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ECU visual anthropology students, left to right, Leah Joyner, Sierra Plato, Kylie Downie, Alexandra Seidman and Adam Johnson completed documentaries on the diverse communities in Greenville and eastern North Carolina under the direction of ECU anthropology professor Dr. Luci Fernandes. (Contributed photos)

ECU holds film festival for visual anthropology students

Dec. 7, 2012

By Alexa DeCarr
ECU News Services

A film festival will mark the end the first visual anthropology course at East Carolina University.

Students in Dr. Luci M. Fernandes’ visual anthropology class will present their final projects in an end of semester film festival on Thursday, Dec. 13 from 6:30-9:30 p.m. in Flanagan 265 on campus.

The course is the first of its kind at ECU and was made possible through the BB&T Leadership office, which awarded Fernandes an $8,000 grant to teach the course.

According to Fernandes, visual anthropology combines the study of human societies and their development with visual art and film, which “helps to better understand different cultures.”

Each of the eight students in the class picked a specific cultural group, or community, to research. Communities chosen ranged from farming to political to tattoo communities.
Students work on visual anthropology class projects that used interviews, photographs and video to capture information about diverse populations in Greenville.

The students then documented the different communities throughout Greenville and eastern North Carolina with podcasts, photography and film. Throughout the fall semester, they interviewed people, photographed the different cultural aspects of the community and created a 20-minute documentary film.

“Each project they did stemmed from the previous one,” Fernandes explained. “And the final projects are the documentaries that will be presented in the film festival.”

Fernandes said that the course enables students to become leaders through better understanding the diverse people in their area.

“Part of this course is on leadership and the ability to lead,” said Fernandes. “To be able to lead, you have to know the people you’re surrounded by and be able to see different points of view.”

Siera Plato, a graduate student studying sustainable tourism, did her project on the Mexican women immigrant community.

“I focused on all the different roles that come with being a Mexican, an immigrant, and a woman.” Plato said.

Many of the students had no experience in filmmaking, which was both the biggest obstacle and reward for many of them.

“I’ve gained so many technical skills that I didn’t have prior to this course,” said Plato.

Despite the obstacles, Fernandes says the final projects will illustrate how rewarding the experience has been.

“All of these students are so proud of their work,” said Fernandes. “They immersed themselves in a community and became an advocate for it.”

Fernandes said she hopes that the work her students have done will not only help them become leaders, but also “make anthropology known to people who see the exhibit or the films.”

Photographs taken by the students are on exhibit at ECU’s Joyner Library and the Tipsy Teapot. At the end of the month the photo exhibit will move to The Scullery and the BB&T on Evans St. in downtown Greenville.

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