The Newsletter 58 Autumn 2011

Upward and downward mobility through migration: responses to an anthropological documentary on Indian youngsters in London

Mario RuttenSanderien VerstappenIsabelle Makay

Documentary films reveal and conceal. They are truthful without necessarily telling the truth. A film always shows just a slice of reality, and is the product of choices made by the main characters (who reveal certain aspects of their lives on camera) and the filmmakers (who select segments of these revelations to construct a story). When the film is screened, the question is how the main characters, and other audiences, will then decode the narrative. Do they experience the result as truthful? What strikes them as significant and meaningful in the film, and how does this further our understanding of social reality? The anthropological documentary ‘Living Like a Common Man’ (2011), which traces the lives of Indian youngsters who recently migrated to London, was shown to a varied selection of audiences in India and Europe, including the main characters. This article discusses their reactions, recorded by the filmmakers for further study.

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