Winner of the SVA’s Jean Rouch Award in 2012, Stori Tumbuna is the only ethnographic film I can think of for which one has to watch out for “spoilers.” Indeed, what starts off as a seemingly generic ethnographic film soon turns into a Blair Witch-esque horror film. Despite the title of this post, I don’t intend to write any spoilers —I really don’t want to ruin for anyone the pleasure I felt watching this film the first time — but there really is only so much I can say about the film without giving too much away… The story is so well crafted and shifts gears so subtly from ethnography to horror that the discerning and suspicious viewer will likely find themselves caught up in the excitement without even noticing the switch.
What is worth saying, however, is that this film is made with the utmost respect for the community and that it is a truly collaborative production. As the film’s webpage says: “Stori Tumbuna: Ancestors’ Tales was conceived as an opportunity for the Lak to tell their stories in their way.” And the DER website has this quote by anthropologist Michael Jackson:
“I know of no more successful or ingenious film that draws the viewer into another life-world while keeping faith with the tenor of its traditional narratives and respecting the lived experience of his/her interlocutors.”
I don’t know if I’d go so far as to say that it is the most successful film to do these things…, but it certainly does them well. For this reason I think this film is perfectly suited to any introductory anthropology class, or classes focusing on ethnography or narrative form.
(Please don’t post any spoilers in the comments!)