Close Encounters of No Kind
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by Jayasinhji Jhala
color, 60 min, 2002
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Close Encounters of No Kind follows the Rabari, camel and sheep herders of Saurastra, India. Their nomadic lifestyle requires them to move herds of sheep and camels across the Saurastrian landscape to seek grazing and water. This practice has been going on for hundreds of years and during that time the Rabari have developed close working relationships with many groups and deeply adverse relations with other groups. Traveling with the Rabari through the region of Jhalavad for a period of two months as they drift eastwards on their out migration, the film consists of a series of conversations with different caste groups about the Rabari way of life and their relations with the Rabari.
It is a culture of tension and distrust; all of the interdependent caste groups are wary of the Rabari and of each other. While there are no actual encounters between the groups in the film, they accuse each other of inappropriate conduct and irresponsible character in their conversations with the filmmaker. He is not spared either; they accuse him of profiteering from this filmic exploration. This film is then a traverse of two landscapes: the physical arid region of Jhalavad and the internal and imagined world of Rabari intercaste relations with Hindu and Muslims castes who are their partners in life.
The film addresses issues related to social relations, pastoralism, ecology and land resource management. It would be useful for ethnographic and documentary film classes where the approach for conversational engagement as a tool for understanding social dynamics is prioritized and where new presentation of subtitling to differentiate different voices in group conversations is presented.
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