AVA 2021- Official Selection

Below you will find the Official Selection of the AVA 2021 Award for Best Visual Ethnographic Material Addressing Ageing and the Life Course, in two categories (Film and Multimodal). The entries are listed according to the winning positions. Click on on the titles to find out more about each work and to read comments of the jury.

The AVA Award is a collaborative effort of the EASA’s Age and Generations Network, Association for Gerontology, Aging and the Life Course and EASA’s Visual Anthropology Network and was launched during the AGENET Slow Conference 2021. The 2021 edition has been financially sponsored by the EASA funds for Network Activities. To learn more about the Award, click here.


Winner (ex aequo)

TITLE: ben jij bij mij/are you with me (2021, 46 minutes)

DIRECTOR: Mark Lindenberg and Sophia van Ghesel Grothe

ABSTRACT: The documentary ‘ben jij bij mij/are you with me’ portrays Joke van den Broek (92 years), an imaginative woman living in the Netherlands. She used to work as a primary school teacher, and is a real story teller who sees a silver lining in everything. Joke still lives at home and can handle that just fine. Nevertheless, she has to outsource more and more tasks. She doesn’t want to know anything about this. Or… has she perhaps forgotten that she can do less and less? She takes us, as film-makers and family, along with her experiences over the course of three years. Joke needs to rediscover herself, without her (hi)story and familiar surroundings. There are moments of confusion in the nursing home when her vision and memories become blurry, and there are moments of light when loving family and nature are around her. Without her story, but with proper attention and care, Joke is as wise as ever and teaches us about accepting getting older. Earlier versions of the documentary have been shown in a masterclass for elder care nurses in Amsterdam to provide an insight into an experience of living with Alzheimer’s disease.

BIO: This project is the first big collaboration between Mark Lindenberg and Sophia van Ghesel Grothe. Mark graduated from the film academy in Amsterdam in 2013, specializing in cinematography, and has worked in the film world ever since. He started studying anthropology and development sociology, specializing in visual anthropology, in 2019 out of the desire to independently make documentaries. Mark’s graduation film, which portrays an Amazonian family communicating with plants to help their clients heal, has been screened at film festivals around the world. Sophia graduated in interdisciplinary neuroscience, and psychology. She works as a psychologist, and has a wish to integrate art, science and healing further, also by making films. Under the guidance of an anthropologist and a philosopher, she graduated on how her grandmother can still have a world despite having Alzheimer’s disease. Her grandmother no longer recognizes her cognitively, but their interaction shows that Joke and Sophia have had a loving bond for years. Her grandmother’s experience, or world, is not only in her brain, but in her body: in the way she holds her hand, and teaches.

Winner (ex aequo)

TITLE: This is My Face: What lies inside a journey with HIV (2018, 57 minutes)

DIRECTOR: Angélica Cabezas Pino

ABSTRACT: In Chile, people living with HIV fear stigma, and often conceal their condition and remain silent about what they are going through. ‘This is My Face (Esta es Mi Cara)’ explores what happens when men living with the virus open up about the illness that changed their life trajectories. It follows a creative process whereby they produce photographic portraits that represent their memories and feelings, challenging years of silence, shame, and misrepresentation. ‘This is My Face’ reveals a sense-making process across generations, which has been only known to those who deal with an illness that radically change lives. A lesson in the power of collaborative storytelling.

AWARDS: Best Practice Research portfolio (Moving Image) by the British Association of Film, Television and Screen Studies; Best International Documentary Feature at the OUTFLIX Film Festival; Special Commendation for the Richard Werbner Award by the Royal Anthropological Institute Film Festival

BIO: Angélica Cabezas Pino is currently an ESRC postdoc at the University of Sussex. She is a visual anthropologist and documentary filmmaker whose practice and research focus is on the exploration of intimate sense-making processes, through the use of collaborative visual methods. She has conducted research with people living with HIV in Chile, queer communities in the UK and refugee women in Bangladesh, Jordan and the UK. Angelica received a PhD in Anthropology, Media and Performance from The University of Manchester and prior to this, she completed an MPhil in Ethnographic Documentary at the same university. She studied Social Communication at the Pontifical Catholic University in Chile, and Documentary Filmmaking at the International School of Cinema San Antonio de los Baños, Cuba. She has worked for universities in the UK and Chile, and for international institutions, such as UN Women and UNAIDS. Her research has been presented at international conferences and film festivals across the globe.


