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Power Relation of Documentary Production Field: Visual Ethnography and Self-reflexivity of ‘The Third Eye’.

Unaloam Chanrungmaneekul
Sukhothai Thammathirat Open University

The Third Eye is an observational documentary, shot in Banglamung village, Eastern Thailand. The film presents the story of Banjob, a blind indigenous fisherman at Banglamung village, Chonburi, Eastern Thailand. When the village has encountered devastation due to the construction of the Laemchabung Port, Banjob has been struggling on his everyday living. While the community leaders and indigenous fishermen have been fighting for their livelihood by several social practices, Banjob has been fighting by everyday practice, local fishing in his dark world.

The film reflects Thai politics and globalization by employing the idea of binary opposition. The contrast narrative, global-local and dark-bright appeared as film aesthetic. This film is an experiment of the mixture cinematic styles between shooting the film by the outsider filmmakers and methods of indigenous media to portray senses of the villagers and the blind.

The Third Eye is a methodology of my visual research when I studied power relation and power of documentary in the ‘Field’ of negotiation between the film crew and the local people. It is a part of my individual paper of the 5th Annual Southeast Asian Studies Symposium at the University of Oxford.

This cultural event will start with a very short introduction of the film, then screen The Third Eye, and end with discussion in all aspects that the audience prefer. Not only academic relevant aspects of the paper, the film itself leads to discuss of film aesthetics and Southeast Asian contemporary issues of art, development and globalisation.
featuring “The Third Eye: Power and Everyday Practice of a Blind Fisherman” (64 min)

Film Crew
Director: Unaloam Chanrungmaneekul and Thitiphan Bumrungwong
Director of Photography: Sukrit Phumsrichan and Donlawat Sunsuk
Editor: Thitiphun Bumrungwong
Sound: Donlawat Sunsuk and Aniswat Phandinthong
Producer: Unaloam Chanrungmaneekul


Paper Title: Power Relation of Documentary Production Field: Visual Ethnography and Self-reflexivity of ‘The Third Eye’

Banglamung Village, a local fishermen community in Eastern Thailand has been confronting negative consequences, for example environmental and cultural change due to Laemchabang Port Construction. The Port was built under the scheme of Thailand development by claimed to be the largest Southeast Asian international port.

The Third Eye, the observational documentary was shot during resistance of the villagers to the Laemchabang Port. Through film production process, the paper explores methodological issues of visual research in a resistant movement of Thailand.

The research aims to explore power relation between the researcher team (film crew) and the local fishermen on the documentary production process. Two research methods were employed: filming observational documentary: The Third Eye as visual ethnography, and analyzing negotiation in the production process of observational cinema with ‘self-reflexivity’. To explore power relation between the film crew and the villagers, Pierre Bourdieu’s Cultural Capital theory, Habitus, Act of Resistance and Field were utilised as analytical frameworks.

The findings indicate that in the ‘documentary Field’, power relation forms depended on the crew and the villagers’ Cultural Capital and Habitus. The researcher and the crew had more Cultural Capital, particularly Objectified Form, Institutionalized Form, and Symbolic Form than the villagers did. Nevertheless, the villagers evidently possess the Cultural Capital of Embodied Form and Habitus of fishermen that become strategies for negotiating and establishing ‘act of resistance’ in everyday life.

Significantly, the paper challenges the mainstream methodology itself with two main arguments. Firstly, observational documentary production is not only a visual cinematic style of recording local people’s culture and life, it is actually a ‘Field’ of power relation. Secondly, by visual research, it was found that ‘Capital’ (in Bourdieu’s theory) became source of power that each group of people possesses unequally.