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Diya - Image Produced by Judith MacDougall.
55 min. Color. 2001.
Available as: VHS and DVD
Captioned: Yes
Catalog #: 0029
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Sale Price: $295.00 Buy VHS Buy DVD

This innovative ethnographic documentary by renowned filmmaker Judith MacDougall provides a new way of exploring the complex social life surrounding material objects. The film follows the life history of an important cultural object through the everyday experiences of the people who make, sell, and use it.

A diya is a small terracotta oil lamp used throughout India in religious ceremonies. The film begins with a family of potters as they make diyas in the increasingly frantic days before Diwali, the "Festival of Lights." The lamps are produced on a potter's wheel, are taken to be sold in the bazaar, and are then used in the Diwali puja ceremonies. Afterwards, they are discarded and return to the earth.

Although the potters are proud of their work, they often wish for a different and less arduous existence for their children. In a postscript, the film returns to the potter family and the unexpected revelation that these children will remain in school, ending seven generations of their family's life as potters.

This beautiful film is keenly observed and richly infused with the sights and sounds that make the lives of diya potters distinctive and meaningful. "Diya" will stimulate discussion and reflection in a variety of classes in social and cultural anthropology, Asian and Indian studies, and visual anthropology. In Hindi, with English subtitles.


"A new-fashioned look at material culture by a leading ethnographic filmmaker, this should stimulate useful discussions in both film and material culture courses." -- Karl G. Heider, Prof. of Anthropology, Univ. of South Carolina, and author of Seeing Anthropology: Cultural Anthropology through Film

"Judith MacDougall is passionately interested in the social life of ordinary objects. Here, the humble diya, the small, earthenware oil lamp of North India, comes wonderfully alive. Not just the thing itself but the people who make it, use it, and celebrate with it. The result is a film that enchants and educates." -- Akos Ostor, Prof. of Anthropology and Film Studies, Wesleyan Univ.


  • Society for Visual Anthropology Award
  • Margaret Mead Film Festival honoree
  • Assn. for Asian Studies honoree
  • American Anthropological Assn. honoree
  • Bilan du Film Ethnographique (Paris) honoree
  • Beeld voor Beeld Festival (Amsterdam) honoree
  • Freiburg Intl. Film Festival honoree
  • "Origins of Visual Anthropology" Conference (Gottingen) presentation



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