Films dealing with people are in a way ethnographic, thus the definition of ‘ethnographic’ and ‘anthropological films’ are many. Generally, an ethnographic film may show in detail how people live, influenced by their economic, social and cultural environment. Our film A Kali Temple Inside Out is an example of a film based on anthropological fieldwork and research. It is shot and edited in an observational style. The theme of the film was decided before the shooting, but we did not start with a manuscript. The story developed during the periods of filming. We followed activities of possible interest and persons who we saw could communicate to an audience our understanding of what was going on. Basically, we have aimed at recording the story from the actors’ point of view, how they define their world, and act and react on it. Anthropological insight and analysis guided the framing of what was recorded and later how the film was edited, what sequences were included and how they were connected and organized. By avoiding filmic devices such as voice over, music track and crosscutting, and by ‘moving in’ with the camera rather that ‘zooming in’, we tried to position the audience close to the events and the people. The aim was to invite the audience to the temple and the sites we visited, meet the people we met and share our experience of being there. By ‘showing’, rather than ‘telling’ our story, we open for various interpretations of the film, however, by the way the film is structured, the audiences are guided to how they make sense and understand the film.
When Amma, the lady who clean in the temple, watched the result, she said ‘the film shows the reality, our lives, how it really is’.
That is what ‘ethnographic film’ can be.