngsters unveil the rich culture of Goa through dance. It’s a journey that explores the basic lifestyle, rituals, beliefs, customs, and costumes of the Goan village that should not be forgotten.


Henry Glassie: Field Work (2019)Still from Field Work. Credit: Pat Collins

Directed by Pat Collins

Thursday, 5 October 2023

6:30pm, MR051, MacRobert Building

Inspired by and featuring the folklorist Henry Glassie, Field Work is an immersive and meditative film set among the rituals and rhythms of working artists in Brazil,  Turkey, North Carolina, and Ireland. Glassie’s deep, abiding love for these artists resonates throughout the film. The Brazilian sculptor, Edival Rosas, describes his practice as one where body and spirit are integrated, where in Glassie’s words the creative act brings ‘a momentary fulfilment of what it is to be human’. 

The Shared Light (2021) and Selected Films, followed by Q&A with FilmmakersStill from BREATHE. Credit: Bibo Keeley and Brian Keeley

Directed by Bibo Keeley and Brian Keeley

Thursday, 2 November 2023

6:30pm, MR051, MacRobert Building

NB Please do not attend the event if you have flu or COVID-like symptoms

The work of Aberdeen-based artists and filmmakers Bibo Keeley and Brian Keeley is inextricably linked with their lives. Much is informed by their experiences of Brian’s critical illness and heart transplant in 2013 and its continuing impact. Their work is multi-faceted, multi-layered, and multi-disciplinary, and the artist duo explore trauma, emotion, and the subconscious mind, interweaving autobiographical themes with universal issues, acknowledging the importance of compassion.

Sweet Tassa: Music of the Indian Caribbean Diaspora

by Chris Bellengee

Thursday, 30 March 2023

6:30pm, MR051, MacRobert Building

Sweet Tassa: Music of the Indian Caribbean Diaspora details the history, repertoire, and socio-political significance of tassa drumming in Trinidad & Tobago. The film profiles the life and work of noted tassa drummer Lenny Kumar and his family while also developing the notion of tassa performance practice as a metaphor for Indian Trinidadian cultural and national identity. In the process, the film traces tassa’s movement from India to the Caribbean, summarizes its transformation in diaspora, and speculates about its future. Proceeding from analysis of tassa repertoire in Muslim and Hindu performance contexts, the film explores tassa’s physical and conceptual transformations in diaspora and the ongoing push to make tassa a co-national instrument alongside steel pan. In this regard, interviewees discuss the implication of tassa as “foreign”—despite more than 150 years of Indian presence in the Caribbean—and therefore unsuitable as a co-national instrument alongside steel pan. The film’s conclusion emphasizes tassa as an encapsulation of Indian identity: tassa’s performance contexts and performance practice signal India as a place of origin. Yet these very same aspects, by virtue of their persistence in diaspora, equally signal Trinidad and Tobago as home.  

Christopher L. Ballengee is an ethnomusicologist and Lecturer in the American Literature and Culture Department at John Paul II Catholic University of Lublin (Poland). He has researched Indian music in Trinidad and the Trinidadian community in Florida since 2007 and was the inaugural Diego Carpitella Visual Ethnomusicology fellow at the Giorgio Cini Foundation (Venice, Italy) which supported the production of the feature-length documentary film Sweet Tassa: Music of the Indian Caribbean Diaspora (2019). He is editor of the volume Music, Sound, and Documentary Film in the Global South (2022) and co-editor of the Music and Sound in Visual Media series at Lexington Books. 

Govan Young (2018) and Comrades Together-Apart / Camarades Junts-I-A-Banda (2021), followed by Q&A with the filmmakers 

dir. by David Archibald / Araüna Baró        

Thursday 2 February 2023 

6.30pm, MacRobert Building MR051, and Online

Govan Young documents schoolchildren from Govan, in Glasgow, learning of the area's important but largely unknown medieval history. Comrades together-apart / Camarades junts-i-a-banda was made by two academics working at distance, one in Catalonia, one in Scotland. The film was shot and edited during the Covid-19 lockdown when we were forced to stay within our borders, and, at times, within our own homes. The film combines footage of contemporary political protests and movements in our respective countries and reflects on actually existing colonial processes both within and outwith the higher education system, while including phone footage of everyday life during this moment.

Still from the film Govan Young. Credit: David Archibald


Dàn Fianais 

by Andrew Black

Thursday 3 February, 2022
Free entry
Online via Zoom

Dàn Fianais or Protest Poem is a film-portrait of Skye and Lochalsh and some of its inhabitants, recorded in 2020-21. Some of the contributors are young activists demanding an equitable solution to the rapid gentrification of their villages and townships; others are crofters, storytellers, archivists, musicians and academics. Collaged with vernacular music and song, the conversations within the film invite imaginative contemplation of possible futures for Skye and Lochalsh - moving away from leisure-industry narratives of unpeopled scenery, and paying particular attention to ways of being that have endured through generations, in intimate entanglement with the land and its ecological systems. As well as being a document of real people in a real place*, this commission is an invitation to talk about what could be learned from the more communal and interconnected forms of society that have not entirely faded from the North-West Highlands, and how the tools for better ways of living together may already be within reach.

