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158. Henry Glassie: Fieldwork; movie review

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Title : 158. Henry Glassie: Fieldwork; movie review
link : 158. Henry Glassie: Fieldwork; movie review

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Cert TBA
105 mins
BBFC advice: TBA

During the past decade, I have made a commitment to a couple of personal passion projects which take a substantial chunk out of my life.
Watching and reviewing thousands of films has demanded trips across the country as well as incalculable hours in cinemas.
My latest development is a review of golf courses which may well take Mrs W and me all over the world.
Some people have been complimentary about my dedication, others have simply told me that I am completely insane.
My labours of love, however, pale by comparison to those of Henry Glassie who has actually lived in foreign communities so he can write about their artistic traditions and folklores.
And I don't mean a few weeks immersed in each - I mean a few years.
For example, he lived in Northern Ireland at the height of The Troubles - not to write specifically about the conflict but more about how people continued to sing, dance and tell engaging stories.
Pat Collins has created a portrait of Glassie who is America's pre-eminent folklorist and ethnologist and is now 80 but speaks with sharpness and insight which belie his age.
When Glassie is on screen, the documentary is particularly engaging - especially his anecdotes about his time in a remote mountain village in Turkey and in Northern Ireland.
However, much of the movie is given over to artists from Brazil to England, carrying out their work.
In all honesty, while they are clearly brilliant at what they do, five-minute videos of sculptors, potters, metal-workers etc are not especially fascinating because they have no explanation.
That is a pity - because Glassie could have provided a comprehensive description of what is being shown. 
After all, that is what he has done in books for nearly 50 years. 
I felt a bit deprived despite extending my knowledge by hearing about his career between shots of the artists.

Reasons to watch: Some great artwork
Reasons to avoid: Quite academic

Laughs: None
Jumps: None
Vomit: None
Nudity: None
Overall rating: 6/10

Did you know? 
Henry Glassie received a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1972. He is also a former president of the American Folklore Society and the Vernacular Architecture Forum. Glassie is married to fellow folklorist Pravina Shukla, clothing and adornment specialist, and has four children and four grandchildren.

The final word. Pat Collins: "Glassie is one of the most articulate and thought-provoking people I've ever met. His engagement with his material and with the artists he stands with, and his philosophical outlook, were all things that spoke to me directly."

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