N!ai, the Story of a !Kung Woman
is a film by ethnographic
Ethnography is a qualitative method aimed to learn and understand cultural phenomena which reflect the knowledge and system of meanings guiding the life of a cultural group...
filmmaker John Marshall
John Marshall was an American anthropologist and acclaimed documentary filmmaker best known for his work in Namibia recording the lives of the Ju/'hoansi tribe...
The film was first broadcast in 1980 as part of the Odyssey series on PBS
The Public Broadcasting Service is an American non-profit public broadcasting television network with 354 member TV stations in the United States which hold collective ownership. Its headquarters is in Arlington, Virginia....
and is distributed by Documentary Educational Resources.
It provides a broad overview of Ju/'hoan life, both past and present, and an intimate portrait of N!ai, a Ju/'hoan woman who in 1978 was in her mid-thirties. N!ai tells her own story, and in so doing, the story of Ju/'hoan life over a thirty year period.
"Before the white people came we did what we wanted," N!ai recalls, describing the life she remembers as a child: following her mother to pick berries, roots, and nuts as the season changed; the division of giraffe meat; the kinds of rain; her resistance to her marriage to /Gunda at the age of eight; and her changing feelings about her husband when he becomes a healer. As N!ai speaks, the film presents scenes from 1950s that show her as a young girl and a young wife.
The uniqueness of N!ai may lie in its tight integration of ethnography and history. While it portrays the changes in Ju/'hoan society over thirty years, it never loses sight of the individual, N!ai. The film is credited with the introductory of the diological structure, whereby both the voices of the filmmaker and the subject are woven together to tell the story. It is also credited as the first ethnographic film to recognize the influence of modernity on the !Kung people.
Marshall complied the footage of for N!ai over the course of 27 years. Marshall shot over 353,000 feet of color film during his expeditions into the Nyae-Nyae region. The footage of N!ai as a young girl, including her wedding ceremonies, was recorded in 1951.
The film contains a scene from the filming of The Gods Must Be Crazy
The Gods Must Be Crazy is a 1980 film, written and directed by Jamie Uys. The film is the first in The Gods Must Be Crazy series of films. Set in Botswana and South Africa, it tells the story of Xi, a Sho of the Kalahari Desert whose band has no knowledge of the world beyond...
, with the actual, revealing words of the Bushmen involved translated.
Cine Golden Eagle
American Film Festival, Blue Ribbon
International FIlm and Television Festival of New York
Grand Prize, Cinema du RjeZ, Paris
News Coverage Festival, Luchon, France