*Iain Crichton Smith - 'Real People in a Real Place', (1982),

Andrew Black is an artist, born in 1990 in Leeds. His recent moving-image projects explore social and ecological narratives in specific places, drawing on methodologies such as oral history recording, speculative storytelling, and collage. Andrew served on the committee of Transmission Gallery in 2016 and 2017, and is the recipient of the 2021 Margaret Tait Award; his commission, entitled The Besom, will premiere in 2022. He has lived and worked in Glasgow since 2009.


In Times of Rain 

Directed by Itandehui Jansen 
Written and produced by Armando Bautista Garcia

Thursday 2 December 2021

In Times of Rain (2018, 90 mins) A powerful story of economic migration between rural and urban Mexico. Soledad is a matriarch and traditional healer whose daughter Adele left their village to work in Mexico City leaving behind her infant son. Years later, Soledad and her grandson Jose share a strong bond rooted in their love of culture and land. As she continues to pass on her knowledge and teachings to him, she receives an unexpected call that her daughter is getting married and intends for Jose to join them in the city. Fearing an uncertain future for them both, Soledad struggles to cope with her impending heartbreak as she awaits her daughter’s return.

Itandehui Jansen (Oaxaca, Mexico 1976) studied film directing at the Netherlands Film and Television Academy in Amsterdam. She has participated in different selective international training programs, such as the Berlinale Talents. Her documentaries and short films screened at international festivals such as the IDFA (International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam), The Morelia International Film Festival and DC Shorts. Her short film The Last Council won several international awards and was nominated for the Mexican Film Critics Award Diosa de Plata. At present she is an Assistant Professor at the University of Edinburgh. 

After studying an MA in Philosophy at the Autonomous University of Barcelona with a FORD FOUNDATION fellowship, Armando Bautista started writing and producing films. He received different grants by the Mexican Nacional Council for Arts and Culture (CONACULTA) to write theatre plays, children stories and film scripts. He was the main producer for the micro-budget feature drama film, In Times of Rain, which recently won the award for Best Emerging Feature at the Oaxaca FilmFest.

HIDDEN (2017, 9 mins) 
THE CIRCLE (2021 Edit, 50 mins)

by Oliver Wilkins 

Thursday 4 November 2021

HIDDEN (2017, 9min). On a remote Yemeni Island the local inhabitants debate the existence of a hidden population living in the landscape around them. Presenting a refreshing perspective on the Middle East, the film is a collage of story fragments and tall tales that inspire deeper meditation on man's relationship with nature.

THE CIRCLE (2021 edit, 50 min) is an outreach project and documentary film designed as part of the Soqotra Heritage Project. The Yemeni island of Soqotra has it’s own unique oral language and intangible heritage, which are under threat from globalisation and the prominence of Arabic in the education system and job market. This project was developed and implemented with the local community, the aim being to stimulate excitement, interest and wider discussion about the island’s threatened language by engaging young people in the theatrical re-telling of traditional stories.

Oliver Wilkins is an independent Emmy award winning British filmmaker. His has produced an extensive portfolio of documentary films worldwide, focused on identity, human rights, marginalisation and inequality. He has designed and produced collaborative film projects with remote communities in such diverse locations as Yemen, Palestine, Colombia and Iceland.

All My Life's Buried Here (2019)

The Story of George Butterworth, by Stewart Morgan Hajudukiewicz

Thursday 7 October 2021

For the first time in a documentary film, the remarkable story of British composer George Butterworth (1885 – 1916), his music, life and times. Drawing on newly uncovered archival treasures, including the letters and memoirs of those who knew him best, ALL MY LIFE’S BURIED HERE is the compelling account of a pioneering British composer, musician, folk song collector and dancer cut down in his prime on the battlefield of the Somme. This film is the result of more than three years spent exploring all known George Butterworth archive collections, interviewing Butterworth's surviving family members and travelling throughout the UK and to northern France to record the testimony of those best able to provide insights into George Butterworth's life. The film includes a close examination of the Edwardian English folk revival and the methods and motivations of early collectors such as Butterworth and his contemporaries Cecil Sharp and Ralph Vaughan Williams, Maud Karpeles and Lucy Broadwood.

The filmmaker aims to redress certain myths about the composer's life and work by presenting Butterworth in the proper context of his times, and uncovers some fascinating new information along the way. A range of outstanding recordings - both of Butterworth's own music and of the traditional folk songs that influenced him – were secured for use in the film and serve to animate and enrich this important story.

All My Life's Buried Here is a film by Stewart Morgan Hajdukiewicz (b. Leicester, 1979). An independent filmmaker responsible for a number of short documentaries under his HajduKino Productions banner, this is the director's first feature-length documentary.

