Bushmen in the Kalahari {Buschmänner in der Kalahari} (1907-1909) rushes – Rudolf Pöch *

A San man speaks and laughs with the person behind the camera, presumably Rudolf Pöch himself

30 mins., b&w, silent

Source : Filmarchiv Austria

These are the rushes from Rudolf Pöch‘s expedition to southern Africa. Notwithstanding the formal title in the archive catalogue, they appear all to have been shot in 1908, in what is now Namibia and northern Botswana. They include not only more extended versions of the circular dance and technical process sequences extracted by Paul Spindler for his 1959 film of the same name, but also the original silent footage that appears in  Buschmann spricht in den Phonographen post-synchronised in 1984.

These rushes  also include some additional sequences that Spindler seemingly thought did not merit inclusion in his edited film. These include a shot of one of his subjects looking directly into the camera, smiling, laughing and apparently speaking to Pöch, perhaps the most intimate shot in all of his fieldwork (see above).

There are also two interesting shots of a boy running into the bush and back up to the camera, and finally, several shots of Pöch’s assistants wrangling the oxen that pulled his supply cart, which although of limited ethnographicness are the most cinematically striking shots in the rushes.

It seems likely that Spindler would have excluded these shots because they were all in some sense reflexive, and therefore in conflict with 1950s ideas about the need for ethnographic film to be ‘scientific’ and ‘objective’.

Text : Spindler 1974


© 2018 Paul Henley