Environments and Cultures Series

The Philm Club launches a new series entitled Environments and Cultures, focusing on the complex, often tense relationship and interaction that different people have with their natural or built environments. The common thread of the selected films is that in all of them the environment plays a leading role, refuses to function as a mere background for human dramas, and becomes an obtrusive presence on its own right, a force not to be messed with. How do specific environments influence the cultures emerging within? How do established cultural habits change environments? Where can we draw the line between us and nature, or should we draw it at all? What is wilderness and how should we relate to it? These questions and many others will be tackled in the course of the next three weeks.

TEN CANOES (Australia, 2006)

Screening: Friday, May 17, 6 P.M., Zrinyi 14, room 412.


Directed by Rolf de Heer, Peter Djigirr
Aboriginal with English subtitles, 90 min.

For the Australian Aborigines who are said to date back 65,000 years, the ancestor spirits are still alive. They are a part of an Aborigine’s “dreaming” and come to life in the stories indigenous Australians have told through the ages. Playfully narrated by Australian icon David Gulpilil, Ten Canoes, directed by Rolf de Heer and Peter Djigirr, tells a dreaming story that acts as a lesson for a young man in the tribe who feels that the youngest wife of his older brother should be his. The story has elements of kidnapping, sorcery, and revenge but is mostly about values: how a community living in a natural environment before the coming of the White man developed laws and systems to guide its people. The cast consists of indigenous residents of the Arafura region and many of the visuals recreate the photographs of Donald Thompson, a Melbourne anthropology professor who spent time in the 1930s with the Yolngu people of the Arafura Swamp.

Set a thousand years ago in central Arnhem Land near the Arafura Swamp in northern Australia, east of Darwin, a group of Ganalbingu tribesmen embark on a hunt for magpie geese, a wild bird used to sustain the tribe. To navigate the crocodile-infested swamp, elder Minygululu (Peter Minygululu) leads the tribe in building canoes made out of bark. When he discovers that Dayindi (played by Gulpilil’s son, Jamie) has a crush on his third wife, he tells him a story set in a mythical time after the great flood that explains how his people developed laws to govern their behavior, the same laws used by the tribes today. To distinguish between the past and the “present”, De Heer uses muted color to show the ancient landscape and black and white for the more modern story. (imdb.com)

KHADAK (Mongolia, 2006)

Screening: Friday, May 24, 6 P.M., Zrinyi 14, room 412.

khadak (1)

Directed by:Peter Brosens, Jessica Woodworth
Mongolian with English subtitles, 104 min.

A true work of art. An emotional journey that captures the soul of Mongolian culture and tradition while posing important questions on the dilemma facing traditional Mongolian values by the destruction of Mongolians most precious treasures, their land and the animals.

Nomadic herders are being forced to abandon their homes due to a “plague” outbreak among animals. Despite their own herds being healthy, the family who is the focus of the beginning of the film are forcibly moved to a mining town, where their son Bagi, who has shamanic visions of his ancestors is forced to work for a pittance. The only food available seems to be potatoes, but there appears to be meat available on the black market, and this feeds speculation that the clearances were not motivated by animal sickness after all. Bagi is arrested and while in the detention center meets a group of young activists who want to rebel against their unlawful imprisonment, and to free the animals they know are still alive. The song they perform is a high point of the film, and adds to an already excellent score and soundtrack.

The film portrays people against the bleak background of the steppes where they’ve lived for centuries and the shoddy, differently bleak living complex and mining facility to where they’ve been relocated. The tension created is quite striking. (imdb.com)


Screening: Friday, May 31, 6 P.M., Zrinyi 14, room 412.


Directed by Werner Herzog
English, 103 min.

For thirteen years “grizzly man” Timothy Treadwell went to an Alaskan wildlife refuge on Kodiak Island and pitched his tent alone — and the last couple of times with a girlfriend (Amy Huguenard) — spending the summers among huge grizzly bears. The rest of the year he went to schools and “free of charge” showed his films of the bears and his exploits. When the last of his summers drew to a close he and his girlfriend died among the grizzlies as he’d always known — and even David Letterman had pointed out — that he might. Filmmaker Werner Herzog, longtime student of crazy eccentric loners on heroic doomed quests, has taken on Treadwell’s life and personality as the subject of a rare and powerful documentary.

At the heart of “Grizzly Man” are Herzog’s selective cuts from film Treadwell left behind chronicling both the bears and his own demons. Herzog has added interviews with women in Treadwell’s life, with his parents, with the pilot who took him to and from his campgrounds and later found his and his girlfriend’s remains, and with Franc Fallico, the unusually sympathetic and sensitive — and perhaps a bit loony — coroner who examined these. The director has bound it all together with his own frank and idiosyncratic narration. The result is a rare sober look at the more delusional aspects of man’s relations to wild animals. (imdb.com)


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