Under the Men's Tree

David MacDougall
1974
15 minutes

 

A group of men, cattle herdsmen of the Jie tribe in North Eastern Uganda, are in the habit of sitting under a large tree in the hottest hours of the day.This is an opportunity for small talk, the making of tools or simply sleep. This particular day the men discuss a problem concerning space and time. The conversations is on an abstract level, and seems to be an application of Einstein's theory of relativity: How is it possible, a doubting Jie wonders, that a car can go so fast that it can be in Nairobi before a camel starting at the same time. Another, who has been around, does not find this very strange, and tries in different ways to describe the relativity of speed and the power residing in the motor of a car. The others have difficulty believing him.After a while the conversation moves to erotic jokes concerning one of the man's latest conquests. How can he escape the husband of his mistress when his leg is in such a bad shape? Will he not be caught and severely beaten if discovered? The men shake with laughter at the thought, while the culprit is indignant - but in good humour after all, as the story bears witness of his virility.This simple film, now an ethnographic classic, prepared the way for the modern ethnographic film. There is no narrator. The men are captured in the middle of their daily chores. Their dialogue is translated in the form of subtitles. The spectator feels a sense of familiarity and that he is present in the group.

Producer / Production company: 
David MacDogall
Africa: