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Ethnographic Film Making Workshop

This course is addressed to beginners who want to learn the technicalities of video camera use and sound recording. Expected participants should be PhD candidates of the C-URGE Doctoral Network on the Anthropology of Global Climate Urgency, as well as other PhDs and/or postdoc researchers at the Department of Political and Social Sciences, University of Catania who wants to learn basic techniques of documentary filmmaking: Those who would like to experiment with filmmaking for qualitative social science research and do not know where to start. No previous filmmaking experience is required.

Learning outcomes

Participants learn the basic building blocks for documentary storytelling, experiment with different styles of ethnographic filmmaking, and participate in hands-on technical audio/visual work. Through practical sessions, collective labs, and exercises of photo shooting and filmmaking, they will gain an overall understanding of ethnographic approaches to film

Course duration

The course comprises 24 hours articulated in 3 main sessions: March 11-12; March 25-26; April 4-5, 2024. Participants will be also requested to autonomously apply what they have learned during the 3 working sessions.

How the course will be structured

This workshop will focus on technical aspects of basic camerawork, and other practical aspects of filming. Over the course of the three sessions, participants will learn how to do audiovisual storytelling, as well as how to shoot and make films using a range of easily available equipment.

Specific contents:

  • Creative writing techniques and audiovisual storytelling

  • Basic technical skills for professional camera use in documentary filmmaking

  • Use of audio recording equipment

  • Short screening of documentaries

About the film maker

This workshop is convened by Prof. Mara Benadusi and Prof. Stefania Mazzone as part of the didactic activities of the PhD in Political Sciences at the University of Catania. The workshop will be directed by Parsifal Reparato who he is anthropologist filmmaker, producer, and journalist.


In 2011, he realizes his first short documentary movie, Mas alla de la Santería, concerning a medical anthropology research project about HIV prevention and therapeutic pathways in Cuban Santería. In 2012 he co-realizes the documentary Villa villa Vigna (awarded with a special mention for the competition “Rural4Youth” of the Ministry of Agriculture). In 2015 Parsifal co-directs the documentary Rezeki on the gold and stone mining industry in Sumatra, funded by the European Project SEATIDE at the University of Milano Bicocca. In 2017 he co-directs Underground Harvest, a documentary film about mining in Sumatra, and in 2018 was the Director the Italian unit for El camino de Santiago by Tristán Bauer, about the disappearance and murder of Santiago Maldonado in Argentina. He also realizes Nimble fingers, an ethnographic collaborative movie about Vietnamese women who live and work on the outskirts of Hanoi, in one of the largest industrial production sites in the world. The film was the second Italian most awarded documentary film in 2017.


The Experience

It's 5 o'clock in the morning. It's the end of April and therefore still dark. The sun won't rise for another hour. We arrive one after the other in a parking lot near our Department of Political Science and greet each other sleepily and excitedly at the same time. Today we are shooting our first documentary film clip. We are researchers from different countries who are doing a PhD at the DPSP at the University of Catania, Rosario Sapienza, our professor Mara Benadusi and Parsifal Reperato. Parsifal had explained to us in 5 dense workshop days over the last few weeks how it is possible to make a documentary film based on our research. Today we are to put everything we have learned into practice in a short film about a farmer's experience of the energy transition in the region. 


Parsifal Reperato is an anthropologist, filmmaker, producer and journalist working in Italy, Vietnam and many other countries. He is the founder of  ‘Antropica’ a ‘cinema production company’ ( Furthermore his work stands out not only because of the particularly sensitive perspective in his films while simultaneously addressing political issues, but also because he is committed to translating social science content to a broad public. He is also very experienced in teaching filmmaking, as he has been teaching in various formats for years, including at universities. From the very beginning, he motivated us not only to learn from his experiences and work, but also to think about the possibilities of our projects.


In the workshop on Ethnographic Film-Making as part of the C-URGE Marie Curie doctoral Network training activity at the Department  of Political and Social Sciences Parsifal showed us in just a few weeks how to develop an idea for a documentary film, plan its realization step by step and how to raise funds for possible film projects. He shared his experiences in the development of his films "Nimble Fingers" and "She" with us at every stage and quickly gave us the feeling that a lot is possible when you have a vision. That was motivating. In a second part, he led us step by step through the technical handling of the camera, the sound system and the possibilities of different uses of light. 


Thanks to the dense, attentive and at the same time empathetic introduction to the art of documentary filming in the first workshop sections, we felt ready to put what we had learned into practice in the third section. The fact that Parsifal trusted us to use his equipment gave us courage and after a few initial difficulties, the first film and sound recordings were made. Parsifal gave us tips and advice every step of the way and we quickly felt confident in our roles as camerawoman, camera assistant, sound technician, sound assistant, director and assistant director. By the end of the first day, it was already clear who enjoys which task the most.


On the last day of the workshop, the time has come. We are supposed to shoot our first movie. Domenico, one of the PhD researchers, has organized everything and we make our way to one of his research partners. After an hour's drive, the sun slowly rises. The best light of the day for a shoot, as we have learned. Once we arrive, we start to set everything up ourselves and get ready for the first shots. The sound is recorded and checked, the sun is filtered by a filter panel and the camera is readjusted depending on the lighting conditions. We work together as a team and can hardly believe it when, at the end of the day, we have actually made a shooting for our film. In just one workshop, we learned how to shoot a short film under Parsifal's guidance and grew together as a team. An experience that will not only accompany us in our research.

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