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Oh, What a Blow That Phantom Gave Me! returns Edmund Carpenter's visionary work to the center of visual anthropology and media ecology. A maverick who explored the borderlands between ethnography and media over fifty years, Carpenter looked at the revolutionary impact of film and photography on tribal peoples. He opened the Pandora's box of electronic media with delight and horror, embracing it even as he recoiled from its omnipotence. The documentary dives into the tensions between art and anthropology, film and culture. Using extensive interviews with Carpenter and footage from his fieldwork, the film evokes the insights and ironies of his classic book of the same name. He comments on his wide-ranging fieldwork in the Canadian Arctic and Papua New Guinea, concepts of authenticity and truth in media and art, the relationship between anthropology and surrealism, and the impossibility of preserving culture. Much of the film is built around his 1969-70 New Guinea footage, never seen before, which includes a riveting scene of an Upper Sepik River tribal initiation in which a crocodile skin pattern is cut into the initiate's skin. Coinciding with the current McLuhan renaissance, Carpenter is now being claimed as a pioneer in the emerging field of Media Ecology, and his once-exotic ideas about electronic media seem perfectly obvious in light of the World Wide Web. It captures that moment in anthropology when exploring the many ways media transform cultures was fresh and alive and hold promise for a new generation.

A 54 minute color program on DVD with these additional features--

  • Chapters
  • 30 minute short version
  • Complete text of the book Oh, What a Blow That Phantom Gave Me!
  • Annotated film transcript
  • Article Edmund Carpenter:Explorations In Media & Anthropology by Harald Prins & John Bishop
  • Article about the gathering that led to making the film by Bunny McBride
  • 1998 interview with Edmund Carpenter by Harald Prins
featured at
Beeld voor Beeld Ethnographic Film Festival (Amsterdam 2003)
Royal Anthropology Institute Film Festival (Durham 2003)
American Anthropology Association (Chicago 2003)
Taiwan International Ethnographic Film Festival (Taipai 2003)
forumdoc.bh.2003 – 7th Documentary and Ethnographic Film Festival of Belo Horizonte - Brazil (2003)
Media Ecology Conference, New York (2003)
7th Göttingen International Film Festival (2004)
John Culkin Award for Excellence in Praxis in Media Ecology (2004)
Ethnographic Film Festival of Montreal (2005)
supporter of the Sundance Film Festival

"Oh, What a Blow that Phantom Gave Me! is a 52-minute video documentary exploring the life, work, and ideas of a man who went where no media ecologist had gone before and returned with a steamer trunk full of expriences, as well some fascinating observations about the relationship of media, mind, and culture. [This] makes the documentary truly remarkable and indispensable to any media ecologist's video library.

Robert Albrecht, Review. "Explorations in Media Ecology:The Journal of the Media Ecology Association,"vol. 3 (2), 2004: pp.139-41.


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