Coincidentally, having mentioned the splendid film about endangered languages, 'In Language we Live' in yesterday's blog, now arrives through the post the latest film from the Danish company who made it, Final Cut. It is called 'The Importance of Being Mlabri'. The Mlabri are a small tribe of about 200 living in Northern Thailand. They figured briefly and memorably in the first film - memorable, from a linguistic point of view, for the way they use striking leisurely high-to-mid falling intonation patterns on the last syllable of their sentences. The effect gives the language an entrancing appeal, which I'd not heard in other languages - almost as if they are singing to each other, at times.
Now directors Janus Billeskov Jansen and Signe Byrge Sørensen have devoted a whole film to the Mlabri, who are desperately trying to preserve their way of life within a society where other groups, notably the Hmong (Outsiders, as they call them) are dominant. The film is an extraordinary portrayal of the community. It is told entirely in Mlabri, with English (or Danish) sub-titles. The people seemed totally unconscious of the camera, and it is as if we are part of their village. The film was motivated by the fact that the language is endangered, but languages are people, and what we see here is the threat posed to the tribe as a whole.
Language preservation depends on several factors. It is partly a matter of economics, and we see the difficulties the tribe has in finding jobs and making ends meet. It is partly a matter of marrying within the tribe, and we see the difficulties young men have in finding a wife, when there are so few single girls in their own community. They have to travel to other Mlabri villages to see if there is anyone there. It is also a matter of inter-generational transmission, and in a hugely moving sequence we see a group of Mlabri children leaving the village and going away to boarding school in the nearby city for the first time. We follow them there and see them in their classroom learning English. And we see them return to their village at the end of term, and sense the uncertainty of their (relatively uneducated) parents and elders as they try to come to terms with what is happening to their (newly educated) children. Will they retain their Mlabri language and identity? It would seem so. Throughout all the difficulties emerges clearly the spirit and sense of identity of the people, who in this film symbolize the plight of hundreds of communities round the world.
Anyone concerned about endangered languages should see this film. Beautifully shot and edited, it is one of very few attempts (so far) to tell an endangered language story in real detail. Final Cut Productions is based in Copenhagen: Forbindelsesvej 7, DK-2100 Copenhagen. Contact Signe Byrge Sørensen: email@example.com. I wish it well.
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I would love to see this film, thank you for promoting it! Do you have any idea about when/if it'll be shown in the UK?
Researching for an essay I became very interested in the language and customs of the Trobriand islanders, although since I was reading Malinowski's work from the 1920s, it's probably a bit out of date!
I'll ask the producers if they have any details to post them on the blog.
Is the film showing outside of the UK anywhere? I live in the US...
This message received from the producer of Mlabri:
Thanks for the interest in our film 'The Importance of Being MLABRI'. The film will be broadcast by DR2 in Denmark on the 9th of September at 19.00 with Danish subtitles. It will later be broadcast in Sweden, Norway, Finland and Iceland. The tv-distributor of the film is DR Sales - www.drsales.dk. They are trying to sell the film to other broadcasters including broadcasters in the UK and the US and to DVD distributors around the world.
Our previous film "In Languages we live" was sold for example to broadcasters in Australia, New Zealand, The Middle East and Italy. It was also sold to dvd distribution in the US, and can be bought via this link:
We hope this distributor will take in "The Importance of Being MLABRI" as well in his catalogue.
We are also currently sending the film to film festivals around the world. It will be screened in New Zealand at DOCNZ in October and November. If you have any suggestions for screenings or know of tv-programmers in your countries, who might have an interest in this film, please send me an email.
Signe Byrge Sorensen, Final Cut Productions, firstname.lastname@example.org
There seems to be a problem in posting the whole of the link in the previous Comment. I therefore break it down into components as follows (no spaces at the ends of lines):
For the one-click generation: Voices of the World The Extinction...
I am currently working on a short paper to explain the process that was used in the translation process of the Mlabri film. I wonder if this would be of use to anyone?
Well I'd like to see it, for a start!
Hi every1, I am tryin to get "In Language we live" screened as part of our International Mother Language Day celebration. But the link given here is for "Voices of the World: The Extinction of Language and Linguistic Diversity" not for In Language we live. Are these two, the same documentary?
Also any media that we can of print as part of the celebration would be useful. Interested ppl, please mail me at angik[dot]sarkar[at the rate] gmail[dot]com...(Please remove the brackets with the special characters).
'Voices of the World' is the name of a project. 'In Language we Live' is the name of one of the documentary films produced by this project. I suggest you get in touch with Signe Byrge Sorensen the producer (see a previous comment related to this post).
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