Participatory Ethnographic Film: Video Advocacy and Engagement with Q’eqchi’ Maya Medical Practitioners in Belize


  • James Waldram University of Saskatchewan



participatory ethnographic film; Q’eqchi’ Maya; Belize; ethnography


There continues to be significant debate about what constitutes an “ethnographic film.” Contemporary standards for production require large budgets and sophisticated film crews, and as a result marginalizes those films produced at the local level designed to meet local needs. This article documents the process of creating a participatory ethnographic film at the behest of a group of Q’eqchi’ Maya medical practitioners in Belize. From conception through to the approval of the final cut and distribution, the project was directed by the practitioners and executed on a shoestring budget and ‘in kind’ contributions.  I argue that the genre of ethnographic film must accommodate local level aesthetic sensibilities about what constitutes a “good” representation of cultural issues, and consider the nature of the intended audience, thereby allowing space for a collaborative filmmaking process attendant to the world of the participants rather than that of international film festivals.


Author Biography

James Waldram, University of Saskatchewan

has a Ph.D. in applied medical anthropology and is a full professor in the Department of Archaeology and Anthropology at the University of Saskatchewan, Canada.. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, and the 2016 winner of the Social Science and Humanities Research Council’s Insight award for the research that is the subject of this article. Email: 


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How to Cite

Waldram, J. (2020). Participatory Ethnographic Film: Video Advocacy and Engagement with Q’eqchi’ Maya Medical Practitioners in Belize. Engaged Scholar Journal: Community-Engaged Research, Teaching, and Learning, 6(1), 77–90.

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