TITLE: Half Elf (2020, 64 minutes)

DIRECTOR: Jón Bjarki Magnússon

ABSTRACT: A lighthouse keeper prepares his earthly funeral while trying to reconnect the elf within. Hulda and Trausti have shared a roof on Icelandic shores for over seventy years. Her love of books is matched by his love of stones. When he bursts out singing, she begs him to stop screaming, when he tells her he wants to change his name to “Elf” she warns his family will abandon him. Now, as his one hundredth birthday nears and Trausti senses the hand of death upon him he is on a quest to find the coffin that can carry this elf back to the mysteries beyond…. Meanwhile, Hulda retreats into a world of poetry with the help of an electric magnifying glass. ‘Half Elf’ is a modern Icelandic fairy-tale, where life is celebrated – despite everything, despite ourselves and despite the reality that awaits all of us in the end.

BIO: Jón Bjarki Magnússon is a filmmaker with background in journalism and poetry, interested in making anthropological and/or experimental films rooted in and around the intersection between play, performance and the real. He studied creative writing at the University of Iceland (2012) and received his MA in Visual and Media Anthropology from Freie Universität, Berlin, in 2018. His journalistic work has appeared on various Icelandic and international media platforms over the last decade and won him several prizes such as “The Icelandic Journalist of Year”, by the Union of Icelandic Journalists (2014). Magnússon currently does project work for Filmmaking For Fieldwork (F4F™), an educational project offering training in audio-visual research methods, ethnographic and documentary filmmaking, and is the co-founder of SKAK bíófilm, a small Icelandic production company invested in ethnographic filmmaking. His films have been selected for competition at key European film festivals, such as Docslisboa, Nordisk Panorama, and Tromsö International Film Festival. His short film on friendship in cyberspace, Even Asteroids Are Not Alone (2018), was awarded Royal Anthropological Institute´s (RAI) & Marsh Short Film Prize for ‘the most outstanding short film on social, cultural and biological anthropology or archaeology’ in 2019, and his feature observational film about the life and death of his aging grandparents, Half Elf (2020), was nominated for The Icelandic Film & Television Academy Award as the best Icelandic documentary of 2020 and won the Grand Jury Prize at the Icelandic Documentary Film Festival (Skjaldborg) in 2020.


TITLE: Kashi Labh (2021, 43 minutes)

DIRECTOR: Rajat Nayyar

ABSTRACT: Kashi Labh is a sensory audiovisual ethnography of the distinctive politics-of-care staged by families while they anticipate and create the possibility of Moksha for their dying relative in Kashi (Varanasi). This research examines audiovisual ethnography as it facilitates a performative space that allowed me and my interlocutor Shiv to navigate the holy city and improvise different possibilities for his mother’s Moksha during his ten-day stay in Kashi.

BIO: Rajat is a SSHRC Vanier scholar and PhD candidate in Theatre at York University where he is researching voice, vocal traditions, activism across the life-course and end-of-life care. He previously earned his MA Anthropology (Audiovisual Ethnography) from Tallinn University and has been working on decolonizing research methodologies. Rajat’s recent chapter Staging Care: Dying, Death, and Possible Futures builds upon his MA thesis/film Kashi Labh (published in Journal of Anthropological Films) and examines how audiovisual ethnography might facilitate an activism that is grounded in care and staged as performances of the possible. As the co-founder of Emergent Futures CoLab (EFC), he is currently curating Talking Uncertainty, an online talk series and podcast that features researchers, artists and practitioners who are working on collaborative projects that speculate emergent futures in times of radical uncertainty. 


TITLE: Let me hug you! (2021, 34 minutes)

DIRECTOR: Julian David Loaiza Pineda

ABSTRACT: In the Arctic city of Tromsø, three magnificent women of different ages and backgrounds unfold their intimate lives explaining how they are trying to find and make their place in the world. Sunniva, a 31-year-old Norwegian woman, Magalí, a 36-year-old Argentinian woman, and Tove, an 85- year-old Norwegian woman, share their dreams, passions, and uncertainties, that is, sensitive aspects related to their age and maturity. Their lives are very different, but at the same time very similar. Though having different hopes, they have in common their desire to embrace life and love.

BIO: Julian David Loaiza Pineda has Masters in Anthropology and Ethnography in the University of Barcelona and Masters in Visual Anthropology in the University of Tromsø – the Arctic University of Norway. He is experimenting with the video camera as a means of research and representation. Through an intimate approach, he tries to discover the simple, but at the same time, the spectacular in people.



TITLE: Discoveries – ASSA Project


LINK: Discoveries – ASSA Project

ABSTRACT: Through the ‘Discoveries’ pages, which are part of the The Anthropology of Smartphones and Smart Ageing (ASSA) Project, we endeavour to demonstrate a multi-modal approach to disseminating research into the contemporary nature of age and the impact of new media in an accessible format, combining text with visuals ranging from short films to comic book style illustrations. The main ‘Discoveries’ page features 12 core findings which range from the smartphone’s role as a tool that facilitates both care and surveillance (especially in contexts of care for the elderly) to an explanation of how the device has impacted intergenerational relations.

