Ethnography lab hosts viewing of new film


The Appalachian Online

Aidan Moyer

Appalachian State’s anthropology department’s ethnography lab premiered a rough cut of their new film, “At the Foot of the Beast,” on March 1.

The ethnography lab presented the film and held an open discussion in order to premiere the lab’s first project and introduce the concept of an ethnography to the audience.

The talk, led by Jon H. Carter and Christina Verano Sornito, co-directors of the ethnography lab, was centered around explaining the difference between documentary and ethnographic film.

Carter said documentaries are meant to frame a story, while ethnography is meant to change one’s perspective on the subject matter, highlighting the main differences between the two.

“Ethnography can try to tap into empathy,” Carter said. “Ethnography is meant to be built on intimacy.”

Carter said ethnography is meant for audiences to come at a topic and have their preconceptions broken down.

Carter and Sornito both traveled to Honduras to film “At the Foot of the Beast,” where they studied marginalized societies, drugs and gang violence.

The film is centered around an discussion with a Honduran man whose family lives in an area dominated by gang violence and poverty.

Sornito highlighted the inherently political nature of ethnography and said it is an act “embedded in politics.”

Sornito said that she hopes the ethnography lab will expand beyond the use of film, finding other ways to share stories.

She said she hopes the ethnography lab will “resist documentary,” which loses the focus of who is telling the story, while ethnography allows for the audience to interrogate who tells the story.

The ethnography lab is looking into producing podcasts, more film series and finding new forms of expression in the future, Sornito said.

“At the Foot of the Beast” is set to release early 2018, and will be the first published work of the ethnography lab.

Story by: Aidan Moyer, News Reporter