FALA MINHA IRMÃ (Speak My Sister) (2019)

Women’s Music and Dance from Mozambique

Thursday 1 April 2021

Speak My Sister is a web documentary based around a series of six musical portraits of Mozambican women who draw on their creative voice to bring about social change. For the Elphinstone Institute Ethnographic Film Series, film maker Karen Boswall will be presenting and discussing material from these films. The six portraits were researched, filmed and edited by film, media and cultural studies students from the Higher Institute of Art and Culture in Mozambique’s capital Maputo. They offer a Mozambican reflection on the role of women in forming Mozambican cultural identity and contributing to sustainable development in the country. Expressed through personal testimony, poetry, music and dance, the films go behind the traditional Mozambican dance forms of Tufo, Xingomana and Xigubu and the contemporary popular genres of Pop fusion, Gospel and Hip-Hop. In addition to these portraits there are also short films from behind the scenes shot during her practice-led doctoral research where she supported the production and exhibition of the films.

Karen Boswall

Karen Boswall is a filmmaker, ethnomusicologist and visual anthropologist. She lived and worked in Mozambique as a musician, journalist and documentary filmmaker between 1990 and 2007. Her award-winning films and radio documentaries explore the spiritual, cultural and environmental worlds of individuals and communities through their music and dance practices. Her films include individually authored and collaborative productions from Nicaragua (1984), UK (1986), Iraq (1993), Cuba (1995), Mozambique (1997-2018), Jordan (2014), Nepal (2016) and Brazil (2019). She has taught Visual Anthropology and Film and Television at the University of Kent (2008–2009), Canterbury Christ Church University (2010–2014), Manchester Metropolitan University (2015-2016) and the University of Sussex (2017 – 2019). She conducted her doctoral research in collaborative music research and film production in Mozambique and continues to use collaborative and decolonial audio-visual methodologies to support those working on improving their access to basic human rights in Mozambique, especially women and girls.

The presentation will be preceded by two 5-minute films made by Iain Fraser and Jan Tavendale, students of the MLitt in Ethnology and Folklore at the Elphinstone Institute, 'Iain Kinnear, Bagpipe Maker' (2020) and 'Grain from Ground to Girdle' (2020)

Solas (2019)

Thursday 4 March 2021

“Solas”, the Gaelic word for ‘Light’ is a new film produced by Canna Archivist for the National Trust for Scotland, Fiona Mackenzie, about the filmwork and images of  folklorist Margaret Fay Shaw in the Hebrides in the 1930s and 40s . Folklorist Margaret Fay Shaw first came to Scotland as an orphaned teenager, from Pennsylvania, in 1920. Her family decided to send her to St Bride’s school in Helensburgh, in an attempt to get Scotland, the home of her forefathers, to  ‘sort out’  this ‘difficult’ teenager. It was in Helensburgh that Margaret first heard Gaelic being sung and she decided there and then to make Gaelic song her ‘life’s quest’, to find the ‘pristine version’.

Margaret spent six years living in the remote hamlet of North Glendale, South Lochboisdale, South Uist, between 1929- 35, collecting songs and taking pictures. She became one of the world’s first female photographers and cinematographers, documenting a disappearing way of Hebridean life. She not only took film and photos in the Outer Hebrides but also on the Isle of Canna, where she lived with her husband, fellow folklorist John Lorne Campbell from 1938 when they bought the island, until her death in 2004. The film uses Margaret’s images, films and words and those of her close friend Magda Sagarzazu, to tell the story of her life and the people and animals in that life “Solas” is accompanied by a brand new soundtrack composed by Lewis piper, James Duncan Mackenzie, inspired by Canna House and its collections.

Fiona Mackenzie

A native of Morayshire, Fiona J. Mackenzie- MA( Aberdeen), Dip.Lib, MASP now lives on the Isle of Canna in the Inner Hebrides, where she is the Archivist for the National Trust for Scotland in Canna House, the home of the Campbell Collections of Folklore and Song. She is an award-winning Gaelic singer and attributes the work of Margaret Fay Shaw Campbell and John Lorne Campbell, as being the sources which inspired her to pursue a career in Gaelic song and Folklore. She has lectured extensively on the Campbell’s work in North America and Europe including Harvard and St Francis Xavier, Nova Scotia. She published the first collection of Shaw’s island photography on Birlinn in 2018, closely followed by the production of “Solas”, a biopic based on the broadcasts and films of Margaret Fay Shaw. She broadcasts frequently on the work of the Campbells, most recently the “Solas” documentary for BBC Alba, based around the original Solas film.

Fraserburgh on Film

The Burryman, South Queensferry (taken by Nicolas Le Bigre)

Thursday, 4 February 2021

Fraserburgh on Film is an online archive of digital moving image shot by residents of Fraserburgh and its surrounding areas throughout the 20th century. It was created by Andrew Davidson as part of an MSc dissertation project undertaken at Robert Gordon University. The idea behind the project was to utilise elements of digital storytelling and participatory heritage to celebrate the unique language and traditions native to the North East of Scotland through the digitalisation and collation of moving image, with a focus on the stories that surround these moments captured on film. As well as looking at some of the highlights from the collection, the talk will touch upon the inspiration behind the creation of Fraserburgh on Film and the use of moving image as a means to bring people together in a digital space to reflect upon their shared heritage. The project can be viewed at In this event, Andrew will be presenting some of the films from the archive and discussing the films and the archive as a whole.

