|Died||April 22, 2005 (aged 72)|
John Kennedy Marshall (November 12, 1932 - April 22, 2005) was an American anthropologist and acclaimed documentary filmmaker best known for his work in Namibia recording the lives of the Ju/'hoansi (also called the !Kung Bushmen).
Marshall was born in Boston, Massachusetts, to Lorna Marshall and Laurence Kennedy Marshall and raised in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and Peterborough, New Hampshire. His sister, Elizabeth Marshall Thomas, is a writer. Marshall had one daughter, Sonya. He married Dr. Alexandra Eliot, who had two sons from a previous marriage, Frederick and Christopher Eliot. Marshall held a B.A. and M.A. in Anthropology from Harvard University. Marshall died of lung cancer in April, 2005.
Marshall first traveled to the Kalahari Desert and met the Ju/'hoansi of the Nyae Nyae area in 1950 on a trip initiated by his father to search for the "Lost World of the Kalahari."  Before his second trip to the Kalahari, one year later, Marshall received a 16mm Kodak camera and advice from his father, "Don't direct, John, don't try to be artistic, just film what you see people doing naturally." Marshall employed this advice during the 1950s, his films anticipated the cinema verite movement of the 1960s. Throughout the 1950s and 1960s members of the Marshall family - John Marshall, his sister Elizabeth Marshall Thomas, Lorna Marshall, and Laurence Marshall - returned to the Kalahari Desert numerous times to conduct an ethnographic study of the Ju/'hoansi and document one of the last remaining hunter gatherer cultures. From 1950-1958 Marshall filmed the hunting and gathering life of the Ju/'hoansi. His first edited film, The Hunters, was released in 1957. "The Hunters" told the story of a Ju/'hoansi giraffe hunt. Marshall later realized he had unintentionally romanticized Ju/'hoan life. "The Hunters," portrayed the Ju/'hoansi as if they continued to live as they always had, where their main conflict was a struggle with nature. But when Marshall filmed them, they were actually suffering from having collided with the modern world and were subsisting primarily on gathered food and struggling to find enough to eat. Recognizing this discrepancy between reality and the portrayal of Ju/'hoansi life in "The Hunters," Marshall was determined to produce more objective, and less mediated films about the Ju/'hoansi. He produced a series of short films designed to educate without exoticizing or "imposing western narrative structures on the subjects."
During the 1960s and most of the 1970s, Marshall, and nearly all anthropologists and filmmakers were banned from visiting the Ju/'hoansi by a government that saw them as "a threat to the status quo." So during this period, Marshall produced many short films about the Ju/'hoansi of Nyae Nyae from the footage he had collected in the 1950s and pursued other film projects in the United States. He was the cinematographer for Fred Wiseman's first documentary film, Titicut Follies. Marshall also shot and produced a series of short films about police work in Pittsburgh, PA. In 1968, Marshall and Tim Asch founded Documentary Educational Resources, a non-profit organization dedicated to facilitating the use of cross-cultural documentaries in the classroom.
Marshall became involved in grassroots organizing and development in Nyae Nyae in the 1980s, forming a foundation that would become the Nyae Nyae Development Foundation of Namibia and devoting himself to advocating on behalf of the Ju/'hoansi. In 2003, the Society for Visual Anthropology bestowed on Marshall a lifetime achievement award for his 50 years of work among the hunter gatherer society.
Two million feet of Marshall's 16mm documentary footage along with thousands of hours of video footage as well as edited films and videos of Ju/'hoansi are held at the Human Studies Film Archives, Smithsonian Institution. Known officially as the John Marshall Ju/'hoan Bushman Film and Video Collection, 1950-2000, the collection was added to UNESCO's Memory of the World Register for documentary heritage of world importance in July 2009. Cynthia Close, former Executive Director of Documentary Educational Resources, called the collection, "unparalleled in the history of film and in the history of documenting humanity".
John Marshall produced realistic films that combined documentary media and ethnographic film. His work offers an evolving, original and unique view on what was technically possible and stylistic in documentary through his more than fifty years as a filmmaker. Marshall was a pioneer in the cinema verite style. He is quoted as saying, "I began shooting events from angles and distances that approximated the perspectives of the people I was filming, I tried to film as a member of the group rather than shoot standing outside as an observer." He began thinking about his position vis-à-vis the people he was filming, asking, "Am I someone in the group? Who? Why am I looking at the other person? Am I an outside observer? If I am an observer who am I? Is there anyone else observing from this angle and distance? What are they seeing and thinking?" Marshall's shooting style evolved to reflect his position within the society he was filming, that of participant more than outside observer. As similar as this approach sounds to cinema verite, Marshall employed sit down interviews in many of his films such as "N!ai, the Story of a !Kung Woman" and cinema verite does not use sit down interviews.
In his early films, and indeed, most of his films about the Ju/'hoansi, Marshall presents realistic views of the changing life of the once hunter-gatherer culture, but he himself is never a central character in those films. However, in his 2002 6-episode film "A Kalahari Family," the curtain is pulled and John Marshall, as well as his family, who have been involved in both ethnographic and then political efforts with the Ju/'hoansi since the early 1950s, are revealed. This may be the ultimate in reality filmmaking, as the Marshalls have been intimately involved in the Ju/'hoansi culture, making both positive and negative impacts, and finally in "A Kalahari Family," their impact is explored.