John Kennedy Marshall - Director

Nationality: American. Born: Cambridge, Massachusetts, 12 November 1932. Education: Harvard University, B.A. in Anthropology, 1957; Yale University, G.S.A.S. in Anthropology, 1960; Harvard University, M.A. in Anthropology, 1966. Military Service: None Family: Married Heather Shain (divorced); daughter Sonja Kirsti; married Alexandra Eliot. Career: Expedition member, Peabody Museum/Harvard University/Smithsonian Institution Expeditions to study the !Kung San, 1950–58; associate director, Film Study Center, Harvard University, 1958–60; director, Bushman Film Unit, Harvard University, 1960–63; cameraman, NBC-TV, during Civil War in Cyprus, 1964–65; consultant, Educational Services Inc., 1965–67; member, Organization for Social and Technical Inovation, 1966–68; film director, Lemberg Center for the Study of Violence, Brandeis University, 1968–69; filmmaker, Pittsburgh Police Department, cinema-verité filming of police cases; research associate, Brandeis University, 1969–72; president, co-founder, Documentary Educational Resources, non-profit film production and distribution company, 1969—; anthropologist and writer, National Geographic Society, producing television program, Bushmen of the Kalahari , 1972–74; advisor, Society for the Study of Visual Communication (SAVICON), 1973–74; research associate, National Anthropological Film Center, Smithsonian Institution, 1974–75; member, The Kalahari Peoples' Fund, 1974—; advisory committee, Cultural Survival, Inc., 1975—; guest lecturer, Anthropology and Film, Macalester College, St. Paul, Minnesota, 1975, Hamilton College, Clinton, New York, 1977, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 1979; project director, Festival of American Folklife, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C., 1976; anthropologist and director, expedition to Tshumkwe, Namibia, 1978; project irector, collecting Ju/hoan demographic data, 1980–82; co-founder, Nyae Nyae Development Foundation of Namibia, 1982; filmmaker, ongoing film project documenting changes in the life of the Ju/hoansi in Namibia and Botswana 1982, 1984, 1986, 1987, 1988, 1989, 1992, 1994, 1996, 1998; development worker, rural development project among the Ju/hoansi in Bushmenland, Namibia 1982—; consultant, UNIN, UNTAG, 1989; co-director, producer, and camera operator, for A Kalahari Family , to be released in 2000. Awards: First Prize, Festival de Popoli, Italy, for Inside/Outside Station 9 , 1970; CINE Golden Eagle, Flaherty Award, First Prize Festival de Popoli, Salerno International Festival Prize, Athens International Film Festival Prize, and Philadelphia International Festival of Short Films Prize, all for Bitter Melons , 1971; American Film Festival Finalist, for 4th and 5th and the Exclusionary Rule , 1973; American Film Festival Finalist for If It Fits , 1978; American Film Festival Blue Ribbon, CINE Golden Eagle, Gold Medal, International Film and Television Festival of New York, Grand Prize Cinema du Reel, Paris, Grand Prize International News Coverage Festival, Luchon, France, all for N!ai, the Story of a !Kung Woman , 1981; Honorary M.F.A. in Film, Rhode Island School of Design, 1995. Agent: Documentary Educational Resources, 101 Morse Street, Watertown, Massachusetts 02472, USA.

Films as Director and Cinematographer:

!Kung Series


The Hunters


A Group of Women


A Joking Relationship


An Argument about a Marriage ; A Curing Ceremony ; N!um Tchai: The Ceremonial Curing Dance of the !Kung Bushmen


Lion Game ; The (Nlowa T'ama) Melon Tossing Game


Bitter Melons


Debe's Tantrum ; !Kung Bushmen Hunting Equipment ; Playing with Scorpions ; A Rite of Passage ; The Wasp Nest


Men Bathing


Baobab Play ; Children Throw Toy Assegais ; The Meat Fight ; Bushmen Tug of War


N!ai, the Story of a !Kung Woman


Pull Ourselves up or Die Out


!Kung San Traditional Life


!Kung San: Resettlement ; Fighting Tooth, (Nail) and the Government


To Hold Our Ground


!Kung San Exhibit/Peabody Museum


A Kalahari Family

"Pittsburgh Police Series" (20 films shot in black and white from 1968–69 and released from 1970–73)


Inside/Outside Station 9


Three Domestics ; Vagrant Woman


Investigation of A Hit and Run ; 35 minutes ; 901/904


After the Game ; $40 Misunderstanding ; The Informant ; A Legal Discussion of a Hit and Run ; Manifold Controversy ; Nothing Hurt but My Pride ; $21 or 21 Days ; Two Brothers ; Wrong Kid ; You Wasn't Loitering ; Youth and the Man of Property ; Henry Is Drunk ; Appitsch and the Drunk ; T-Group ; The 4th, 5th, & Exclusionary Rule

Other Films:


Titicut Follies (camera + co-d with Frederick Wiseman)


Bushmen of the Kalahari (camera + ro)


Festival of American Folklife


If It Fits


By MARSHALL: articles—

"Man as a Hunter," in Natural History Magazine , 1958.