Andrew Davidson

Andrew Davidson was born and brought up in Fraserburgh, on the North East corner of Scotland. His first media job found him in Asia producing Mongolia’s first, and possibly only, English language children’s TV show. Since then he has worked on a number of projects, most recently creating Fraserburgh on Film. Andrew has an interest in the heritage and traditions of the North East and enjoys producing work which highlights these.



Woya Hayi Mawe

Thursday 6 February 2020

A Film by Rose Satiko G. Hikiji and Jasper Chalcraft

Woya Hayi Mawe follows Mozambican musician Lenna Bahule from her adopted home of São Paulo, back to a stage show she organises in Maputo, Mozambique. The film reveals her discovery of a new music culture, combining traditional and popular music and artivism. The film deals with music and diaspora, identity politics and transcultural capital.



A short film by Fiona-Jane Brown

A pint? Was that too much to ask? Well, for one Aberdeen pub in May 1973 it was way too much to let WOMEN across the threshold! Find out more about what became a major gender equality protest by some female Scottish Trade Union Congress delegates and their male colleagues in NO LADIES PLEASE.

The films will be followed by a video-link with the film makers, Rose Satiko G. Hikiji and Jasper Chalcraft.


Kashi Labh

Kashi LabhThursday 7 November 2019

Video-link Q&A with the filmmaker, Rajat Nayyar

Kashi Labh explores the way in which Hindu pilgrims and their families stage a distinctive politics-of-care, while they anticipate and create the possibility of Moksha for their dying relative in Varanasi, India's holy city. This research examines audiovisual ethnography as it facilitates a performative space that allowed Nayyar and his interlocutor Shiv to navigate the holy city and improvise different possibilities for his mother’s Moksha during his ten-day stay in Varanasi.The film facilitates an intimate space for discussing dying, death and end-of-life care.

Rajat Nayyar is a filmmaker, anthropologist and a PhD student at the Department of Theatre, York University, Canada. His research interests are: everyday forms of resistance, verbal performative traditions, community archives, fiction and performance as a practice in producing collaborative audio-visual ethnography. Rajat is the founder of Espírito Kashi, a media project working on finding new embodied and critical ways of engaging with Intangible Heritage of rural India.

Hip Hop Revolución

hip hop singerThursday 3 October 2019

Video-link Q&A with the filmmaker, Pablo Navarrete

Filmed in 2012, British activist Jody McIntyre and UK-Iraqi rapper Lowkey travel to Venezuela to spend time with 'Hip Hop Revolución', a dynmaic collective of musical revolutionaries. Sharing music and ideas, they explore the cultural and political changes taking place in the country.

The World of Cocos Malay Music and Dance

Thursday 5 September 2019

Video-link Q&A with the filmmakers, David R. M. Irving, and Jenny McCallum

The Cocos (Keeling) Islands were uninhabited until 1826, when the islands became a coconut plantation controlled by the Scottish Clunies-Ross family. Worked by Malay labourers, the cultural practices of this isolated community draw from Malay, Javanese, and Scottish influences. This film surveys Cocos Malay music and dance, with a focus on its practice of 'Scottish dancing'.

Screening: Makin and Brakin

Thursday 14 March 2019

with filmmaker Stephen Macmillan

Makin and Brakin documents the building of a traditional salmon coble in Portsoy, a scenic village on the south Moray coast in Aberdeenshire.

Awarded a grant by the Heritage Lottery Fund, a group of volunteers took on the challenge of building one of these beautiful boats in Portsoy, a scenic village on the south Moray coast in Aberdeenshire. Now suspended, salmon fishing with nets at sea was common in many coastal towns and villages in Scotland. Volunteers took as their guide 'Tern', one of the last wooden cobles to be built in Scotland. After three years' hard work, the new coble, 'Soy Lady', was launched amid great celebration in 2016, and took to sea in 2017. The film follows the boat builders’ journey.

Screening: Janeu - Bhojpuri Initiation Rites and Folk Songs/The Voice of Tradition

Thursday 14 February 2019

    The Voice of Tradition

While rituals in India are majorly seen as men's job, not many know that women hold an equally important role in the purification rituals – of expressing the emotions that develop during the ritual through songs. The film documents the folk songs sung during the initiation ritual (Janeu or Upanayana) in the Bhadwar village of Bihar. The rite of passage leads the person being initiated to take the first step towards the path of devotion: the essence of the wisdom of the Vedas.

The Voice of Tradition celebrates the life of one of Mali’s most revered singers, Bako Dagnon, who gives insights into oral transmission as it was decades ago in rural Mali.

On July 7, 2015, Mali lost one of its most iconic and revered singers, Bako Dagnon, aged only 62. She was not well known outside the country, despite two international CD releases, but at home she was feted by everyone from Mali’s presidents to the humblest farmers and taxi drivers. Musicians such as Ali Farka Touré and Rokia Traoré were inspired by her voice, which was not only beautiful, but carried great authority. Bako transcended politics and regional styles; she represented the last of the old school of hereditary musicians, who learned her skills and knowledge with the elders, face to face.

