During the months of October and November 2021, a group of young Palestinian filmmakers and students of cinema and social sciences had a chance to engage in a collaborative course online about visual anthropology. Along nine weekly sessions of 3:00 to 3:30 hours each, the participants learned about the tools and methods of visual ethnography and how to think about the stories and experiences they aim to capture in their coming films, photos and documentaries. The workshop was offered free of charge for all participants and to allow wider participation of Palestinians in fragmented homeland and diaspora, the course took place online via Zoom platform. Participants did not only come from the various dispersed communities in West Bank, Gaza, Jerusalem and 1948 Palestine, but some Palestinian filmmakers also joined us from Jordan, UK, Belgium, Spain, France and Germany.
Farah Hallaba, a young Egyptian anthropologist, creatively designed this course in which participants had a chance to learn, in Arabic, about the origins of visual anthropology and how they can decode visual ethnographic data in their research. To prepare for the training sessions, participants were invited prior each session to watch 2-3 films from global backgrounds, including films and readings of Palestinian and other Visual Anthropologists. This allowed lively discussion about various schools and methods of visual ethnography used in the films: observational, participatory, sensory, ethno-fiction, auto-ethnography, oral and life histories and interactive web-documentaries. Two of the sessions were delivered by anthropologists Diana Allan and Amahl Bishara, who both shared their experiences in visual anthropology and films on the themes of refugees, exile, and Israel’s incarceration of Palestinians. Both sessions raised interesting questions among participants who followed the discussion after the sessions over WhatsApp.
The last two sessions were designed to provide supportive tools and ideas to help participants to implement their film ideas. Hanna Attalah, founder and artistic director of Filmlab Palestine, presented briefly the organization activities and answered the questions of the participants about how to join international, Arab and local film festivals. In the final session, the participants presented and collectively discussed their own film ideas, reflecting on how to implement the newly learnt ethnographic tools.
The diversity of the participants and their levels of expertise made the workshop a rich learning experience, as expressed by one of the participants:
“Hours felt like minutes, thanks to the lively and thorough discussions. What made it a great learning and productive experience was the mutual respect among participants coming from various places and backgrounds. This made it one of the most beautiful workshops in which we didn’t only learn about visual anthropology, but also had a chance to know each other and develop new friendships and professional ties.”
Insaniyyat main partners in this event were Rosa Luxemburg-Stiftung and Filmlab Palestine. Anthropology in the community committee, represented by the two members who coordinated the planning and implementation of this project: Samira Jarrar and Laura Adwan, and Dina Zbeidat, would like to thank Sari Harb from RLS for the support he provided to facilitate the implementation of the project activities, including the translation of two articles on visual ethnography from English to Arabic.