Our approach was unusual in firstly targeting those who do not define themselves by age, as neither young nor elderly, secondly through focusing upon the impact of smartphones upon these populations, and thirdly because of our comparative perspective across ten fieldsites around the world. This allowed us to contrast, for example, our Palestinian fieldsite, where people retain the cultural categories of seniority and change clothing and demeanour accordingly to field sites in São Paulo and Dublin, where people today mainly feel continuity with their youth right into their 60s, 70s, or sometimes even 90s. Instead of biological age, what matters is frailty since it is the experience of becoming frail that constitutes the sense of having aged. In several sites including Japan, we found that smartphones are becoming central to the organisation of care for frail older adults, especially when families are geographically dispersed. There are equally dramatic differences in the impact of retirement. For example, in Shanghai, a generation that lived through the Cultural Revolution consider in retirement all that they had missed out on in youth. In all fieldsites smartphones are becoming as much a place within which we live as a device we use, and therefore they are also key to understanding how we age.

PROJECT CONTRIBUTORS: The Anthropology of Smartphones and Smart Ageing (ASSA) is a multi-sited research project based at UCL Anthropology, primarily funded by the European Research Council (ERC). The project employs a team of 11 researchers who conducted simultaneous 16-month ethnographies in Al-Quds (East Jerusalem) (Maya de Vries and Laila Abed Rabho), Brazil (Marilia Duque), Cameroon (Patrick Awondo), Chile (Alfonso Otaegui), China (Xinyuan Wang), Ireland (Daniel Miller and Pauline Garvey), Italy (Shireen Walton), Japan (Laura Haapio-Kirk), and Uganda (Charlotte Hawkins). Launched in October 2017, the fieldwork took place between February 2018 and June 2019. This collaborative five-year project is based on a comparative analysis of the impact of the smartphone on the experience of mid-to-later-life around the world and considers the implications for the use of smartphones in the fields of health and care.

High Commendation

TITLE: The Resemblage Project

AUTHORS: Andrea Charise and the Team

LINK: THE RESEMBLAGE PROJECT – Remixing Scarborough’s Stories of Aging

ABSTRACT: The Resemblage Project is a digital intergenerational storytelling initiative based in Scarborough, located in the eastern part of the city of Toronto, Canada. Responding to the need for stories of aging that reflect profound difference, while sensing in distinct aging experiences the possibility of shared collective action, The Resemblage Project is a community-facing digital multimedia initiative dedicated to inviting, assembling, and imaginatively re-presenting stories of aging. First launched in June 2019, and significantly updated in Spring 2021, The Resemblage Project is dedicated to exploring aging as and in terms of intersectionality and assemblage by involving students, scholars, artists, activists, and community members from across the city—and across the life course—who are imaginatively exploring what it means to grow older in Canada. The project logo recapitulates this project’s major concerns: the final three letters, “AGE,” are situated on the threshold of the logo’s inner and outer boundaries; while older age and ageing is similarly left on the fringes of society, The Resemblage Project aims to bring age back into the common fold of thought. The choice of font, known as “Toronto Subway,” deliberately evokes Toronto’s city transit infrastructure, thereby situating this particular intergenerational storytelling work within a particular national and civic context—and the decades-long controversy regarding inequitable access to public transit that has long been part of Scarborough’s deeply racialized and socioeconomic marginalization within the “Greater Toronto Area.” Heeding the call of Audre Lorde’s insight that “The quality of light by which we scrutinize our lives has direct bearing upon the product which we live, and upon the changes we hope to bring about through those lives,” The Resemblage Project signals an ongoing commitment to changing the quality of light by which we view aging–and each other–across generational selves.

PROJECT CONTRIBUTORS: The Resemblage Project has benefited greatly from the labour, creativity, and generous contributions of a number of individuals: ranging from our storytellers, to technically-skilled collaborators, to friends and colleagues who offered guidance of many kinds.The assemblage of stories, writing, work and labour you find here has been a truly collective and emergent effort: now, and in the future developments of our intergenerational storytelling work. Andrea Charise conceived of, led, and coordinated The Resemblage Project as a result of receiving the inaugural Jackman Humanities Institute Digital Scholars Fellowship in 2017. As Project Manager and Research Assistant, Celeste Pang coordinated The Resemblage Project, provided inspiration for our work, and supported each team member thoughtfully and with kindness. For a full description of our project team, storytellers, and contributors, see https://resemblageproject.ca/credits/  and https://resemblageproject.ca/who-we-are/.


