Film Screening Programme – Friday 25th

On behalf of the living

Year: 2023
Length: 105 minutes
Director/filmmaker: Ton Otto, Christian Suhr, Gary Kildea
Producer/production company: Moesgaard Film
Country of production: Denmark Country/location of film: Papua New Guinea, The Netherlands

An anthropologist embarks on a belief-experiment to better understand a world in which the spirits of the dead are alive and active. Ton Otto first came to Baluan Island in Papua New Guinea as a PhD student to learn about the local culture by participating in it. That project goes on, and some islanders say he is ready to ritually contact the spirit of his late adoptive father on the island. Ton’s father in Maastricht, a devout Catholic, urges him to go ahead with those rites in all sincerity, reasoning that ‘miracles can happen’. His mother, though, remains sceptical. Christian Suhr, Ton’s long-time ethnographic film partner, is not fully convinced either. Their struggles over how to approach the filming are laid bare on screen. Ton’s adoptive sisters, Ninou and Asap, are ready to help him reach out to their father on the other side, but brother Pwanou will not join, since he believes that the Bible forbids the summoning of spirits. All this sets up an intricate cross- cultural film essay on the human impulse to engage the supernatural, for good and ill.

Ton Otto is professor of anthropology at Aarhus University. He has conducted long-term ethnographic field research in Papua New Guinea and has published widely on issues of social and cultural change with a focus on religion and historicity. From the start of his fieldwork, he has made extensive use of audio- visual media, and this has resulted in a number of exhibition and film productions, including the award-winning films Ngat is dead (2009, with Christian Suhr and Steffen Dalsgaard) and Unity through Culture (2011, with Christian Suhr).

Christian Suhr is a filmmaker and professor of anthropology at Aarhus University. His research has focused on experiences of spirit possession, psychiatric illnesses, religious healing, and how film can be used to approach unseen dimensions of human life.

He is the director and author of the award-winning film and book Descending with angels (MUP 2019,, and the award-winning films Ngat is dead (2009, with Ton Otto and Steffen Dalsgaard) and Unity through culture (2011, with Ton Otto).

Gary Kildea was born in Sydney, Australia. He started his working life in a film studio as a sound assistant and later moved into film editing; working on commercials, dramatic features and documentaries. In the early 1970s he moved to Papua New Guinea taking a job as a director/cinematographer for the national film unit. In 1975 he travelled to England and studied drama film
direction at the National Film and Television School. After that he returned to Australia and worked on independent documentaries in the Asia/Pacific region. He came to the Australian National University in Canberra in the mid-1980s to run its Ethnographic Film Unit.

Since 2008 he also worked part-time coaching in documentary at the Visual Cultural Studies department at the University of Tromsø, Norway. He continues to work as an independent documentary editor/filmmaker based in Australia. Some of his films as director are: The Great Chimbu Pig Festival (1972); Concerning the Lives of the People (1973); Trobriand Cricket – an ingenious response to colonialism (1975); Ileksen (1978); Celso and Cora – a Manila story (1984); Valencia Diary (1991); Man of Strings (1999); Koriam’s Law (2005).


Year: 2022
Length: 70 minutes
Director/filmmaker: Malka Shabtay Producer/production company: Malka Shabtay
Country of production: Israel Country/location of film: Ethiopia

Dr Malka Shabtay, an Israeli anthropologist and activist who is engaged with diverse Jewish communities, travels to Ethiopia to visit the community with which she is closely engaged. This time she arrives to film following the community request to document and share its unique story of struggling for its identity and survival. Abera Teshome, a young artist, asks her to join her journey so he may complete the missing pieces of his Jewish identity
formation. They are traveling to visit the first hidden synagogue and participate in in the re-enactment of the Red Cow sacred ceremony. When he returns home, his mother gives him her blessings, and he takes off for a new leadership.

Dr Malka Shabtay is an applied anthropologist, working almost 40 years with the Ethiopian Jewish community in Israel. She taught at the Ruppin Academic Center, The Institute for Immigration and Social Integration and various other academic institutes. She combines research, consultancy and training for various organizations interested in applying cultural and cross-cultural perspectives in their work. She has published fifteen books and many articles. Until recently she was working at the Ministry of Education’s department for children and youth at risk.

