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Research Globalisation Studies Groningen (GSG)

Movie Night + panel discussion: Avatara

When:Th 02-06-2022 19:00 - 21:00
Where:Forum, camera 3 (Groningen)

Filming the Divine: Possession & Visual Anthropology

Screening of the movie Avatara and conversation with the authors

The Institute of Indian Studies Groningen and GSG are collaborating on this exciting screening event of the movie Avatara.

“She comes to visit us here and there. She comes in dreams. You know what dreams are like.”

She, the Goddess, manifests herself in many ways throughout South Asia. In dreams, in the body of relatives, in the flame of a candle, or through art. How do we encounter the divine? Do we need to reach a particular state, such that of dreaming, to have a direct contact with the divine?

The ethnographic movie Avatara (Sanskrit 'Descent') follows the tracks of the Goddess through the valleys of Himalaya. In the village shrines as in the solitary temple on the peak of the mountains people come to her for guidance and support in time of distress as to a mother.

South Asian religious traditions understand social, physical, and mental distresses as performative situations. People engage in theatrical events that combine oral traditions and embodied forms of knowledge to promote wellbeing and challenge social hierarchy. By combining the expertise of Arik Moran and Nadav Harel, an ethnohistorian and a documentary filmmaker, Avatara offers a concrete example of an academic practice that shifts the focus of the discourse to an interdisciplinary perspective and reflects holistically on visual, oral, and performative material, thereby reshaping the modalities through which we think and speak of religious practices and phenomena.

After the screening

After the screening of the film, Peter Berger and Elena Mucciarelli, both from the Faculty of Theology and Religious Studies, will offer their comments on the film, followed by a conversation with the authors and the audience. This event is meant to open a space for artists and scholars to meet and discuss new ways to document and understand the transient, volatile dimensions of transcendence and performances.


Nadav Harel

Nadav Harel is documentary filmmaker, based in Tel Aviv where he founded of the production house Noprocess Films. His films specialise in wildlife, philosophy, medicine, hunting and Hinduism. Nadav’s work was screened world wide in venues such as BBC World, Museum of Natural History NYC, Harvard Medical School, Berlinale, Sheffield, SBS, YLE, CH8, and the Museum of Modern Art NYC and many more.


Arik Moran

Arik Moran received his doctorate from the University of Oxford in 2010 and has been a member of the Department of Asian Studies at the University of Haifa since 2011. He studies the oral and written histories of the Indian Western Himalaya and the evolution of ritual cultures on the Into-Tibetan frontier