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Periodical article Periodical article Leiden University catalogue Leiden University catalogue WorldCat catalogue WorldCat
Title:'And he said they were Ju/Wasi, the people...': history and myth in John Marshall's 'Bushmen films' 1957-2000
Author:van Vuuren, LaurenISNI
Periodical:Journal of Southern African Studies
Geographic term:Namibia
About person:John Marshall (1932-2005)ISNI
External link:https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/03057070903101813
Abstract:The filmmaking of pioneering, American documentary filmmaker John Marshall constitutes a 50-year filmic record of the Ju/Wasi Bushmen of northern Namibia. Marshall's films reflect history by recording the physical, political and social changes amongst a group of people from the 1950s up until, and into, the 2000s, in the changing context of southern Africa's convulsive colonial and postcolonial, historical landscape. His films also constitute a visual record of changing discourses about the limits and potential of documentary filmmaking. This article examines both of these strands of film-as-historical-record. Furthermore, by considering two of John Marshall's major films historically, it shows how the process of documentary filmmaking can produce 'primary source' material, which can become a metonym for the subject matter it depicts. For John Marshall, who spent much of the second half of the twentieth century trying to undo mythical perceptions about Ju/Wasi Bushmen, the intractability of the visual image, once embedded in popular conceptions of its subject matter, was motivation for a lifetime of activism. Yet, it is argued, Marshall's films reveal a complex interplay between filmmaker and subjects, which qualifies the idea that the tenacious and still popular myth of Bushmen as pristine primitives is merely one imposed by filmmakers and academics. Notes, ref., sum. [Journal abstract]