Henry Glassie: Field Work is more of an experience than a film really. An experience that is best described as an effort to translate somebody’s diary or travel log into the audio-visual form, it contains both their description of the world and their commentary on it, their thoughts and their beliefs, their views and their lessons too. The result is a film that is part documentary, part “slow cinema” and part wisdom-filled monologues. Throughout Henry Glassie’s journey, we explore alongside him, we see with his eyes, hear with his ears, and feel with his burning passion for everything that is folklore.

The first thirty minutes or so of Henry Glassie: Field Work are actually just footage of some Brazilian craftspeople in the process of creating works of art. We see a sculptor making a beautiful saint, we see a painter using exquisite techniques to produce gorgeous results and we see another artist talking about her craft as though it were the air she breathes. This not only happens during the first third of the film, but it reoccurs throughout it, these scenes are shot beautifully and have the potential to fully transport the audience into the workshop of the artist and have them witness their art and be mesmerized by it, but they also have the potential to make the audience doze off and sleep, but I think that too is okay, you’re witnessing human behavior at its purest form, when you wake up from your comfy nap, it’s still going to be there and it’s going to be as amazing as ever.

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You witness these beautiful scenes of craftspeople in awe-inspiring passion but you hope for some context, some information, and after a while, you get plenty of it. Henry Glassie comes on during the second third of the film with his glorious wisdom and beautiful outlook on the world; he explores themes of differences and similarities between the many cultures he has visited, the human being as a social creature and a voluntary outcast, and the kindness and warmth the majority of the world possesses.

The third part of the film is a continuation of its two major components, the visual description of the act of creation and the folklorist’s thoughts and commentary on it, but what is new this time is an additional “thank you note” of sorts, to mentors, teachers, influences, the artists he meets throughout his journey and the kindness he was met with since the start.

Henry Glassie: Field Work is definitely not for everyone. Some people might find it genius and some might think it’s dull and boring, but if you are interested in people as human beings and as artists, in the wonders everyday life holds, not necessarily here – here being where you are, but everywhere in the world then very few films capture the essence of these things as potently and as magnificently as this beautiful picture does.


Henry Glassie: Field Work Trailer

DIRECTOR: Pat Collins
CAST: Henry Glassie, Pravina Shukla
COUNTRY: Ireland
LANGUAGE: English, Brazilan Portuguese
RUNTIME: 105 Minutes



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