Oh What A Blow That Phantom Gave Me!

d11

This film focuses on Edmund Carpenter’s pioneering role in visual anthropology and media ecology. A maverick who explored the borderlands between ethnography and media over fifty years, Carpenter looked at the revolutionary impact of film and photography on tribal peoples, He opened the Pandora’s box of electronice media with delight and horror, embracing it even as he recoiled from its omnipotence. The documentary dives into the tensions between art and anthropology, film and culture. Using extensive interviews with Carpenter along with footage from his fieldwork, the film evokes the ironies and insights of his classic book of the same name. He comments on his wide-ranging fieldwork in the Canadian Arctic and Papua New Guinea, concepts of authenticity and truth in media and art, the relationship between anthropology and surrealism, and the impossibility of preserving culture. Much of the film is film is built around his 1969-70 New Guinea footage, never seen before, which includes a riveting scene of an Upper Sepik River tribal initiation in which a crocodile skin pattern is cut into the initiate’s skin. Coinciding with the current McLuhan renaissance, Carpenter is now being claimed as a pioneer in the emerging field of Media Ecology, and his once-exotic ideas about electronic media seem perfectly obvious in light of the World Wide Web.