Between 2009-2012, the 'Growing into Music in Mali' film team were extremely fortunate to film this wonderful singer at her home in Bamako, as well as in her remote native village, Golobladji. Some of these scenes can be seen in 'Da Kali - the pledge to the art of the griots', from which this shorter film, 'Bako Dagnon - the voice of tradition', is extracted. It gives many candid and unique insights into oral transmission as it was decades ago in rural Mali. Bako explains and demonstrates her ideas and philosophy about passing on musical skills and knowledge to the next generation, and we see several of her granddaughters learning and performing. The film includes rare footage of the sansene in Golobladji – a tradition of songs sung to encourage farmers in their laborious work in the fields during the rainy season – one of the main contexts in which young children learn to sing.


Screening: A Sense of Identity

Thursday 8 November 2018

A Sense of Identity poster

With filmmakers Jess and David Smith, and guests David Pullar and Bob Knight

What makes a Scottish Traveller? This question is at the heart of A Sense of Identity, a Heart of the Travellers film that explores and celebrates the lives and experiences of Travellers across Scotland Today.

Jess Smith, one of Scotland's most beloved storytellers, is the voice and interviewer of A Sense of Identity, filmed by David Smith. Great-grandson of Betsy White, David Pullar is featured in the film, as well as talented Aberdeen musician, Bob Knight. All will join us for a Q&A and maybe even a few songs after the film.

Heart of the Travellers (HOTT) is a Scottish Travellers organisation dedicated to preserving the only physical monument to Scottish Travellers – the Tinkers’ Heart in Argyll. HOTT is also dedicated to conserving and recording the stories, songs, genealogies and histories of Travellers.

Screening: Alive Inside

Alive inside posterThursday 11 October 2018

Alive Inside (dir. Michael Rossato-Bennett)

Collection in aid of Alive Inside Foundation

Alive Inside is a joyous cinematic exploration of music's capacity to reawaken our souls and uncover the deepest parts of our humanity.

Filmmaker Michael Rossato-Bennett chronicles the astonishing experiences of individuals who have been revitalized through the simple experience of listening to music.

His camera reveals the uniquely human connection we find in music and how its healing power can triumph where prescription mdedication falls short.

Screening: Flight of the Condor/The Snow Kirk

Thursday 13 September 2018

The Flight of the Condor: A Letter, a Song, and the Story of Intangible Cultural Heritage, directed by Valdimar Hafstein and Áslaug Einarsdóttir

The flight of the condor postergraveyard

The Snow Kirk, directed by Emma Barclay, Lauren Hossack, Claire Needler, Ania Trepczyk, Eilidh Whiteford

Venue: MacRobert Building Room 051
Cost: Free admission (open to all)

Q&A: Screening followed by video link-up with director Valdimar Hafstein and Q&A with student directors

The Flight of the Condor traces the global circulation of the melody 'El Condor Pasa' from the Andes mountains to global metropoles; from Lima to Paris to New York, and back; from panpipes to piano and from symphony orchestras to the disco; from indigenous to popular music; and from world music back to national heritage. Some of the protagonists are: Paul Simon, Art Garfunkel, Daniel Alomía Robles, Alan Lomax, Los Incas, the Cerro de Pasco Copper Company, the Victor Talking Machine Corporation, the Falangist Socialist Party of Bolivia, Chuck Berry, NASA, WIPO, and UNESCO.

The film shows how individual personalities and states can shape texts that become the foundation of global narratives, and how propositions made for a particular local reason become global instruments with entirely different effects in other corners of the world.

Unpacking the global/local dialectic, the film is a case study in paradox; it analyzes the prehistory of international heritage/copyright norms, the way that prehistory travels in oral and written circulation, and the enduring problems it points to in the implementation of these norms.

The Snow Kirk is a short MLitt student film that investigates the history of Old Aberdeen's 'hidden' Snow Kirk through historical documents, reconstruction, and interviews.

They Will Have to Kill Us First: Malian Musicians in Exile

6 February 2018

Malian Musician in Exile poster2015 - Documentary - 1h 40 mins

Directed by Johanna Schwartz

They Will Have To Kill Us First: Malian Music in Exile is a feature-length documentary following musicians in Mali in the wake of a jihadist takeover and subsequent banning of music.

Music, one of the most important forms of communication in Mali, disappeared overnight in 2012 when religious extremists took over an area the size of the UK and France combined. But rather than lay down their instruments, Mali's musicians fought back. Declared 'Essential Viewing' (Dazed & Confused), and 'A gripping, powerful documentary' (Indiewire), They Will have to Kill Us First screened in UK cinemas in October 2015.


The Barese Icemen of New York

(live link-up with film maker)

7 November 2017
2016 - 71 mins
Directed by Carlo Magaletti

The Barese Icemen of New York follows the story of the Apulia (Italy) emigrants who landed in the United State with nothing, and yet from the 1920s to the 1960s dominated the ice business in the state of New York, a business that, until the popularization of refrigerators, was very stable and booming.

How could these Apulian people (in the greater New York area generally referred to as 'Barese') accomplish this feat without any financial means, without even knowing the language? And why were the 'Barese' – whose home in Apulia has no real tradition of ice businesses – the ones that dominated this market?

