‘Fourth’ (indigenous) cinema is not ‘first’ (settler) cinema: Joanna Hearne, ‘Native to the Device: Thoughts on Digital Indigenous Studies’, Studies in American Indian Literatures, 29, 1, 2017, pp. 3-26


Excerpt: In studies of Indigenous film and video, the camera has been a powerful metaphor for Indigenous struggles over control of the image. This is articulated most vividly in Māori filmmaker Barry Barclay’s invocation of the camera’s contrapuntal position, embedded in the mechanics of shot / reverse shot, to characterize Indigenous and settler filmmaking in his seminal essay “Celebrating Fourth Cinema.” He imagines the settler perspective—“First Cinema”—represented by “the camera of the ship’s deck,” while an Indigenous perspective—“Fourth Cinema”—arises from the “camera ashore” (8–9). Barclay visualizes this staged encounter, from ship to shore, in terms of lines of sight—the eyeline match edit—and the politics of conquest. It is a metaphor with geographic specificity (in Aotearoa) that is also global, connecting lands, peoples, and representation through the articulated positionalities of encounter. Barclay applies it broadly, asserting that Fourth Cinema exists “outside the national orthodoxy” altogether while tracing the transnational heritage of dominant film storytelling to the originary scene of settler colonialism (9). He illustrates the camera of the ship’s deck with examples from the film Mutiny on the Bounty. To show the global relevance of his vision of the camera ashore, we might take up the example of Abenaki director Alanis Obomsawin’s 2002 documentary Is the Crown at War with Us?, in which we see home videos of Mi’gmaq tribal members’ confrontation with the Canadian federal fishery office over fishing rights in Miramichi Bay. From the shore, Mi’gmaq cameras capture evidence of Department of Fisheries and Oceans’ boats violently running over the much smaller boats of the Mi’gmaq fishers of Burnt Church, New Brunswick.

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