One week left to contribute to the Indiegogo campaign for my new documentary Flâneurs - Street Rambles :
Review of “Funeral Season (ou La saison des funerailles).” Matthew Lancit, dir. 87 min. Documentary Educational Resources, 2012.
An early scene in this wide-ranging, personal account of funerary practices in Cameroon shows a local radio host in the West Cameroonian town of Dschang interviewing the film’s director, Matthew Lancit, on air. When she asks him why he is so interested in Cameroonian funerals, the camera cuts from the interview scene to a black screen. In a voice over, Lancit explains that he came to Cameroon to accompany his girlfriend who was undertaking fieldwork there for a PhD. We see footage of people and places that will play a role in the rest of the film, and learn that during their time in Dschang, Lancit and his partner were living next to a morgue. This geographical accident, the viewer is led to infer, forms the impetus for the current film. The film is thus presented as something of a side project, not a full-fledged research project such as the director’s partner pursued. Nevertheless, the film’s deft camera work and sometimes excellent editing choices betray the clear skill of its maker, as well as a genuine interest in its topic and the people he meets.
One of the editing choices that occurs throughout the film—but infrequently enough not to annoy the viewer with too much extraneous information—is to intersperse the narrative on Cameroonian funerary practices with photos and film clips of the film maker’s own Jewish-Canadian family. These interspersed scenes are useful in allowing viewers, particularly students, to ask questions about their personal relation to the practices depicted in the film. Lancit seems to be modeling for students and other novices how to relate what he learns in Cameroon to his own life experiences. In addition, the snippets we learn about Lancit’s family and some of its funeral practices can be regarded as responses to a question posed by one of his Cameroonian friends depicted in the film: Do Europeans and Americans also hold elaborate funerals for their ancestors, even several years or decades after their passing? Lancit appears to struggle with the question of cross-cultural differences and similarities when confronted with it in the field. Yet the editorial choice of explaining in a voice-over something about Jewish funerary practice works well to make a bridge between the variety of Cameroonian funeral practices and the similar variety in Euro-American ones. Students will definitively take away from the film that the Bamileke funeral practices depicted in the film, and the ideas about death, personhood, and kinship that inform them, are different from those to which they are accustomed. Importantly, however, the comparison of these practices to other traditions makes them appear commonplace rather than exotic.
Even if the film’s focal point are funerals, it also addresses a range of other topics, which are presented as the logical, if somewhat idiosyncratic, tangents presented by the filmmaker’s ongoing quest to learn more about funerary practices. Not all of these tangents are relevant to the Africanist viewer who is specifically interested in the social significance and larger politico-economic context of Bamileke or Cameroonian funerals. A case in point is when an interview is cut short because of the noise produced by a Youth Day parade outside the office in which the interview is held; the observation of the youth wearing uniforms then gives way to a discussion of the importance of uniforms as an expression of solidarity, featuring Lancit’s tailor. These scenes offer hardly any new or relevant information to the viewer familiar with the significance of dress in Africa. At the same time, they might be useful to students who are new to the study of the continent and who might have similar questions or be curious about some of the same observations made by the filmmaker.
The variety of perspectives on different aspects of funerals from a range of Cameroonian individuals contributes significantly to the film’s strength. A Cameroonian filmmaker, a retired university professor of ethnology, heads of family, youth, middle class professionals, farmers, women in a rotating credit association: many different voices clarify in front of Lancit’s camera why funerals are important, what they are supposed to accomplish, how they are organized, and how they fit into larger ideas about human life and mortality. Of these perspectives, I was particularly struck by Black Jah, a musician and curator at the museum in Dschang, who linked funeral practices to heritage preservation, characterizing funerals as “breathing museums.” This is quite literally the case when museum objects are used for funerals on the weekends, when they are sometimes danced by Black Jah himself. The film includes an abundance of recent footage of well-known categories of museum objects in action, such as elephant masks, feathered headdresses, and breasted statues, moving about amidst pole walking, dance, and song. In these scenes, as well as those depicting the festival surrounding the installation of the new Fon (king) of Nwangong, we can recognize the widespread contemporary phenomenon of the conversion of religious value into heritage value.
Overall, the humanity of the filmmaker, his obvious interest in the people he meets, and his desire to understand and share his own experiences are the film’s greatest assets. Lancit is not afraid to show himself in potentially embarrassing ways, such as dancing at the festival for the Fon near the end of the film. He is equally honest about the unequal global economic positions occupied by himself and the people he films, recognizing the demands of some of his friends for progressively larger sums of money as an attempt on their part to ensure that both parties will benefit from the film project. Such honesty is certainly commendable. At other times, the presence of the filmmaker in the film leads to a number of tangents, which despite their usefulness to some viewers, also adds unnecessary length to the film. Its running time of 87 minutes unfortunately makes the film rather long for undergraduate classes in anthropology, religion, art, or Africa, where the film would otherwise be very much at home.
Please send news and items of interest for this column to Contributing Editor Christian S Hammons at email@example.com.
Thursday, June 12:
LATE WINTER (2013) will screen at the MAC, Museum of Contemporary Art in Santa Fe, Argentina.
