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Snow River film project   

Stephanie Spray Climber-Scientist Small Grant Recipient Filmmaker and PhD candidate Anthropology Department Harvard University sspray@fas.harvard.edu


Background:

- Relationship between anthropology and filmmaking - Sensory Ethnography Lab, Harvard University


Approaches to filmmaking Mainstream documentaries:     -­‐  a  tendency  to  either  present  an  event  or  topic  as  holis2cally  as  possible     -­‐  frequently  there  is  the  inherent  presump2on  that  it  is  a  “document”  of   something  past,  as  the  name  indicates   -­‐  quick  edits  of  brief  shots  (some2mes  less  than  a  second)   -­‐  priori2zing  narra2ve  threads   -­‐  lack  of  confidence  in  the  intelligence  or  pa2ence  of  the  audience   -­‐  documentary  as  “entertainment”   Alterna2ve  approaches:   -­‐  to  not  presume  to  show  or  unveil  a  complete  story,  total  truth  or  whole   culture,  and  to  undercut  any  such  presump2on  within  the  film   -­‐  remain  as  much  in  the  present     -­‐  using  shoo2ng  techniques  and  edi2ng  that  allow  2me  to  unfold  within   shots,  to  convey  a  sense  of  how  2me  passes  in  a  par2cular  place  


Snow River Initial question: How to bridge human experience and the trauma of natural disaster survivors (not abstractions about the “social”) with hard facts about the physical environment through film or video, but without resorting to the clichéd approaches of most conventional documentaries? The event: May 5, 2012 flood of the Seti River My goal: To convey hard facts about the physical environment at the origin of the May 5, 2012 flood event, through the lens of the scientists, geographers, geomorphologists and hydrologists researching the event, and, through a slow unfolding of sequences, to connect this to the intimate human stories of individuals who must live and work along the river that took away the lives and livelihoods of their families and friends.


Kharapani Bazaar, Nepal


Tatopani, Nepal -  Hot Springs -  Picnic site -  Popular film and video location


Kharapani, Nepal May 5, 2012

“A few days before the flood, the river stopped flowing, and then it flowed white, the next day it was yellow, and then it stopped. We presumed they were building a bridge somewhere.� - Phul Maya Tamang


The Se2  River  flood  event   May  5,  2012     -­‐  no  early  warning  system  in  place   -­‐  the  role  of  mobile  phones  in   aler2ng  villagers  and   documenta2on     -­‐  amateur  videos  of  event  widely   available  on  YouTube     -­‐  received  extensive  na2onal  and   some  interna2onal  aEen2on    


Upper Se2  River  Basin  Research  Trip   April  2013     Key  mystery:  the  source  of  water,  and  the  means  of  storing  it,  responsible  for  the   deadly  May  5,  2012  flood  disaster  along  the  Se2  River  in  Nepal.                                   Ini2al  and  widespread  assump2on:  glacial  lake  outburst  flood  (“GLOF”)  responsible    -­‐  later  ruled  out,  since  there  is  no  glacial  lake  in  the  basin    


Upper Se2  River  Basin  Research  Trip   April  2013     Using  satellite  observa2ons  before  and  aWer  the  flood  of  May  5,  2012,  and  based  on  a   helicopter-­‐borne  field  reconnaissance  a  couple  weeks  aWer  the  disaster,  Dr.  Jeffrey  Kargel,   along  with  Dr.  Dhananjay  Regmi,  establish  a  working  hypothesis  for  the  flood:      -­‐  rockfall  (perhaps  con2nuous)  into  a  deep  gorge  and  filling  of  the  gorge  during  the    couple  weeks  prior  to  the  disaster      -­‐  the  sudden  unleashing  of  the  naturally  dammed  reservoir  due  to  a  large  rock  and    glacier  ice  avalanche  on  the  morning  just  minutes  before  the  flood  

Hypothesis substan2ated  by   “Max’s  dust  cloud,”   May  5,  2012  


There is  a  deep  gorge  up  the  Se2  River  valley,  so  deep  and  steep  and  treacherous   that  “it  is  likely  no  one  had  ever  gone  by  ground  up  the  river  to  its  source  in  all  of   human  history”  -­‐-­‐Dr.  Jeffery  Kargel,  University  of  Arizona  


Kharapani, Nepal May 5, 2013


A few  guiding  ques2ons  for  me  in  Snow  River:     (1)  What  are  the  ethics  of  portraying  natural  disasters,   human  suffering  and  of  image-­‐making  more  broadly?   (2)  How  to  deal  with  an  “event”  or  the  past  in  a  present-­‐ centric  orienta2on  in  filmmaking?   (3)  How  to  bridge  the  par2culars  of  an  individual’s   experiences  with  the  universal  concerns  about   climate  change?  


In Gratitude to High Mountain Glacial Watershed Project Climber-Scientist Small Grants Program & USAID Dr. Alton Byers Dr. Jefferey Kargel Dr. Daene McKinney Dr. Greg Leonard Lana Lightle Keshari Pun Dr. Dhananjay Regmi Phul Maya Tamang Sensory Ethnography Lab Film Study Center at Harvard University

Stephanie Spray: Snow River film project, Nepal  

Slides for presentation given to High Mountains Adaptation Partnership in Huaraz, Peru on 13 July 2013.

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