Ngat is Dead


What do anthropologists mean when they claim to study the cultural traditions of others by participating in them? This film follows the Dutch anthropologist Ton Otto, who has been adopted by a family on Baluan Island in Papua New Guinea. Due to the death of his adoptive father, he has to take part in mortuary ceremonies, whose form and content are passionately contested by different groups of relatives. Through prolonged negotiations, Ton learns how Baluan people perform and transform their traditions and not least what role he plays himself. The film is part of long-term field research, in which filmmaking has become integrated in the ongoing dialogue and exchange between the islanders and the anthropologist.

“Straddling the permeable genres of ethnographic, participatory, and narrator-driven documentary, this one-hour DVD will be an extremely useful teaching resource. It presents anthropological insights prompted by filmmaking grounded in long-term familiarity and involvement with a community. It also demonstrates the benefits of an anthropologically trained film crew. … As an ethnographic film that demonstrates the value and developing insights of long-term fieldwork,this is excellent.” — Mike Poltorak, University of Kent, Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, Volume 16, Issue 4, December 2010

Awarded with “Prix du PATRIMOINE CULTUREL IMMATÉRIEL” Jean Rouch International Film Festival, Paris 2008.

Screened also at:

• Freiburger Film Forum, Germany, 2009
• Royal Anthropological Institute International Festival of Ethnographic Film, Leeds, England, 2009
• “Prix du Patrimoine Culturel Immatériel”, Jean Rouch International Film Festival, Paris, 2008
• Beeld voor Beeld, Bogotá, Colombia, 2008
• DIEFF, Delhi International Ethnographic Film Festival, Delhi, India, 2008
• 13th Mostra Internacional do Filme Etnográfico, Brazil, 2008
• IV Moscow International Visual Anthropology Festival, Russia, 2008
• VISCULT 2008: The Festival of Visual Culture, Finland, 2008
• SIEFF, Sardinia International Ethnographic Film Festival, Nuoro, Italy, 2008
• XXII Pärnu International Film Festival, Estonia, 2008
• Beeld voor Beeld, Amsterdam, 2008
• Days of Ethnographic Film, Ljubljana, Slovenia, 2008
• Worldfilm: Tartu Festival of Visual Culture, Estonia, 2008
• BILAN, Jean Rouch International Film Festival, Paris, 2008
• The International Ethnographic Film Festival of Quebec, Canada, 2008
• XVI International Festival of Ethnological Film in Belgrade, Serbia, 2007
• TIEFF, Taiwan International Ethnographic Film Festival, Taipei, Taiwan, 2007
• NAFA, Nordic Anthropological Film Festival in Trondheim, Norway, 2007


Christian Suhr is a filmmaker and assistant professor at the Department of Anthropology, Aarhus University. He is the editor of the book “Transcultural Montage” (2013) and the director of the award-winning films “Descending with Angels” (Denmark 2013), “Unity through Culture” (Papua New Guinea 2011), as well as “Want a Camel, Yes?” (Egypt 2005). He is the author of a number of articles dealing with visual anthropology, spirit possession, and psychiatry.

Ton Otto, born in the Netherlands, is Professor of Anthropology at the University of Aarhus. He has conducted fieldwork in Papua New Guinea since 1986 with a focus on issues of social and cultural change. Since his first fieldwork he has used video as part of his research and teaching but also as a means of exchange with the people he collaborates with in his studies. This is his first film intended for a wider public.

Steffen Dalsgaard is Associate Professor at the IT University, Copenhagen. His studies revolve around leadership, the state, exchange, ownership and tradition with a regional focus on Melanesia and Papua New Guinea. Steffen has previously worked as consultant for ethnographic exhibitions at Moesgaard Museum. Ngat is Dead is his first film.


Project Details

Year: 2009
Filmmaker(s): Christian Suhr, Ton Otto and Steffen Dalsgaard
Distribution: Documentary Educational Resources (DER, Watertown)
Royal Anthropological Institute
Running time: 59 min