TITLE: Ageing (Im)mobilities and Imagination: The story of Avó Marta caring for family across borders

AUTORS: Victoria Sakti and Alvaro Martinez

LINK: click here to see the project and listen to Avó Marta’s song

ABSTRACT: This project is a collaboration between two anthropologists interested in visualising ethnographic material. It illustrates an interview with Avó Marta, an East Timorese great-grandmother, and her family in Kupang, Indonesia. They arrived as refugees when massive violence broke out in Timor-Leste (formerly East Timor) following the territory’s separation from Indonesia in 1999. The Indonesian 24-year occupation resulted in significant human loss and separated families that had stood or fought on opposing sides of the political conflict. Today, tens of thousands of East Timorese people live in former refugee camps and resettlements sites in Indonesia. Their everyday living conditions are marked by uncertainty, poverty and social exclusion. Many of those who chose not to return to Timor-Leste are growing older away from their homeland, and in exile.

This infographic tells the story of Avó Marta and how she perceived her later life in displacement. She spoke of longing for family members she had ‘left behind’ and, equally, those she cared for in the new settlement. The project depicts how she dealt with difficult circumstances through the forces of family, memories and imaginaries, and rituals of care for ancestors from afar.  

For more on this story and the topic of ageing in displacement, see this article.

BIO: Victoria Sakti is an anthropologist and postdoctoral research fellow at the Research Group ‘Ageing in a Time of Mobility’ based at the Max Planck Institute for the Study of Religious and Ethnic Diversity, Germany. She obtained her PhD in Social and Cultural Anthropology at the Freie Universität Berlin. Her research interests are at the intersections of ageing and forced migration in the global South; emotion, memory and violence; mental health and wellbeing, and translocal (im)mobilities. Victoria’s current research project examines experiences of ageing in displacement among older East Timorese people and in relation to kinship and social bonds in Indonesia and Timor-Leste, where she has conducted research since 2010. Her experience working with displaced communities and survivors of violence span beyond academia, working on these issues since 2004 with various non-governmental organisations and through her activism work in Indonesia and Germany.

Alvaro Martinez studied Social and Cultural Anthropology at the Catholic University of Bolivia and trained as a visual artist in various courses and artistic residencies. As an anthropologist he conducted research among the Aymara healers in the city of La Paz focused on the use of images and symbols as methods of diagnosis and healing of soul illnesses. His career as a visual artist ranges from the illustration of a graphic novel, character design, toy design, illustration of children’s and educational texts, animation, painting, photography, graphic design and video. His work has been published and exhibited at the Universidad Mayor de San Andrés, the International Book Fair of La Paz, the Maxim Gorky Theater in Berlin and the Urban Spree Gallery in Berlin among many others.  He is currently working on the combination of visual art and anthropological research.


TITLE: Breaking Tezcatlipoca

AUTHOR: José Sherwood González

LINK: Breaking Tezcatlipoca

ABSTRACT: Breaking Tezcatlipoca explores storytelling as a phenomenon in and of itself. As a graphic ethnography of Mexican family myths, this comic book is an overview of the stories about Sherwood Gonzalez’s great-grandparents and the multiple ways in which his family members conceptualise memory and perceive reality through intergenerational storytelling. Produced by Sherwood González, this project is reflexive in the way that it seeks to explore different conceptions and perceptions of how we remember and fictionalise our ancestors and how the affordances of the comics medium can trace graphic lineages from Mesoamerican codices to twentieth century comics about superheroes.  

Engaging with Mexican visuality, this comic applies an iconological lens to Tezcatlipoca, the Aztec Lord of the Smoking Mirror (Baquedano 2014; Olivier 2008) and uses drawing as a strategy to render visible a more ephemeral way of knowing; a mode of being for Mexicans that Sherwood Gonzalez’ grandfather and visual artist describes as a way of living with uncertainty. Sketching storytellers as calaveras (skulls) and luchadores (wrestlers), the complex and multiplicitous processes of memory are laid onto the page; allowing the reader to work through the complexities encountered within intergenerational storytelling at their own pace.

BIO: José Sherwood González is a British Mexican comics artist and visual anthropologist with research interests in memory, storytelling and multi-perspectival myth-making through visual, sensory and digital methods. Since 2014, he has worked in Mexico City, investigating the ways in which families create and embody myths through storytelling. A recent graduate from the MA in Visual Anthropology at the Granada Centre for Visual Anthropology, José is currently pursuing a PhD in collaboration with SODA and FutureEverything on Mesoamerican Futurisms, a project which applies extended reality (XR) as a shapeshifting methodology to cultivate human (and more-than-human) transformations in Mexico City.