Media Arts Program

Tuesday, August 8, 2017 at 7:00 p.m.


The Wounaan Trilogy

A documentary film in three parts

Produced & directed by Elizabeth Lapovsky Kennedy & Perry Kennedy

Introduced in person by and with an audience Q&A with Liz Kennedy

Hallwalls is pleased to host our good friend Liz Kennedy, visiting from Arizona, presenting a screening of the three-part documentary film she co-produced with then-husband Perry Kennedy (November 1, 1934–October 30, 2016) in an earlier, pre-Buffalo period of her career as a social anthropologist. The film was shot on 8mm film in 1964-1966 on the Siguirisúa and Docampadó rivers in the Chocó region of Colombia in South America. Perry was the cinematographer and editor, with Liz serving as ethnographer as well as co-director. Long-time Buffalo residents Angela & Charlie Keil served as Associate Producers.

Part 1: Wounaan: A People of the Rainforest (70 min.)
Part 2: Rainforest Technology: the Wounaan House and Canoe (26 min.)
In-person Q&A with Liz Kennedy (approximately 8:45 p.m.)
Part 3: Rainforest Technology: Wounaan Agriculture (51 min.)

The Wounaan Trilogy documents major elements of Wounaan social life, before it was ravaged by violence and contemporary capitalism. As such they are unique historical documents… The films were edited (on film) in the early 1970s, but were not distributed in the interests of withholding cultural information from the North American corporations that were then in the early stages of exploring for oil in the region. The films were digitized in the 2010s, but in the process there was no editing for content.

Since the films' release in this decade (2011), they have been enthusiastically received by Wounaan in Panama and in refugee communities in Bogotá, Colombia. They have been recognized in international film festivals, including a "Mención Especial" at the XI International Festival of Films and Videos of Indigenous Peoples in Bogotá in 2012, the Ethnografilm Festival in Paris in 2014, and the Montreal First People's Festival in August 2016.

From Liz Kennedy's Wikipedia page:

"Dr. Elizabeth Lapovsky Kennedy (born 1939) was one of the founding feminists of the field of Women's Studies and is a lesbian historian whose book Boots of Leather, Slippers of Gold: A History of the Lesbian Community (co-authored with Madeline Davis) documents the lesbian community of Buffalo, New York in the decades before Stonewall.

"Elizabeth 'Liz' Lapovsky was born on December 3, 1939 in Brooklyn, New York… From 1956 to 1960, she attended Smith College, earning a BA in Philosophy in 1960. At Smith, she became aware of her talent and interest in understanding cultural difference by taking a course in classical literature. Deciding she wanted to be an anthropologist, Lapovsky enrolled in an Anthropology MA program at the University of New Mexico. After working on archaeological sites at Seattle, Albuquerque, and Jerusalem under the mentorship of professor Harry Basehart, she changed her focus to social anthropology. Basehart was fond of British social anthropology and encouraged Lapovsky to study at Cambridge upon completing her MA. Before leaving for Cambridge, Lapovsky married Perry Kennedy, a beatnik and writer who supported her pursuit of a doctorate. Through his marriage to Lapovsky, who had more radical leanings developed at the Putney Work Camp in Vermont, Perry became involved with the anti Vietnam-war movement in England. Together, Liz and Perry developed a lifelong commitment to social activism.

"Extensive research and fieldwork of the Wounaan people in the Chocó province of Colombia led to Lapovsky Kennedy's 1972 Ph.D. in social anthropology from Cambridge University. While at Cambridge, the Kennedys also produced three documentary films on the indigenous peoples of South America, allowing her to later consult with both the CBC and ITV in Great Britain.

"She began her teaching career as a Deganaweda Fellow in American Studies at SUNY Buffalo (UB) in 1969, where she remained on the faculty until 1998. In 1971, she joined fellow anthropologist Charles Keil on the faculty of the American Studies Program there. This American Studies program differed from other American Studies programs of the time, because it did not draw primarily on literary and historical methodologies. At UB, American Studies—led by Yale philosopher, Larry Chisolm—emphasized then new insights from cultural anthropology; in addition, Chisolm encouraged faculty and students to look at American culture from the outside in and from the perspective of marginalized groups inside American society. In this highly stimulating intellectual environment, Kennedy began to adapt her intellectual training to current social issues and political movements."