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Professor Hugh Brody is an acclaimed anthropologist, filmmaker, and writer. For much of his life he has worked with Inuit communities in Canada. Language and maps have been tools he has used in his research with indigenous communities. His book, The People's Land, Inuit and Whites in the Eastern Arctic contextualized and framed the fur trade and relations between indigenous people and foreign traders. A later book Our Footprints are Everywhere helped sensitise outsider perceptions of the community of Labrador with regard land use and hunting. Maps and Dreams gave a voice to the Dunne-za and Cree see and understand their territories, became a classic of indigenous studies. Amongst his other books, The End of Eden encapsulates his life experiences with hunter-gatherers and through story telling attempts to analyse how hunter-gatherers perceive the world as opposed to farming communities and other cultures. This work is a seminal project that takes a very wide view of history and cultures, staying very close to his craft as an anthropologist and is based largely on his own fieldwork.
A filmography on Hugh Brody includes: -
• The People's Land: Eskimos of Pond Inlet – ITV: Granada, London, 1976 (research, collaboration with Mike Grigsby) 55 minutes.
• A Conemara Family – BBC: Bristol / London, 1980 (research, collaboration with Melissal Llewelyn-Davis) 58 minutes.
• Treaty 8 Country – Treaty 8 bands / National Film Board of Canada (NFB) Vancouver, 1981 (director, collaboration with Anne Cubitt) 44 minutes.
• People of the Islands – Channel 4: London, 1982 (director) 80 minutes.
• 1919 – British Film Institute: London 1985 (co-writer, director). 90 minutes.
• On Indian Land – GWTC: Hazelton, British Columbia / Channel 4: London, 1986 (co-producer, director) 54 minutes.
• England's Henry Moore – Channel 4: London, 1988 (director) 65 minutes.
• Hunters and Bombers – NFB: Montreal / Channel 4: London, 1990 (co-director) 56 minutes.
• Time Immemorial – Tamarack: Toronto / NFB: Montreal, 1991 (director) 61 minutes.
• A Washing of Tears – Nootka Sound & Picture Co./NFB: 1993 (director)
• Cosmic Africa – directed by Craig Foster, Aland Pictures, Cosmos Films, IDC South Africa, 2002 (co-writer)
• Inside Australia – Artemis Films International: 2004
• The Meaning of Life – HR Brody Ltd: 2008
He began this working with the San communities in South Africa in 1997. It was a decision which took him from indigenous communities living in cold areas to those in extremely hot areas. In an interview from the archive he describes why he took this decision,
“I went to the ‡Khomani San as the result of a set of the most strange coincidences. In 1996 I went to Cape Town researching languages, doing a project that has to with languages funded by the University of Toronto, that Ted Chamberlin had launched, a great idea.
I had wanted to go to the Arctic, but he said “no, no - you must go to somewhere you’ve never been, go to South Africa, look at languages in South Africa”. I went to South Africa, I was told that the person I should interview was Nigel Crawhall, the great expert on South African languages.
So I went to visit Nigel at his place in Hout Bay and interviewed him about South African languages, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and official language policy in South Africa and I went on and on asking him questions, and after about 45 minutes he said to me “are you the guy that did the land claims work in Canada?”
(interview Hugh Brody, July 11, 2012 from transcripts in the Brody Archive)
Tracks Across Sand, produced in 2012 is a DVD containing sixteen films (total 4.5 hours) made as a community project with the ‡Khomani San of the Southern Kalahari and in collaboration with Nigel Crawhall. Like much of Brody’s other work it has a strong relationship to maps, language and first peoples. The archive in general comprises mainly video film (140 hours) in various formats as well as digitized versions, audio cassettes, photographs (physical and digital), maps (physical and digital), documents (databases) and documents.