The First Ethnographic Documentary? Luiz Thomaz Reis, the Rondon Commission and the Making of Rituais e Festas Bororo (1917)
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Although rarely mentioned in English-language texts, Rituais de Festas Bororo has long been acknowledged as a masterpiece of early ethnographic film in the French and Brazilian literature. Shot in 1916 by a Brazilian army officer, Luiz Thomaz Reis, and released in 1917, the film is mainly about the funeral ceremony of the Bororo, an indigenous people of Central Brazil. Here we contrast this work with other ethnographic films of the period and suggest that it has a strong claim to be seen as the first ethnographic documentary in the modern sense of the term. We also consider the political circumstances that led to the filming in this particular form, its status as an ethnographic account of the funeral, and its place in the personal filmography of Luiz Thomaz Reis.