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April 11 - April 12

David MacDougall – An Ethnography of Compassion

One of the leading figures in visual anthropology and this year’s Robert Fulton Fellow at Harvard’s Film Study Center, David MacDougall (b. 1939) has made pioneering ethnographic films around the world, beginning with his earliest work shot in Africa in the early 1970s and finding special acclaim in the 1980s with a now-classic series of films, made together with his wife Judith, about the place of Kenya’s Turkana herders amidst the profound changes of post-colonial modernization. Renowned for their ability to select telling episodes of everyday life revealing the negotiation of social customs and practices, MacDougall’s films are celebrated for their intimate and compassionate understanding of their subjects. MacDougall, for example, refined the use of subtitles (rather than voiceover translation)  in documentary to better convey the specificities of the individuals and communities he has filmed while also continuing to elaborate his methods through prolific writing on the practice and ethics of ethnographic work.  

Recent years have seen MacDougall drawn to India as a dominant focus and placing special emphasis on institutions for children and the experience of those growing up in them. While his major work from this period is the “Doon School Project,” a series of films shot at the eponymous and elite boarding school over the course of three years, MacDougall has recently completed a revealing sequel to this cycle, Gandhi’s Children, an epic documentary chronicle that examines life in a New Delhi shelter for homeless boys.  

Presented in conjunction with the Film Study Center, Harvard.  

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Special Event Tickets $12
Sunday April 11 at 7pm

Gandhi's Children

Directed by David MacDougall, Appearing in Person
India/Australia 2008, video, color, 185 min. English and Hindi with English subtitles

The Prayas Children’s Home in suburban New Delhi is a kind of halfway house and shelter for hundreds of homeless Indian boys and young men, a large and complex institution harboring multiple distinct communities within it, factions of boys distinguished by the varying ages and conditions of the boys – some orphaned, some criminals, some merely misplaced – but united by the total poverty that they share. Gandhi’s Children makes the most of its large and extraordinary “cast,” unfolding episodes that generate cumulative, novelistic meanings and effects. MacDougall skillfully discovers a rough tangle of vibrant and absorbing storylines within the bustling house, from the grueling and enraging to the uplifting and unexpected, but always absorbing.

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Special Event Tickets $12
Monday April 12 at 7pm

With Morning Hearts

Directed by David MacDougall, Appearing in Person
India/Australia 2001, video, color, 110 min.

Although only one hundred and fifty miles from the New Delhi setting of Gandhi’s Children, the prestigious Doon School in Dehradun is an incalculable distance away. One of India’s most highly regarded boarding schools for boys, the Doon School allowed MacDougall to film daily life in its classrooms and, above all, in the living quarters from 1997 to 2000. MacDougall’s patience resulted in a five film cycle, including With Morning Hearts, following a group of boys through their first year in the school. Like MacDougall’s groundbreaking Turkana films, With Morning Hearts offers memorable slices of life, the boys’ complex personalities emerging from their rituals of rivalry, friendship, cruelty and generosity.

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