Saturday, March 10, 2012

Please Don't Beat Me, Sir!: A Review

I have been thinking about this for weeks: What qualifies me to write a review for an ethnographic film? As of now, I am eight weeks into a course on visual anthropology and two-and-a-half years into an anthropology degree. I don’t know film theory (and frankly don’t care for it), and as it regards this particular film, I know next to nothing about the cultures of India, let alone India itself. And then I thought: Who is the intended audience of such ethnographic film? With the exception of those that find a wider audience (like Melissa Llewelyn-Davies’ 1984 BBC series, “Diary of a Masai Village” [sic]), most of these films are intended for institutional-use – I am the intended audience, and I guess that is my qualification.

The oft-asked question throughout my visual anthropology course has been based on the core of Karl G. Heider’s Ethnographic Film: What is “ethnographicness?” To really get to the heart of such a difficult (and at times, contentious) inquiry, I ask, Who speaks on behalf of the film’s subject? It is from this perspective that I review the film, Please Don’t Beat Me, Sir!

This is the story about the sons and daughters of “criminals,” their choice to turn away from the ways of their elders, and how they cope with a world that is not ready for their metamorphosis.