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Fieldwork, Film, and the Tourist Gaze: Making 农家乐 Peasant Family Happiness


  • Jenny Chio


Making a film about tourism and being a tourist can often look like the same thing—an outsider with a camera, gazing at a community and people through a lens. And while using a camera in the field can render the ethnographer more legible and logical to one's interlocutors, the production of a film using footage gathered during fieldwork demands an acknowledgment of one's responsibility and relationship to a community and to individuals, qualities not demanded of tourists (or the images they make/take), whose visits are fleeting and temporary. Moreover, a film about tourism challenges viewers to think critically about the consequences of the “tourist gaze” in a destination community. This essay explores the structural, ethical, and social issues faced in making 农家乐 Peasant Family Happiness, a film about two rural, ethnic tourism villages in China. In so doing, I reflect on ethnographic filmmaking as both a component of ethnographic fieldwork and a form of engagement with, and for, viewers.