Films for Teaching

Showing films can be a great resource to help students learn about the wonders of anthropology and inspire students to pursue their own passion. Here are some films you might use:

Nanook of the North

One of the oldest anthropology documentaries, if not the oldest is this story of an Inuk man and his family in the Canadian Arctic. The film exposes a unique and fascinating culture in the north that includes harrowing travel, hunting for food, trade in the Ungava Peninsula, and a families struggle to survive it all.

There are pieces of life you can only see here, like building an igloo, hunting a walrus, and other things in the day of an Inuk that you can’t see anywhere else.


The Anthropologist

A modern day documentary looks at the effects of climate change on various indigenous communities. The film looks at two anthropologists specifically: Margaret Mead, who was responsible for popularizing cultural anthropology in the 20th century, and Susie Crate, an environmental anthropologist studying communities in the 21st century. The film explores humanity’s struggle to change and the reactions when change is forced. It weaves in a mother-daughter story between Susie and her daughter Katie that makes the whole thing a can’t-miss.

Dead Birds

Not that all of the films you watch need to be about very specific cultures in remote places, but this one is about the Dani people of New Guinea. This was produced back in the 1960s as part of the Harvard-Peabody Expedition to New Guinea. The plot centers on two characters, a warrior and a young boy, each representing a different side of the Dani people.

It does a great job of showing this culture and was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry in 1998.


Chronicle of a Summer

Already visited Paris, Rome, Berlin, Madrid and the other great cities of Europe? Looking for a truly unusual tourist spot?

This 1961 French documentary is almost a meta study of the documentary form in itself. It begins as a discussion about whether you can ever truly be real in a documentary before getting into the actual filming of people. At the end, there is a discussion with the people portrayed as to whether they were captured in a real way. It is all a fascinating discussion, maybe combining anthropology study with film study, and shows some nuance in French society.