The Loss of a Culture

Today, two of the films I watched were about how intense cultural ties to a location can be, and how heartbreaking it is when those cultures start to disappear. The first film was a short called A House Without Snakes. This film followed two boys from Botswana, one who lived in a Bushman community, the other who lived in a government created camp to assimilate the Bushman communities into a more modern culture. As their elders around them mourn the continual loss of their livelihood, the boys look forward to the potential opportunities they could have if they were to leave the culture of their fathers and go the way they want to go. Though only about 20 minutes long, this short was incredible. This decision, to stay home and never progress or to leave and abandon their culture, was pressed upon them by circumstance. I know if I had to make a decision like that, I would break down and sob. Something really interesting that happened was that after the film, there was a Q&A and I got to meet one of the stars of the film! I got to talk to him about how he was enjoying college in the United States and about his plans for the future. It was a great experience.

The movie paired with that short was called Kivalina. It was about an Alaskan town of that name that due to global warming and icebergs melting will eventually be overrun by water. The citizens are desperate to be relocated, but the government refuses to pay to do so. The part I found most interesting was how much the people (at least, the older population) wanted to preserve their culture. One very shocking part for me was when a woman was interviewed about why she married a man twenty years older than her. She replied that she was loosing her dialect, and her connection to eskimo culture. When she married the older man, she learned much from him about their culture. I found that fascinating. Another thing I noticed was the final scene. During the beginning of the seminar, when we had the discussion with Elisabeth Haviland James and Revere La Noue, Revere told us to look out for what the director uses as the first shot, and what they use as the final shot. The final shot of this film was a woman cutting open a seal to eat and easily slicing it’s ribs with a swift knife motion. When I first saw this, it perplexed me. Why would that be the final shot? I don’t get it. We’ve been seeing people chop up seals the entire film. Why end on that? After the film was the Q&A, and I got to meet the director of this movie. I asked her why she chose that as a final shot. Her main point was that first of all, she thought the theme of survival and a big part of their culture was their food. Second, she wanted to give a kind of “life goes on” vibe to end with. Yes, this people’s town is going to sink into the ocean eventually. That doesn’t mean they have to only focus on that and forget to eat etc. They will continue to live day to day, just as they always have. While I never would have gotten that on my own, I thought that was very interesting. This seminar has been incredible so far and I cant wait for it to continue!

One thought on “The Loss of a Culture

  1. Good job talking to the director, Olivia! And what an interesting answer you got! I Googled Kivelina and found out that it’s a pretty well known place because of its position with respect to sea level rise. I hope I’ll be able to see this film and share it with my online students next year.

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