Paper presented at Online-Workshop »Re-activating old film reels – Debating methodologies of collaborative restitution of archival film« @ Frobenius-Institute, Frankfurt

Reassembling Image and Sound: On the Post-Synchronization of Film Documents from Kiribati

Wolfgang Kempf (University of Göttingen)

A little more than ten years ago, 70 ethnographic film documents that the German ethnologist Dr. Gerd Koch had shot on the atolls of Tabiteuea, Nonouti and Onotoa between 1963–64 were repatriated to Kiribati in digitized form (DVD) (see: https://oceania.uni-goettingen.de/film-documents-officially-presented/). Among the 70 film documents were a total of 7 short ethnographic films that Dr. Koch had assigned to the category “dances”. These were films of about 3–4 minutes in length, which, like all other film documents, had been recorded without synchronous sound and, according to the standards of the IWF Göttingen at that time, had been published as silent films. Especially when viewing the films documenting music and dance, many I-Kiribati expressed their irritation at the absence of sound. At the same time, it was known that Dr. Koch, on behalf of the ethnomusicological department of the Museum für Völkerkunde in Berlin, had made tape recordings during his research and had left a tape recorder running while making the films in question. This opened up the possibility, specifically for the dance films, of exploring the subsequent creation of a synchronicity between image and sound by comparing film and sound recordings. This paper is about the challenges and experiences related to the post-synchronization of two film documents from Dr. Koch’s Kiribati collection, published in the Encyclopedia Cinematographica as E 917 and E 919. The focus is on the process of reassembling silent films about Kiribati dances and their accompanying tape recordings and editing them as sound films.

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Online-Workshop: Re-activating old film reels – Debating methodologies of collaborative restitution of archival films