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Film Catalog » Producers » David MacDougall

David MacDougall

David MacDougall and his wife Judith MacDougall have been described as “the most significant ethnographic filmmakers in the English-speaking world today.” They have collaborated on many prize-winning films, but have also gone their separate ways to produce distinguished films in their own right.

David’s first feature-length documentary, To Live With Herds, filmed in Uganda, won the Grand Prix Venezia Genti at the Venice Film Festival in 1972. Soon after, he and Judith produced the famous “Turkana Conversations” trilogy on semi-nomadic camel herders of northwestern Kenya. One of the films of the trilogy, Lorang’s Way, won the prestigious first prize of Cinéma du Réel in Paris in 1979, and another, The Wedding Camels, the Film Prize of the Royal Anthropological Institute in 1980.

The MacDougalls then made a dozen films on indigenous communities in Australia. In 1991 their work took a new direction with a film, Photo Wallahs, on photographic practices in an Indian hill town. David went on to make Tempus de Baristas, a BBC co-production about goat herders in the mountains of Sardinia, winner of the 1995 Earthwatch Film Award.

Since 1997 he has been conducting an extensive study of the Doon School, India’s most prestigious boys’ boarding school, sometimes called “the Eton of India.” This has resulted in five films focusing on various aspects of childhood and adolescence, masculinity, the social aesthetics of institutions, postcoloniality, and the training of South Asian elites.

David MacDougall’s films are distinguished by their humanity, intellectual subtlety, visual beauty, and eye for the telling detail. He also writes regularly on documentary and ethnographic cinema and is the author of Transcultural Cinema and The Corporeal Image: Film, Ethnography and the Senses. The MacDougalls were among the first filmmakers to introduce subtitling of indigenous speech into their films, an innovation that revolutionized visual anthropology. Their films continue to break new ground, both conceptually and cinematically.

In 2013 David was awarded a rare "Lifetime Achievement Award" by the Royal Anthropological Institute in the UK.

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