Berlinale: Programme

Film file


Schamanen im Blinden Land

Shamans of the Blind Country

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Cultural anthropologist Michael Oppitz travelled to the Magar in Nepal three times in the late 1970s to research their form of shamanism. Accompanied by a small film team, he discovered the camera was an excellent companion for the ethnographical gold standard: field research.
After each three-month stay with the Magar in the Himalayas, the team would then wait in Kathmandu for the 16 mm footage that had been sent to New York to be developed. The resultant 35 hours of material were later edited down into an almost four-hour film. Oppitz referred to his work with this material as ‘ethnography in the darkroom’, with the film footage serving as an initial aid to his research. Yet the concept of ‘assistance’ seems like an understatement here in view of the film. It is not only its subject matter that made it swiftly advance to become a classic of visual anthropology, but also its sense of precision and rhythm and diligent treatment of language. The shamans’ magical healing methods attracted attention far beyond anthropological circles. We are happy to be able to present a restored digital version of Schamanen im Blinden Land following its initial screening at the Forum in 1981.

Nepal / Germany (Federal Republic from 1949) / USA 1980, 223 min


Michael Oppitz