Elder Wins Major International Award For Ethnographic Documentary of Eskimo Rituals

Release Date: December 8, 1998

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Filmmaker Sarah Elder, professor of media study at the University at Buffalo, has been awarded third prize in one of the world's most distinguished juried international film festivals, the IX International Festival of Ethnographic Films, held last month in Nuoro, Italy.

The festival, whose theme was "Music and Rituals," attracted 125 entries, 30 of which were selected for presentation. Of the 30, only two were from the United States.

Elder received the award for "Uksuum Cauyai: The Drums of Winter," her much-lauded feature documentary shot in a small Alaskan native village on the Bering Sea. The film explores the music, dance and rituals of the native Yup'ik culture, as well as attempts by missionaries to suppress such dance ceremonies.

While in Nuoro, Elder also made a presentation on the theoretical framework and pioneering methodology of her 25 years of research with native Alaskans as she dealt with the ethnographic representation of their culture. She has received many distinguished awards over the past two decades and is recognized as one of the world's premiere ethnographic filmmakers. Her work frequently has represented the United States at important international film expositions.

The ethnographic film and video festival, which is sponsored biennially by the Italian Instituto Superiore Regionale Etnografico, this year drew film directors from the Americas, Africa, Australia, India, Pakistan and Europe.

The first prize in the festival went to "Sivas Home of Poets" by Warner Bauer of Austria, a film about the songs, dances and festivals of the Alevitas, a Turkish religious minority persecuted by Moslem fundamentalists. Second prize was awarded to anthropologist Akos Ostor and filmmaker Robert Gardner of Harvard University for "Sons of Shiva," a film about the annual Gajan Festival of Shiva in which participants experience a merger with divinity through trance and ritual.

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