UCLA Labor Center

Ethnographic Films

Ethnographic methodology can also be actualized through film.  The films below depicts the application of ethnography and a diverse range of topics.


Hollow, an interactive, participatory documentary that explores post-industrial small-town America through the voices and ideas of people living in McDowell County, W.Va., launched on June 20. The immersive, online experience combines video portraits, user-generated content, interactive data, grassroots mapping and soundscapes on an HTML5 site and an accompanying community tool.

Hollow, which is a Tribeca Film Institute New Media grantee, allows users to experience the stories of over 30 residents, captures user-input data and provides story updates to featured community members through an embedded WordPress site, Holler Home.

The story of McDowell County, West Virginia, is the story of America. Of boom and bust economies. Of small towns facing changes beyond their control. And of challenges and triumphs of every size. Experience this corner of America through the stories of over 30 residents who live here today.

 [youtube id=”4XhbgcKJsc8″]

The Weight of a Nation

An Emmy-nominated HBO Documentary Films series on obesity, “The Weight of the Nation,” premiered in May 2012. The four-part series—Consequences, Choices, Children in Crisis, and Challenges—highlighted several NIH research advances and addressed the factors contributing to the country’s obesity problem. In May 2013, HBO will air three films for youth and their families entitled “The Weight of the Nation for Kids.”

 Together, the films are the centerpiece to a public awareness campaign, which also includes 12 short films, a website and social media, and a nationwide community-based outreach effort using free film discussion guides and other tools.

[youtube id=”_wwwVOcOZOc”]

The Koyas

This award-winning ethnographic film in two parts made by Sathya Mohan deals with the nature-man interaction and the associated belief system. It examines the features of the environment and ecology in relation to the Koyas economic system – the interaction of productive forces and the natural resources. The economy, the social organization, the religion and the mythology of the Koyas are closely inter-related, inter-dependent and interacting. Each aspect of the nature-man interaction and the belief system attached to it, viewed as a whole – as a complex – gives the basic picture of the Koya culture. The basis of enormous diversity in the Indian cultural matrix lies in its varied ecological conditions. The interplay of nature and culture is implicit in the little traditions of the sub-continent. The Koya culture is unique in adapting itself to its natural setting.

[youtube id=”aByEyeZZIVY”]

[youtube id=”8LDd4wSUDNE”]