The Journal of Communication and Media Studies offers an annual award for newly published research or thinking that has been recognized to be outstanding by members of the Communication and Media Studies Research Network.
This article explores mainstream ambitions of indigenous filmmakers from the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, Colombia. Using the example of Zhigoneshi, the Arhuaco filmmaking collective, I analyse the trend to transcend the boundaries of so-called “indigenous cinema.” The filmmaking in the region emerged as a response to political violence, and it developed into a tool of cultural self-discovery and opposition to past misinterpretations of the Arhuacos by Western filmmakers. Today, the Arhuacos reach for audiovisual media to communicate, create an archive of their history and culture, and to reflect on the implications of adopting a Western tool to protect the traditional values. The fruit of their work widely circulates at film festivals, academic events, and special presentations, reaching audiences all over the world. As such, the universal qualities of audiovisual media promise hope of successful intercultural communication.
‘Voice Of The Arhuacos Transcending The Borders Of ‘Indigenous Filmmaking In Colombia’, together with the accompanying film, describe the most important and influential research project in my career.
In collaboration with Amado Villafaña, a filmmaker and communicator from the Arhuaco community, and Pablo Mora, an academic and film professional, I had a privilege to witness an extraordinary transition from simple farmers threatened by guerrillas into international experts in indigenous commutation.
The project took about eight years to develop, and in some ways, it is still ongoing (the film is re-edited for festival submissions, and I continue my communication with the participants to monitor how they progress in their endeavours).
It fuelled my passion for art/practice-based research and solidified my interest in inter-cultural communication practices. It also led me to become an Artistic Director and a Head of Programming for 10th Discovering Latin America Film Festival.
I spoke at 20+ conferences about multiple aspects of my findings, and I have my book proposal approved by Common Ground.
The experience gained during this project led me to become a principal supervisor for two practice-based PhD in film, also based in ethnographic methods.
In short, this article encapsulates the pivotal moment in my career and one of my biggest passions.
— Agata Lulkowska
Theodore T. Koutsobinas, The Journal of Communication and Media Studies, Volume 3, Issue 2, pp.1-16