Visual anthropology is deliberately interactive since creating anthropological films is rather research-through-communication than directors self-realisation. This implies entering into another cultural world organised by certain rules, or the opposite movement-going out to the outer world from the circle of ethnically limited consciousness. Everything depends on the one who takes the camera. The communicative nature of visual anthropology continues on the next step during the demonstration of film, its discussion among the viewers, and at master classes for students and broader audience.
The quality and level of filming depend on how a visual anthropologist understands the essence of his responsibility, how he masters his camera skills, on his knowledge of culture he is entering, his feelings and its interpretations in his creativity. All the further actions finally aiming at the cinematographic dialogue of cultures would be determined by his understanding of his mediating role. One may speak and write about visual anthropology, but it is impossible to avoid showing films. The brightest and most effective means to present visual anthropology are festivals where viewers may engage in a dialogue not only with the screen, but also with the authors of films. This communication is especially important for those who plan to use screen materials in their work. Combining usual festival forms with the forms of academic communication (seminars, master classes, conference) makes this communication especially productive.
Festivals of visual anthropology already have quite a long history in many countries. There are about 30 festivals only in Europe. One of the oldest festivals—in Paris—has recently celebrated its 25th anniversary. During the past decade new festivals were established in Eastern Europe, China, India, etc. Visual anthropology development brings hopes to foster mutual understanding now in the atmosphere of increasing national and religious conflicts.
The Moscow International Festival-biennale of Visual Anthropology was first held in 2002.
Unlike older festivals, the young Moscow festival sets the goal to introduce mass audience to visual anthropology. Thus, much attention is paid to the popularisation of ideas and materials of visual anthropology, to analysis of its socio-cultural prospects.
In recent years visual anthropologists worldwide accumulated large archives which may be successfully used in education, research, press. Its potentials are not yet fully evaluated. That is why promoting visual anthropology in the academic and humanitarian audience is so pivotal.
First two Moscow festivals had mottoes Dialogue of Other Worlds (2002) and Tradition and Object(ive) Lens. In Search of Integrity (2004). The first festival aimed at showing diversity and beauty of the worlds cultural palette, reveal the deep unity of seemingly alienated peoples. The second attempted to underline the importance of traditional sources of cultures, the necessity to preserve them.
These tasks also remained actual for the third festival. But most of attention was drawn to the key problem of visual anthropology-the position of the person with camera, whom representatives of one culture entrust with forming its image for representatives of other cultures.
That is why the III Moscow Festival (2006) was entitled Mediating Camera.
Films, discussions, seminars and conference during the Festival emphasise the humanitarian potential of traditions of organic human existence in various natural and social conditions; the responsibility of a man with camera allowed to enter the life of community; the awareness of the aim to form the image of the specific culture, to perform cultural dialogue; the necessity to produce new approaches to presenting contemporary life, including the life of indigenous peoples.
We decided to keep the title Mediating Camera for all subsequent Moscow festivals and conferences.