This is the story of South Italian immigrants who travelled from Bari to America and soon found themselves delivering ice to numerous homes in New York City and beyond, playing a crucial role in the ice industry that bloomed before the invention of refrigeration.

Shepherds of Berneray

3 October 2017

1981 - Documentary - 56 mins

Directed by Jack Shea, featuring John Ferguson

In 1980, Jack Shea and Allen Moore, two ethnographic filmmakers from Harvard University, moved their families to the island of Berneray in the Outer Hebrides. Over the course of 18 months they documented the everyday lives and struggles of the crofters they lived among, whom where even then a vanishing breed. The film is in English and Gaelic.

This carefully observed documentary by filmmakers Jack Shea and Allen Moore is a poetic ethnographic film. It follows the rhythm of life on a wind-swept island in the Outer Hebrides through the four seasons. In the filmmakers' observation of the day-to-day struggles of a vanishing society, we see the deep-time legacy of their kind. The film is in English and Gaelic.


Directed by Rosie Reed Hillman

2014 - Short film/biography - 14 mins

Morag, 86, lives alone at the end of a track looking out to sea on her croft on the Isle of Harris, Outer Hebrides, with her three cats and twelve sheep.

Morag has lived there her whole life, following five generations of the family who came before her. Cailleach is a portrait of Morage and her simple and peaceful life as she contemplates her next chapter, shares her unique sense of independence and the connection she has to her wild island home.

A Kabul Music Diary

7 March 2017

with film-maker and ethnomusicologist John Baily

Ethnomusicologist John Baily returns to Kabul to see what is happening in the world of music one year after the defeat of the Taliban. The film documents a variety of musical activities, from performances of rubab lute music by Kabul's traditional musicians, via the songs of Afghan orphans, to the Music Department of Kabul University and a student pop group playing electric guitars and keyboard. Implicitly, the film identifies some of the dilemmas facing those seeking to help Afghans rebuild their music culture.

Professor John Baily came into ethnomusicology from experimental psychology, with a doctorate on human spatial coordination and motor control from the University of Sussex. In 1973 he became a Post-Doctoral Research Fellow in the Department of Social Anthropology, Queen's University of Belfast, and in collaboration with John Blacking conducted two years of ethnomusicological fieldwork in Afghanistan. In 1978 he was appointed Lecturer in Ethnomusicology at Queen's. From 1984-86 he trained in anthropological film making at the National Film and Television School, and directed the award-winning film Amir: An Afghan refugee musician's life in Peshawar, Pakistan. From 1988-1990 he was Associate Professor in the Centre for Ethnomusicology, Columbia University, New York. He joined Goldsmiths in 1990, and is now Professor of Ethnomusicology and Head of the Afghanistan Music Unit.

Indian Ocean Memories and African Migrants

7 February 2017

with film-maker Dr Shihan de Silva Jayasuriya

The film explores the cultural memories of the largest Afro-Sri Lankan community. Dances and songs (in creolised Portugese, a language of trade and commerce for 350 years in Sri Lanka) connect the Afro-Sri Lankans to Africa, their erstwhile homeland.

The vast majority of Afro-Asians were pushed to the margins by colonialism and by the loss of patronage. Traditional dances and songs enable Afro-Sri Lankans to carve out a niche in the cultural arena of their host land. Fading memories of slavery and the slave trade can still be discerned in the narratives of their oral literature.

Dr Shihan de Silva Jayasuriya is a Senior Fellow at the Institute of Commonwealth Studies, School of Advanced Study at the University of London. Her works include numerous peer-reviewed articles in international journals, monographs and ethnographic films in the fields of Historical Linguistics, Ethnomusicology, Portugese Studies, Diaspora Studies and Literature.


Collective Compositionsshmu

22 November 2016

A documentary film celebrating the music of minority ethnic communities in Aberdeen.

With Simon Gall.

Brink of SurvivalBrink of Survival

1 November 2016

A feature-length documentary looking at the responses of a tiny African community to the global epidemics of poverty and AIDS.

St. Kilda Hebridean NightEriskay Life

4 October 2016

An evening of newsreel, ethnographic, and dramatic films examining Britain's most remote island, together with Werner Kissling's elegiac film of Eriskay life in the 1930s.

Special Event at the Belmont Filmhouse, 49 Belmont Street, Aberdeen:

Hamish - Film ScreeningHamish

2-8 June 2016

Robbie Fraser, Director

Hamish Henderson (1919-2002) was a colossal figure in Scottish culture, a man of boundless passion and curiosity whose poems continue to elevate and inspire a nation. Robbie Fraser’s highly anticipated documentary pays tribute to the many contrary forces and diverse facets of Henderson’s life as a poet, soldier, intellectual, activist, songwriter and leading force in the revival of Scottish folk music.

From an English orphanage and the draughty corridors of Cambridge to overseeing the capitulation of the Italian army in WWII and penning the most celebrated Scottish ballad in contemporary folk music “Freedom Come Aa’ Ye”, this is Henderson’s life as told by those who knew him best and loved him most.

