Interview of David MacDougall by Alan Macfarlane, 29th and 30th June 2007

0:05:08 Born New Hampshire, US, 1939; parents both teachers at a progressive co-educational boarding school; father, Canadian, trained as a civil engineer but both parents taught during the depression and then started the school with some other teachers; there for first five years of my life; father son of a minister, mother from up-state New York and her father was a surgeon; met on a boat going to Europe as students; married in the British Embassy in Paris; mother interested in literature and the arts; father, though a scientist, played musical instruments and as a youth carved wooden puppets; mother interested in films and I was taken often by her to the cinema; have an older brother but because of seven year's difference upbringing more like an only child; moved to New York from Vermont during the War; mother teaching at the Dalton School, Manhattan, where I went from grade 1 to 8; remember one geography teacher, John Seeger, who was a great story teller, and interesting, kind, influential teacher; first film I remember seeing at school was 'Nanook of the North'; also had a good chemistry teacher

9:29:14 Started taking photographs at an early age; first camera took 127 film, next camera took half-frames; later started doing street photography and got a Voigtlander camera with good lens and began to work in the dark room at Dalton School; had begun developing film at home in a dark room I had made in a closet; continued developing and printing photographs through secondary school where they also had a dark room; at thirteen went to boarding school, Putney; some resemblance to the Doon School as in all boarding schools you are away from the family and have to make a life with other people; other common things are dormitories, meals at certain times, sports, bells; enjoyed school as stimulating environment; music, writing for the school literary magazine which I eventually edited; not a keen games player but did fencing which I also did at University; myopia; good English teacher, an African-American, educated in England, had run for Governor of a State, had been a wrestler and preacher, and loved literature - Jeff Campbell; in senior year had another English teacher, a lover of Yeats' poetry

16:57:21 Didn't begin filming until University and then only in a minor way; had my great aunt's camera, an early 16mm Bell and Howell and did begin to make little films about my friends; majored in English at Harvard and did begin to take anthropology; in anthropology, Barbara Whiting was teaching; first ethnography I read was 'The Nuer'; before this, at fourteen, had been to Africa where father was working on a survey of a river system in northern Angola; allowed to take a term off from school to join parents there; very valuable experience; able to go with engineers up rivers in dugout canoes, crocodiles on the banks; got a job doing their photographic processing in their dark room in the main office in Luanda; from that time on always had an interest in Africa but more accidental that I ended up making films there as that was part of a postgraduate film making project; no particularly memorable teachers either in anthropology or English

23:17:03 At the end of four years at Harvard had decided I wanted to make films; friends and I went weekly to the Brattle Theatre and saw some extraordinary films; this was an art cinema and saw films by Antonioni, Godard, De Sica; had been taking writing courses and in final year studied with Archibald MacLeish but decided I was much more fascinated with cinema; decided to try to find a job in film making; found one in New York with a company making documentary and educational films called 'US Productions'; one of the directors, Al Butterfield, an historian (brother of Herbert), and they made both history and science films; hired as a researcher; first job was on a film about the White House which they hoped to get cooperation on from Jackie Kennedy; film never made;  did some writing as well but forbidden to touch a camera or an editing machine; secretly took a night school course at Columbia in film production where I was finally able to get my hands on a camera and to edit film; good course where the whole class collaborated on a single film, the subject of which was 'garbage'; each filmed some footage and edited jointly; I filmed mostly in Fulton Fish Market and garbage trucks; 1962 about to be drafted to Vietnam; applied to the Peace Corps to put off the draft and was sent to Africa; once out of the Peace Corps applied for an educational deferment to go to graduate school which was granted

30:42:10 Not really politicised until I went to UCLA and then began to feel the idiocy of the war; as a Peace Corps worker sent to Nyasaland which became independent Malawi while I was there; sent as a secondary school teacher in a teacher training college; very much enjoyed two years there and got another view of school life; had a camera but had little experience; filmed some of the independence celebrations and cultural performances; enjoyed roaming round villages on my own; continued to take still photographs; read a lot of books on prehistory and archaeology of Central Africa there; visited the museum in Livingstone; applied for two postgraduate programs in US, one in anthropology at Berkeley because Desmond Clark was teaching there, the other the film school at UCLA; opted for the film school

35:31:21 The Director was Colin Young, who became a major figure in my life; went there in 1965 and stayed until 1970 by which time I'd got an MFA degree in cinema and had made a number of films; there when they created one of the first programs in ethnographic film; joint program with Wally [Walter] Goldschmidt, head of anthropology, funded by the Ford Foundation, to bring together anthropology and film students; teachers led fairly ambitious projects to make films, in Ireland and Chile; I became involved in the third project in Uganda; by that time I had met Judith on the course and had asked her to shoot one of my first student films and I shot her thesis film; both went to Uganda as crew; I was asked to shoot the film; our professor, Richard Hawkins, nominally directing the film left a lot of decisions to me due to unpredictability of subject; used 16mm with sync sound; very privileged as film students to have access to the very latest equipment

