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11:30, Saturday 30th June, Cosmo Rodewald

Director: Judith MacDougall (Australia)

Year: 2007

Run time: 59'

Location/Ethnic group: Kunming, China PRC

Language: In English, Chinese and various Chinese dialects with English subtitles

Production/Distribution: Fieldwork Films

The Art of Regret

Photography is known in China as the “Art of Regret”. In the rapidly changing city of Kunming, people are ambivalent about whether they want photography to be a medium of preservation and evidence, or of transformation and fantasy. While old photographs are cherished, digital technology can now make old people look young again. At computerized stalls in department stores, faces and clothing can be instantly transformed. An old-established studio digitally enhances the images made on their wooden 19th century portrait camera. Choices about how to regard history, reality, and material culture constantly confront everyone in contemporary China.

Judith MacDougall first learnt film-making in the 1960s on the Ethnographic Film Training programme at the University of California Los Angeles, organized by the then Dean of Theater Arts, Colin Young (later the Director of the National Film and Television School in the UK). In collaboration with her husband David, she made a number of classic films in East Africa in the 1970s (To Live with Herds, Turkana Conversations), in Australia in the 1980s (Familiar Places, The House Opening, Takeover) and then in India in 1990/2000s (Photo Wallahs, Diya) that served to establish Observational Cinema as a major ethnographic film genre. Most recently, she has been making films in China as a result of the period she spent teaching on the MA in Visual Anthropology at the East Asia Institute of Visual Anthropology, Yunnan University in Kunming.