This heartfelt tribute to one of modern Scotland’s proudest sons weaves golden archive footage with the loving testimony of Henderson’s family, friends and colleagues.

View the trailer:

To celebrate the release of Hamish, the screening on Thursday 2 June at 8.30pm will be introduced by director Robbie Fraser, who will also take part in a post-screening Q&A chaired by Dr Thomas McKean, Director of the Elphinstone Institute, and former student of Hamish Henderson.

Hanoi Eclipse (2010)Hanoi Eclipse

Tuesday 3 May 2016

Barley Norton, film-maker

Hanoi Eclipse: The Music of Dai Lam Linh follows the challenges faced by the groundbreaking and controversial Vietnamese band Dai Lam Linh, while rehearsing and performing in their hometown of Hanoi. It shows how the band came together to create a unique form of popular music, which is both international in outlook and rooted in Vietnamese traditions and aesthetics. Followed by scandal at every turn for their experimental sound and their use of sexually explicit lyrics, the band have dared to flout taboos and fight for their creative freedom. Dai Lam Linh was established by the male composer, Dai, an ex-soldier who fought in the Second Indochina War (known as the Vietnam War), and two female singers, Lam and Linh. The film explores how Dai overcame the trauma of war by writing songs to honour the memory of the war dead and how the singers Lam and Linh embarked on an inner journey to discover their extraordinary voices. With vivid footage of the band working in the city of Hanoi, the film documents the process of recording Dai Lam Linh's debut album in 2009 and features an album-launch concert in the prestigious Hanoi Opera House.

The Director, Barley Norton is a senior lecturer in the music department at Goldsmiths, University of London. He is the author of the monograph Songs for the Spirits: Music and Mediums in Modern Vietnam (University of Illinois Press, 2009), and coeditor of volume Music and Protest in 1968 (Cambridge University Press, 2013), which won the American Musicology Society's 2014 Ruth A. Solie Award.

Fae Ploo T Plate

Tuesday 1 March 2016

Don Carney, director

This entertaining heritage film captures many aspects of a past way of life. Recorded in Aberdeenshire between 1991 and 1994, produced by Don Carney, who is a native of Aberdeenshire, the commentary features the Doric dialect of the North East. The film shows the whole process of ploughing, planting and harvesting featuring that gentle giant, the Clydesdale horse. Threshing with the steam engine and travelling mill, making corn into oatmeal at the water driven meal mill, and finally baking the oatmeal into oatcakes on a peat fire. All of these highly skilled tasks were undertaken by the rural men and women. Don Carney's motivation for making the film, and capturing over 650 hours of the past is based on cultural pride in his ancestors, the ordinary folk of the North East. Carney fell that the rich heritage/culture of the area should be captured before it was lost for good.

The film will be followed by a discussion with the film maker, Don Carney.

 Say Amen, SomebodySay Amen, Somebody

Tuesday 2 February 2016

George T. Nierenberg, director

Gospel music is the subject of this lively film, which explores the history of the faith-rooted musical style. While the documentary features a number of gospel musicians, it spends the most time looking into the considerable contributions of Thomas A. Dorsey, a pioneering songwriter and pianist, and his popular associate, singer "Mother" Willie Mae Ford Smith. Also included are numerous concert performances by the Barrett Sisters, Sallie Martin and other gospel luminaries.


The Fiddlers of James Bay (1980); Scots in the Sub-Arctic

Tuesday 1 December 2015

James BayBob Rodgers, director; Frances Wilkins, director

The Fiddlers of James Bay (1980), by Bob Rogers, is a short documentary tracing the history of the fiddle's arrival in Canada 300 years ago via Scottish traders from the Orkney Islands. The Cree population of what is now Northern Québec adopted the instrument, and many contemporary Cree residents are master fiddlers. In this film, two Cree fiddlers travel to the Orkney Islands, the birthplace of the music they learned from their fathers and grandfathers, to take part in concerts alongside Orcadian musicians. The film captures the warmth and goodwill of this reunion.

In Scots in the Sub-Arctic, Frances Wilkins shows more recent ethnographic field videography from her research among Cree fiddlers in the James Bay region between 2011 and 2014. The film illustrates the fiddle tradition as it is now through portraits of musicians.

Regarding Our Father

Regarding our Father - Gerald DoyleTuesday 3 November 2015 (MacRobert Lecture Theatre)

Gerald S. Doyle was Newfoundland's first collector of folksongs. He was also a remarkable salesman, a patriot, and an avid filmmaker. In this documentary, two of his children delve into his film archives to create a compelling portrait of a farsighted man and a rich period in Newfoundland history.

The documentary follows Gerald S. Doyle's own story from his childhood in Kings Cove, through his growing business success, his fight against confederation with Canada, and his dedication to preserving and promoting Newfoundland folk music through his song books and records.

The lush Kodachrome images have been carefully restored and are startling in their immediacy, depicting Nerwfoundland life in the 1930s and '40s as it has never been seen on film. Interviews with folklorists, friends, family and contemporary musicians provide context.

The documentary is a tribute to a father who died too young, and a patriot's view of the country he loved.

