Ethnographic spectacle with audience
A dance scene shot on the island of New Guinea presents cinema audiences back home with dubbed chanting and surrogate spectators.
This clip shows an excerpt from one of two dance sequences featured in Colin Ross’s Achtung Australien! Achtung Asien! (1930). Native dance is one of the standard tropes of the travel film: it combines the spectacle of collective performance with the promise of displaying authentic customs. Typically, the framing in this scene stresses both collective movement (getting a line of drummers into the frame) and the elaborate costumes (see the framing of feather headgear). The presentation is not as frontal as in the other extended dance sequence in the film (see: Staging an encounter), but the notion of spectacle—of putting on a show—is stressed by the prominent place that Lisa, Ralph, and Renate Ross, perched above the dancers to have a better view, occupy in the editing of the scene.
Such internal spectators populated scenes of native dance ever since the turn of the century, mirroring cinema audiences watching the film.1 The Ross family is not just any audience, of course. They are the protagonists of this film. Their presence in the image guarantees their presence in this New Guinean village. The accuracy of the music, on the other hand, is a matter of trust. The film was shot silent and dubbed by the Rosses in Berlin. Both the chanting and the family’s placement in the scene contribute to the impression of “immediacy” that Colin Ross explained he was going for with this film (see: Riding along with Colin Ross).
Colin Ross. Australien - Indien - Neuguinea - Neuseeland [archive title]
[Excerpt from] Colin Ross. Achtung Australien! Achtung Asien! Das Doppelgesicht des Ostens. Germany: Ufa/Ullstein; 1930.
reel 2: 35mm | b&w | sound | 522m | 19’
Master: 0001-01-0926_Australien_ROSS_Colin_XY_Omnimago_2016_h264_2048x1768_AAC_24fps, 0:20:47,12-0:21:44,03
Case: Oceania-Asia trip 1928-30
New Guinea 3
1 See: Alison Griffiths. “The world within your reach”. In: Wondrous difference. Cinema, anthropology, and turn-of-the-century visual culture. New York-Chichester: Columbia University Press; 2002, p. 181–2.