Read an interview with me in ARTiculAction Magazine : 16
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16 Reasons Why I Hate Myself screening at the cutlog NY Art Fair as part ofthe Frieze Art Week.
The details of the event are as follows:
Name: VAEFF: Special Selections
Date and Time: Saturday, May 10, 2-4 pm
Location: cutlog NY Art Fair, 107 Suffolk St., New York, NY
You can find more information about the event here: cutlog screening RSVP
FUNERAL SEASON (2011) wins best documentary award at Espiello XII, Festival Internacional de Documental in Boltaña (Huesca), Spain.
'16 REASONS WHY I HATE MYSELF' during the opening weeks of the Sydney Biennale.
Five linked films by Artists Song-Ming Ang, Brown Council, Matthew Lancit, Darren Sylvester and Sylvie Blocher collectively interrogate the complexities and idiosyncrasies, the thresholds and frontiers, of human identity.
Matthew Lancit’s 16 Reasons Why I Hate Myself wryly plays with the concept of selfhood, traversing themes such as neuroticism, introspection and self-denigration. By allowing us an intimate look at sixteen of his supposed personal flaws from the physical to the psychological, Lancit posits the idea that we do not determine our identities but rather they determine us.
FUNERAL SEASON (2011) screening in Lisbon as part of Afrikplay at Lisboa Africana.
Convidada/o: Clara Saraiva (IICT e CRIA – FCSH-UNL)
Local: ISCTE-IUL, Ed. II, Auditório B2.03
FUNERAL SEASON (2011) will screen at the University of Pardubice in the Czech Republic as part of Echoes Anthropofest on November 20th and in the Intimate Lens - Visual Ethnography Film Festival on November 16-17.
LATE WINTER (2013) will screen at FIVA in Buenos Aires on November 11 at 6pm in the Jorge Luis Borges Room at the Biblioteca Nacional.
16 REASONS WHY I HATE MYSELF has been selected to CologneOFF IX
and will be taken on tour through the year.
Wednesday April 17th
3405 Central Avenue, NE
Saturday, January 26th at 9pm
Funeral Season screens in Prague at the Dobeska Theater :
Both institutional and personal DVDs of Funeral Season are for sale on the Documentary Educational Resources website :
Funeral Season screens at the Athens Ethnographic Film Festival.
Check out their catalog.
Funeral Season (ou La Saison des funérailles) screening in Paris at the Musée Dapper.
Find the details on their site:
Read an article written about Funeral Season in the Jewish Tribune:
FUNERAL SEASON is selected by festival judges as the runner-up at the 2nd Annual Greenpoint Film Festival and a screening will be held on Sunday 9/23 @ 12pm – 186 Huron St.
Read the press release, here.
FUNERAL SEASON in Toronto
Tuesday, September 11th at7:30pm
Toronto Underground Cinema(Queen and Spadina)
as part of the Toronto Independent Film Festival.
Edinburgh, Scotland screening of FUNERAL SEASON:
Sun 12 August 5.45pm
Filmhouse, Lothian Road
Screening followed by a panel discussion moderated by Lizelle Bisschoff, Director of the Africa in Motion Film Festival, with specialists on the theme of death, dying and funeral rituals in different cultural contexts.
FUNERAL SEASON screens at the 2012 conference of the European Association of Social Anthropologists at Nanterre University, France.
Read an article written in German about FUNERAL SEASON.
"Woody Allen in Kamerun"
From March to June, FUNERAL SEASON was shown in11 places of 9 cities across Taiwan as part of the 2012 ETHNOGRAPHIC FILM FESTIVAL SCREENING TOUR to atotal audience of morethan seven thousand and six hundred :
- National Chengchi University in Taipei from 9 March to 30 April,
- I-Shou University in Kaohsiung from 23 April to 28 April,
- National Chi Nan University in Nantou from 2 May to 3 May,
- Tzu Chi University in Hualien from 5 May to 6 May,
- Tainan National University of the Arts from 9 May to 10 May,
- National Taitung University in Taitung from 14 May to 20 May,
- Image Museum of Hsinchu City from 26 May to 27 May,
- National Tsing Hua University in Hsinchu on 31 May,
- National Museum of Natural Science in Taichung from 2 June to 3 June,
- Kaohsiung Film Archive in Kaohsiung from 5 June to 12 June,
- Ilan Youngsun Culture and Education Foundation from 9 June to 10 June
Kaohsiung Film Archive
Funeral Season at ETHNOCINECA
Ethnographic and Documentary Filmfest Vienna
Tuesday, 22 May 2012
Taiwan Screenings of Funeral Season:
May 3rd in National Chi Nan University in Nantou.
May 15th and 17th in National Taitung University.
Funeral Season will be screening at the Minneapolis St. Paul International Film Festival
Aldridge Hansberry / Deborah Walker / Frédéric Maintenant - Musique
Funeral Season will be competing in the documentary category at the Queens World Film Festival (screening on Friday, March 2nd at 6:15 pm at PS 69, 77-02 37 Avenue, Jackson Heights)
on Monday, March 5th, it will compete in the documentary section at the IBAFF International Film Festival in Murcia, Spain.