Beautiful Dachau

Tuesday 6 October 2015 (MacRobert Lecture Theatre)

Arbeit Macht Frei - gate at DachauA screening and discussion with filmmaker Alan Marcus

In Place of Death (2008, 30mins) is an experimental film that uses close observation and metaphor to investigate the way people engage with an iconic urban site. With this year marking the 70th anniversary since the liberation of the camps, the film problematizes the role of the first Nazi state concentration camp, now a post-traumatic site attracting some 800,000 visitors a year, sited in the picturesque Bavarian town of Dachau. Eschewing archival images or narration, the film focuses firmly on the present as it observes scenes of people coming to the camp for a picnic or posing their children in front of the ovens. A film which studies forms of interactions and the stature and meaning of place, it developed from a video installation, Beautiful Dachau (2006), shown at Harvard, Princeton and Cambridge, and part of the In Time of Place research project (

Prof. Alan Marcus, Chair in Film and Visual Culture at the University of Aberdeen, researches approaches to documentary film and representations of iconic urban environments. He received his MPhil and PhD at Cambridge University while at the Scott Polar Research Institute, where his fieldwork included research in four Inuit communities in the Canadian Arctic.

Two Years at Sea

Two yeas at sea posterTuesday 5 May 2015

Using 16mm cameras, artist Ben Rivers documents the solitary existence of Jake, a man who lives in isolation in the middle of the forest in a remote part of Scotland. The film follows his unconventional life, capturing moments of profound beauty. Jake is seen in all seasons, surviving frugally, passing the time with strange projects, living the radical dream he had as a younger man, a dream he spent two years working at sea to realise.

Gracefully constructed, Two Years at Sea creates an intimate connection with an individual who would otherwise be a complete outsider to us.

The star of the film, Jake Williams, will be taking questions following the screening.

Lomax the Songhunter

Lomax the songhunter posterTuesday 3 March 2015

Alan Lomax was 'the song hunter'. He devoted his life to recording the world's folk tunes before they would disappear with the rise of the modern music industry.

In Lomax the Songhunter, filmmaker Rogier Kappers seeks to tell Lomax's story by interviewing friends such as Pete Seeger, combining it with archival recordings of music greats Woody Guthrie and Leadbelly, and gathering footage of the cotton fields, rock quarries and prisons where Alan Lomax captured America’s quintessential music.

Finally, Kappers follows the route that Lomax took so many years ago and travels to remote villages in Spain and Italy, hearing memories and music from the farmers, shepherds and weavers whose songs Lomax recorded decades earlier.

2015 marks the 100th anniversary of Alan Lomax's birth.


Our Lives in Our Hands; People’s Stuff

Tuesday 2 December 2014

Our lives in Our hands and people's stuffOur Lives In Our Hands examines the traditional Native American craft of basketmaking as a means of economic and cultural survival for Aroostook Micmac Indians of northern Maine. Filmed between 1983 and 1985, when the US government did not yet officially recognize their tribal status and before their successful land claim (1991), this documentary aims to break down stereotypical images. Basketmakers are filmed cutting brown ash trees in the winter woods, at their craft in their homes, at work on local potato farms and at business meetings of their tribal cooperative. First person commentaries are augmented by music based on an early 17th-century Micmac melody.

People's Stuff is a documentary of six collectors of unusual objects. Creating an environment for storytelling, the subjects reveal inner dreams and motivations as they share both their collections and their lives with the viewer. Charmaine Burrell collects Purple Cows. Fred Crane, Professor Emeritus of Musicology at the University of Iowa, collects jaw or jews harps (he calls the instrument a trump). George Preston collects commercial signs. Ruth Rasmussen is in the Guinness Book of World Records for her salt and pepper shaker collection. Irene Redfearn collects sea shells and Craig Starr, spark plugs.

The Language You Cry In

Tuesday 4 November 2014

The language you cry in posterThe Language You Cry In tells an amazing scholarly detective story reaching across hundreds of years and thousands of miles, from 18th-century Sierra Leone to the Gullah people of present-day Georgia.

It shows how African Americans have retained powerful links to their African past despite the horrors of the Middle Passage and the long years of slavery and segregation.

The film dramatically demonstrates the contribution of contemporary scholarship to restoring what narrator Vertamae Grosvenor calls the 'non-history' imposed on African Americans: 'This is a story of memory, how the memory of a family was pieced together through a song with the powers to connect those who sing it with their roots, their silent history.'

Ustad Rahim: Herat's Rubab Maestro

Tuesday 7 October 2014

Ustad Rahim - posterShot in 1994 in the city of Herat, western Afghanistan, during the period between the fall of the last leftist government and the coming of the Taliban, this is a portrait film of an outstanding musician, Ustad Rahim Khushnawaz.

He is a master of the Afghan rubab, a double-chambered plucked lute with sympathetic strings. Using the observational cinema style the film shows Ustad Rahim in various contexts. These include a guided tour of the photos in his music room that recount his musical career, being at home with his wife and children, showing off his pigeons, erecting the tombstone for his father’s grave, and teaching and playing the rubab. Of particular interest is the gormani ritual, a gathering of musicians where Rahim accepts a new student.