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October 10 - October 11, 2013

Dead Birds - A 50th Anniversary Celebration

Robert Gardner was already recognized as an important ethnographic filmmaker by the time he premiered Dead Birds in October 1963 at Harvard’s Loeb Drama Center. Fifty years later, the film stands as a turning point in Gardner’s career and indeed in the field of visual anthropology. These two screenings celebrate the film’s 50th anniversary as well as Gardner’s latest work.

This program is a joint presentation of the Harvard Film Archive, the Peabody Museum of Archaeology & Ethnology, the Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts, the Film Study Center, the Department of Visual and Environmental Studies, the Sensory Ethnography Lab, the Harvard University Asia Center and the Department of Anthropology, Harvard University.

Free Screening
Thursday October 10 at 7pm

Dead Birds

Directed by Robert Gardner
US 1964, 35mm, color, 85 min

In 1961, Gardner organized an expedition to the highlands of New Guinea to film the Dani people. He stayed for six months to create this essay on the themes of violence and death most dramatically witnessed within the intense ritual warfare between rival Dani villages. The contrast between the everyday lives of the film’s subjects and the perpetual cycle of fighting encourages reflection on the role of violence in human life and culture in general.


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Free Screening
Robert Gardner in person

Friday October 11 at 7pm

Dead Birds Re-encountered

Directed by Robert Gardner
US 2013, digital video, color, 45 min

Twenty-eight years after filming Dead Birds, Gardner returned to the Dani villages in 1989 to see what had become of the people he had met and to show them the film. That visit is the kernel for Gardner’s latest work. “I have been told by people who know better that it is a risky business returning to a place where you have enjoyed some remarkable experience. But I will say that going back to the Highlands of Western New Guinea (aka West Papua) was enormously engaging. I saw people I cared for deeply and who became part of my life wherever I lived. Making a film about all this was not at all difficult.”
– Robert Gardner

Followed by a roundtable discussion with Robert Gardner, Susan Meiselas, William Rothman and
Charles Warren

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Harvard Film Archive • Carpenter Center • 24 Quincy Street • Cambridge MA 02138 • 617-495-4700