40:10:15 Rationale of this ethnographic film program was to create collaborations between anthropologists and film makers, the anthropologists supplying the knowledge and concepts and the film makers supplying the film making skills; however at the back of Colin Young's mind was the anthropologist-film maker, someone who combined the two; one reason why Rouch was such an influential character; trained initially as an engineer, then as an anthropologist and wrote PhD on labour migration in West Africa; perhaps one of the few who combined anthropological and film making skills; I believe in an authored cinema, essentially made by one person rather by the industrial model with separate roles for sound engineer, camera man, director, producer, editor; the latter was the model for the 'Disappearing World' series which worked occasionally but often not well at all; always conflicting concepts of what the film should be; there were some good films such as those made by David Turton and Leslie Woodhead [among the Mursi], 'Onka's Big Moka', Hugh Brody's film on the Inuit, one on Ashanti market women, but in general there were tremendous tensions in the process; film maker is after a different kind of knowledge to the anthropologist, so an epistemological question about how you define anthropological knowledge arises; this is the problem that runs through visual anthropology; often the film maker is making just as rigorous an analysis of what's being filmed as the anthropologist but it is a different one, and this creates the problem; or the anthropologist is interested in a didactic and informational film and the film maker in an experiential approach to knowledge

47:49:24 In Uganda, Richard Hawkins teamed up with Suzette Heald who was doing research on the Gisu so we made a film about Gisu initiation; initially the film came to nothing as Richard had large teaching commitment and didn't get round to editing it, then tragically all the negative footage was lost in film laboratory and all we had was the scratched cutting print; finally finished many years later by Richard and Suzette; University let Judith and me stay on in Uganda with the film equipment to try to make a film of our own; we sold our return tickets to America and bought an old Land Rover; made a kind of connection with Makerere University in Kampala through Peter Rigby who was teaching there; they lent us a tent and camping equipment and wrote the necessary letters to give to officials when asking permission to film; went up to Karimoja District in north-eastern Uganda where there are herding people where I wanted to make a film; met some other anthropologists who gave us connections to local people; more or less worked out a film that was to be my thesis film as Judith had finished hers; had everything but film; Richard Hawkins found enough money to buy some black and white film and we had a little colour film left over from the Gisu project; made one long film 'To Live with Herds' and two short films, 'Under the Men's Tree' and 'Nawi'; these films made at a significant point in visual anthropology because of the use of subtitling; this developed as a result of being able to film with synchronized sound so that you could record conversations, then people wanted to know what subjects were saying; also, we'd grown up looking at subtitled films from Europe so seemed absolutely logical; also a rejection of the didactic style of documentary film we had grown up with where you are told what to think of the images and images are often just background to the soundtrack; led to longer takes, not running round for different angles; also attracted by the narrative possibilities of cinema; increasingly felt that films should be shot from more or less one perspective, as observers rather than directing the action

1:01:47:10 In the case of 'To Live with Herds' we had gone to make a visual ethnography of Jie life in past and present; found Jie under stress due to Government administration and moving into a cash economy; problems of water shortage and dependence on bore holes; whether to send children to school; realized it was more important to make a film on the contemporary situation and the Jie response to new pressures; effort by administrators to settle pastoralists and turn them into agriculturalists in places where agriculture was marginal; influential paper by Peter Rigby 'Pastoralism and Prejudice'; if there was a target audience for this film it would have been Government administrators; advocacy anthropology

1:07:05:00 Went back to film school; thesis film was 'Nawi'; both received our degrees in 1970; got a job working with James Blue who had taught for a time at UCLA, trained in the French film school IDHEC, who had made a feature film in Algeria during the war there and a number of other interesting documentaries; Rice University in Houston had created a new media centre funded by the Menil family; invited James Blue to come and I got a job with him; Colin Young also came for short periods to teach and similarly Roberto Rossellini; David Hancock, promising young film maker, also on the staff but unfortunately died young; tried to rotate the three teaching positions so that each one would have a year off to do a film project; felt that teachers of film making must be active although hard to get the University to accept; Judith and I went back to Africa for a year and a half to make the Turkana films

1:11:53:08 On the Turkana, the main film we set out to make which ended up being 'The Wedding Camels' was fairly conventional in anthropological terms; wanted to look at Turkana society through a focal event which highlit all the major preoccupations of their life - live-stock ownership, alliances between families, polygyny; wanted to follow a marriage from the discussions over bride wealth right up to the ceremonies; had to wait nine months for this to happen as nobody was marrying until the rains came; spent time trying to work out all the potential marriages that might take place, then selected one; this film worked as we intended; made two other films which were less predictable, one about the ways co-wives cooperate and their relationships with husband - 'A Wife among Wives'; third became a portrait of the patriarch of the family, Lorang - 'Lorang's Way'; essentially making three films at once; I was shooting and Judith did the sound recording; shared the decision-making entirely; Judith regrets that we didn't spend more time focussing on women's lives; she is a marvellous cinematographer and I now feel we should have done more sharing of jobs, but we did collaborate very well in the field and in the editing stage