Download video: Ritualized warfare in New Guinea
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The battle sequences are made up of many shots taken during different battles and stitched together to give the appearance of temporal unity. The apparent continuity stems from the post-synchronized sound, and in fact all the sound in the film is post-synched. Heider, himself, admits in his book Ethnographic Film, that some of the battle films were edited out of sequence, intercut with scene from the women at the salt pool, which was also taken at a different time.
This edit has those removed.
From the directors site; http://www.robertgardner.net/dead-birds/.
Robert Gardner, 1964 Runtime: 85 minutes.
Dead Birds is a film about the Dani, a people dwelling in the Grand Valley of the Baliem high in the mountains of West Papua. When I shot the film in 1961, the Dani had a classic Neolithic culture.
They were exceptional in the way they dedicated themselves to an elaborate system of ritual warfare. Neighboring groups, separated by uncultivated strips of no man’s land, engaged in frequent battles. When a warrior was killed in battle or died from a wound and even when a woman or a child lost their life in an enemy raid, the victors celebrated and the victims mourned.
Because each death needed to be avenged, the balance was continually adjusted by taking life. There was no thought of wars ever ending, unless it rained or became dark. Wars were the best way they knew to keep a terrible harmony in a life that would be, without them, much drearier and unimaginable.
Late 2013 article and interview with Gardner about the film and its sequel; 'An ancient tribe, and change - 50 years after ‘Dead Birds,’ Robert Gardner recounts making the film, and its sequel.' (http://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2013/10/an-ancient-tribe-and-change/)