She is responsible for projects and implementation of policy with Israeli Arabs, Orthodox Jews, and new and old immigrants. In the last ten years she has been involved with various Jewish communities, especially the Lemba of Zimbabwe, the Abayudayaha in Uganda, the Hidden Jews of Ethiopia, and the Bnei Annussinm in Brazil. So far she completed two ethnographic films: Cameroon my petite ville (2021) and Nafkot Yearning (2022).

Being screened Friday 25 August at 12.30 at the Ethnographic Exploratory, Copenhagen University.

Song of Shiratori

Year: 2021
Length: 110 minutes
Director/filmmaker: Deming Chen Producer/production company: Deming Chen
Country of production: U.S.A., China Country/location of film: China

Due to the continuous deterioration of the social environment, the infertile population is expanding. Under the influence of the low fertility rate, the Chinese government has opened up its policy. In the past decade, this has affected one of the largest IVF centres in China. Many families unable to conceive choose to come here for transplants. Hotels near the hospital have become the best choice for patients due to the financial cost. The families come and go, some successful, some unsuccessful. Luck and misfortune are only moments away. They leave and reunite. For these infertile families, this place is like a stone that sinks in the river of their lives, allowing sorrow and joy to wash over them.

Deming Chen is a documentary filmmaker from China. His work focuses on the delicate relationship between people and their environment, presenting fragments of reality through poetic expressions. Apart from Song of Shiratori (2021) he has made numerous films, such as the narrative short films Night Journey (2018) and Landscape (2022). He is currently completing the film Always, a documentary film he is currently making related to his hometown and poetry.

Being screened Friday 25 August at 16.30 at the Cinematheque of the Danish Film Institute

To cure longing

Year: 2022
Length: 65 minutes
Director/filmmaker: Artyom Dubitski Producer/production company: Artyom Dubitski
Country of production: Israel

Country/location of film: Israel, Ukraine, Russia

A young immigrant’s inquiry into the life of his family in Russia and Ukraine before reaching Israel. The filmmaker is taken on a life changing journey that forces him to cope with transgenerational trauma, when at the age of 30, he travels along with his father to Russia to meet his grandmother for the first time. He himself handles the camera and directs the conversations in a subtle way, achieving moments of Chekhovian intensity.

Artyom Dubitski was born in Ukraine and emigrated with his family to Israel in 1997. He developed his interest in photography and cinematographic storytelling and studies for his master’s degree in film in Tel Aviv University. Besides being a director, he also works as a cinematographer in the film and commercial industry. To Cure Longing (2022) is his first feature film.

Being screened Friday 25 August at 19.00 at the Cinematheque of the Danish Film Institut

Adem’s Island

Year: 2020
Length: 12 minutes
Director/filmmaker: Ivana Todorovic Producer/production company: Blok Film Country of production: Serbia Country/location of film: Serbia

On a small river island in the centre of Belgrade, Adem has retreated into near solitude to cope with the loss of his daughter.

Ivana Todorovic is a filmmaker and lecturer from Belgrade, Serbia. She is a director of short, socially engaged documentary and fiction films made in Belgrade and New York City. She lives between Belgrade and
Scottsdale, Arizona. Her films explore trauma and recovery through the work of empathy. Her most recent film, the short documentary End of the Road, world premiered at the 2022 Palm Springs International ShortFest. Her other fiction film, When I’m at Home (2020), has played festivals worldwide and won
multiple awards. Todorovic’s films have been shown in over 200 international film festivals and have won over 40 awards.

Her films have been acquired by The New York Times and Aeon Films and have screened at The Anthology Film Archive in New York and the Cultura de Contemporania de Barcelona, Spain. Todorovic is currently working on a new short documentary entitled Woman, at the People’s Front and a new short fiction film entitled First Time I Saw the Nigh.

Being screened Friday 25 August at around 20.15 at the Cinematheque of the Danish Film Institute