With Emilie de Brigard, "Urban Film," in Visual Anthropology , edited by Paul Hockings, The Hague, 1975.

"Death Blow to the Bushmen," in Cultural Survival Quarterly , vol. 8, no. 3, 1984.

"Plight of the Bushman," in Leadership Magazine (Johannesburg, South Africa), 1985.

With Claire Ritchie, "Where Are the Ju/'hoansi of Nyae Nyae?: Changes in a Bushman Society 1950–1981," for Center for African Studies, University of Capetown, Cape Town, South Africa, 1984.

"Filming and Learning," in The Cinema of John Marshall , edited by Jay Ruby, Philadelphia, 1993.

On MARSHALL: books—

Tomaselli, Keyan, Visual Anthropology: Encounters in the Kalahari , Chicago, 1999.

Ruby, Jay, editor, The Cinema of John Marshall , Philadelphia, 1993.

Kapfer, J., W. Petermann, and R. Thoms, Jager und Gejagte John Marshall und seine Filme , Germany, 1991.

* * *

In 1950, Laurence Marshall, John Marshall's father, retired as president of Raytheon Corp., the giant electronics firm he founded before World War II. Laurence was not one to waste his time on frivolous pursuits so retirement provided an opportunity for him to get to know his son better. As a young boy, John always wanted to go to Africa. He read books about exploring in Africa like Jock of the Bushveld by Percy Fitzpatrick. The Marshalls had heard about an interest in looking for a lost city in the Kalahari Desert and contacted the Peabody Museum at Harvard University and the Smithsonian Institution to see if there might be some interest in a Kalahari expedition. The director of the Peabody at that time, J.O. Brew, suggested that they go look for some "wild Bushmen" while they searched for a lost city.

In 1950, the entire Marshall family went off on the first of many expeditions to the Kalahari desert in South West Africa (now Namibia). Laurence Marshall assigned the jobs. Lorna Marshall, John's mother, was to do the ethnography, Elizabeth (later, Elizabeth Marshall Thomas) was to write a book, and John was to make the movies. On their second expedition they did indeed encounter a group of Bushmen living deep in the desert, who had had no direct contact with whites. They were still living by their ancient hunting and gathering ways. These Bushmen began a relationship with the Marshalls that has continued through three generations.

John began working with a little hand-held Bell and Howell camera and loads of Kodak film in 100-foot-rolls. The film came with a few instructions on how to make a movie, and John had a shopping list of subject areas for anthropologists in the field, but this was all the direction he had as he launched into what became a lifetime work: filming the Bushmen of the Kalahari.

Marshall was a teenager in the 1950 and he became captivated by hunting. His first film, The Hunters (1957), which he shot from 1950–52, became a classic and it enjoyed phenomenal success. It was shown in theaters and was purchased by every major American and European university with a film collection. For many years John has repudiated The Hunters on the grounds that it is an artistic creation, a product of his own imagination and that consequently, it misrepresents the real nature of the culture. Throughout his career he has used this to argue for a more meaningful collaboration between anthropology and documentary film.

The general stylistic principle guiding most of John Marshall's filmmaking has been cinéma vérité , further elaborated by him with the concepts of "sequence" and "slot." He argues that his method and product are merely "reporting" and that true meaning comes from "immersing" the viewer in the ordinary life of the people through "sequences," snatches of reality. Given this strong commitment to what he sees as a scientific or journalistic endeavor, it is interesting that John's personal commitment to the Ju/hoansi (Bushmen) people and his views of how films may be used in development work on their behalf, are essentially humanistic, relativistic, and postmodern.

Marshall continued his film documentation of the Ju/hoansi throughout the 1950s. Due in part to the political ramifications of apartheid, Marshall was not allowed to enter South Africa from the early 1960s and throughout much of the 1970s, for his close relationship with the Bushmen was seen as a threat to the satus quo. By 1960 John was working with D.A. Pennebaker and Ricky Leacock to further the development of cinéma vérité. By this time, Marshall was recognized as a gifted cameraman. Never one to shy away from danger, he went to work for NBC, shooting the civil war in Cyprus.

From 1969 to 1971 Marshall shot and produced his groundbreaking "Pittsburgh Police Series." Seen against the background of the civil rights upheaval, and filmed in gritty black and white cinéma vérité, these films were precursors to such TV programs as Hill Street Blues and "reality" TV shows like Cops. In 1978 Marshall returned to South Africa to make the television movie N!ai, The Story of a !Kung Woman. After a nearly twenty year absence he was shocked by the devastation of the people and culture he had recorded in his youth. At this point his film style changed. He lived and worked with the people he had previously filmed throughout the 1980s and 1990s. While continuing to document events on film and later video, he became an advocate and political activist with and for the subjects of his film.

The work of John Marshall with the Ju/hoansi (Bushmen) continues in the twenty-first century. A three part series for television, A Kalahari Family , is being edited from the 2 million feet of 16mm film and thousands of hours of video tape that now comprise the Marshall/Africa archive. The original film materials were used to establish the Human Studies Film Archive at the Smithsonian Institution. A Kalahari Family is scheduled for release in December 2000.

—Cynthia Close

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