Most often, making of a documentary is akin to the process of feature filming in the sense that ideas are preconceived, scripts are made in advance, shooting and editing are done accordingly. Most of the documentaries are meant to generate messages serving the ideologies of the funding sources. It is no surprise that the masses are averse to these packages of propaganda.

Ethnographic film as a genre seeks to reveal one society to another creating an environment for trans-cultural understanding. It is loosely bound by perspectives in anthropology and supposedly far from ethnocentrism and propaganda. Here, the camera becomes an instrument of observation and record in the hands of an anthropologist. Events and social cultural phenomena are candidly recorded and interpreted with knowledge gained from participant observation.

Visual Anthropology admits the validity of different documenting styles and objectives for a variety of purposes like research, teaching, broadcast etc. There is a tremendous need for the potential use of film and photography in anthropological research. Also, there is an urgent need to document the rapidly vanishing diverse tribal cultures.

A picture contains thousand words. It might represent an aspect of reality. But it is only a construction. A word is not the thing. It is only a representation. Symbols are not the things which they represent. And realities are relative. Absolute reality is beyond our intellectual enterprise. Physics proves that the deeper we penetrate the matter the far are we from the truth because our instrument of observation intrudes and alters the spontaneous behavior of the subject. As long as the observer is separate from the observed, the paradox remains. It is only when the observer ceases as a separate entity, the total understanding is possible.

It is evident today that ethnographies are not considered as scientific studies. They are also not fiction. These are the times when determinism in science is paving way to probability. As Nietzshe put it – there are no facts, only interpretations. Facts or symbols or representations – they never make sense when are in isolation. Integrating them is a creative process. Ethnography and art are creative constructions. They need not claim scientific objectivity. As Robert Redfield put it – in advancing social science, we invent and practice technique and cultivate a humanistic art.

Anthropology thrives on cultural relativity and holism.If not a "science" in traditional sense, it is a rational enterprise. It aims at uncovering the governing principles underlying human diversity. It seeks to comprehend the unifying features that constitute human nature. Visual Anthropology blurs the distinction between science and humanities. It paves way to an understanding of human cultures in a holistic way. Many works of art are anthropological in this sense.

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