Trinh T. Minh-ha b. 1952
Duration: 10 minutes
Filmmaker, writer, poet, literary theorist, educator, musical composer, and (un/non)ethnographer, Trinh T. Minh-ha builds much of her work around the theme of the "other" (the persona one considers him/herself to be in relation to), challenging cultural theorists' traditional notions of the subject or/subjected duality. She performed three year's worth of ethnographic field research in West Africa the Research Expedition Program of the University of California, Berkeley. This fieldwork led in part to her first film, Reassemblage, which was filmed in Senegal and released in 1982.
Trinh's views on traditional ethnographic documentaries are hinted at in one of her voice-overs that occurs early in the film. She states: "I do not intend to speak about/Just speak near by." The film is a montage of fleeting images from Senegal and includes almost no narration, save for the occasional statements by Trinh, none of which attempt to assign meaning to the seconds-long scenes. Where one expects an omniscient, scientific voice to override the moving pictures in order to overlay a mapping schema of "meaning," there is sometimes music, sometimes no sound, sometimes Trinh assigning a reality or sign to the culture it hopes to "know" by viewing a movie, she refuses to make the film be "about" something, refuses to speak about the images, and denies the hopeful observer the opportunity to record, categorize, and save an("other") culture. The viewer is left with a sense of disorientation, in that no meaning was assigned to any of the images in the film, and yet the viewer's mind was constantly expecting such designations.