Screening of Funeral Season on Tuesday, March 13th in the AnthroCircle Film Series at the University of Wisconsin - Madison.
Funeral Season will be screening in Bangladesh at the Dhaka International Film Festival (Jan. 12-20).
My short film 16 Reasons Why I Hate Myself will be playing at the Video Art and Experimental Film Festival at New York City’s iconic Tribeca Cinemas on December 8th and 9th.
Prix du Premier film professionnel Prix de la Ville de Vic-le-Comte
Funeral Season screens at the Jerusalem Cinematheque sometime during the first week of November.
screenings all over France:
- November 17th, competing in the category of Premiere Doc at Corsica.Doc
- 2 projections at Arts des Suds à Mont de Marsan du 16 au 20 Novembre 2011
- Traces de Vies Rencontres du film documentaire;du 21 au 27 novembre 2011 à Clermont-Ferrand et Vic-le-Comte
Screenings of my documentary feature Funeral Season (ou La Saison des funérailles) will take place in:
Brazil - October 6-18 in Festival do Rio (Rio de Janeiro Int’l Film Festival).
Tues, Oct. 11 at 18:30 C.C. Justiça Federal
Wed, Oct. 12 at 13:45 Est Sesc Rio 3
22:00 Est Sesc Rio 3
Thurs, Oct. 13 at 17:40 Est Sesc BarraPoint 2
Taiwan - October 11th at 1pm in the Taiwan International Ethnographic Film Festival.
Italy - October 15th at TRENTO, TEATRO SAN MARCO in the Religion Today Film Festival.
Spain - October 7-16 in Madrid at the El Ojo Cojo Int’l Film Festival.
September 13th at 9:30pm:
Ciné-Concert at Babilo of some footage I shot in Bolivia accompanied by the improvised arrangements of the APF Trio Aldridge Hansberry (batt/flute), Pascal Marzan(guitare) et Frédéric Maintenant (piano).
September 21st at 6pm:
Funeral Season at Dokubazaar in Ljubjana.
* Funeral Season WINS an award at the Dallas Black Film Festival.
August 5,6, and 7th in Foix-Ariège
Two screenings a day (10:45am and 3:30pm) of Funeral Season (ou La Saison des funérailles) for 3 days at Festival Ingénieuse Afrique.
Funeral Season (ou La Saison des funérailles) at the Kribi Beach Documentary Film Festival.
Funeral Season is one of only 60 films shown in the videotheque at the Sheffield Doc/Fest.
JUNE 16th at 10:30pm:
Funeral Season in B’klyn at UnionDocs.
JUNE 17th at 9pm:
Funeral Season in Dakar to compete in the documentary festival Image et Vie.
Funeral Season goes to Ethiopia to compete in the Addis International Film Festival.
May 19th at 6pm
Funeral Season in Warsaw at the Baobab Cafe, ul. French 31 for AfryKamera.
* Funeral Season WINS a Rising Star Award in the Documentary Competition at the Canada International Film Festival.
Screening in Havana for Festival Int’l. de Cine Pobre.
Funeral Season (ou La Saison des funérailles) screens at FESPACO 2011 (Panafrican Film and Television Festival of Ouagadougou), the largest African film festival in the world and the biggest regular cultural event on the African continent. Held biennially in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso.
March 22nd at 6pm
Funeral Season screens in Tartu, Estonia to open Worldfilm 2011.
February 25th in Warsaw at the Państwowe Muzeum Etnograficzne.
Funeral Season opens Eyes and Lenses VIII.
Funeral Season goes to China for GZDOC (Guangzhou International Documentary Film Festival).
November 13th at 4pm in Besançon, France.
November 20th in Perugia, Italy.
Funeral Season at Contro-Sguardi.
* Menzioni Speciali (Special Mention) for the precise attention given to funeral rites, Cameroonians, and their social and historical contextualization. One of 3 competition films invited by the festival to participate in the Ethnographic Film Festival do Recife.
November 27th in Torun, Poland.
October 5th at 8:30 pm in Sorèze Abbatiale
Funeral Season (ou La Saison des funérailles) will be playing at the Culture&Cultures International Intercultural Film Festival.
October 14-18 in the Ethnographic Museum in Belgrade.
Funeral Season opens the XIX Belgrade International Festival of Ethnological Films.
Funeral Season (ou La Saison des funérailles) competes at the Bruxelles Fiction & Documentary Film Festival and at two Montreal film festivals (Montreal World Film Festival/Festival des films du Monde and Montreal Int’l Black Film Festival) with multiple screenings at the National Film Board of Canada and Cinémas Quatier Latin.
September 30 at 1pm in Slovakia-
Funeral Season at Etnofilm Cadca.
A rough cut of Funeral Season is presented at the Ischia International Film Festival.
July 21 9:15pm in Bologna
Sequences from the rushes of Funeral Season are presented at the University of Udine as part of the 2010 International Visual Sociology Conference.