Out of sight, out of mind. That is how many in the West view the indigenous peoples of the world. Austrian documentary filmmaker Nikolaus Geyrhalter (Our Daily Bread) has created a daring and intriguing film for anyone who wants to savor the lifestyles and stories of people in faraway places that are never in the news.
In 2000, he and his crew traveled to 12 remote locations covering one group for each of the 12 months of the year. This plan works out so that each segment is about 20 minutes long adding up to a total of 240 minutes. In each segment, we encounter an individual or group talking directly to the camera with no mediating narration or music. These long-take sequences give Elsewhere a meditative quality that works very well and puts the emphasis where it belongs — on the lives of the indigenous peoples.
The documentary begins with camel breeders in Ekeschi, Nigeria, where everyone in the family has to work. Their community life is quite a contrast to the loneliness of reindeer hunter who glides through the wilderness in Finland. Next up is the Namibia desert home of a man married to two women, and then we're off to Indonesia where men are busy in the jungle building a tree house. The variety of places and people is impressive as Geyrhalter also takes us on adventures to Greenland, Australia, Ladakh, Siberia, China, Sardinia, British Columbia, and Micronesia. There is not a hit of exploitation of these isolated people in remote regions around the world.
The filmmaker gives us room to read our own ideas and ideals into the experiences of these people. Which is all to say, Elsewhere helps us to see the folly of continuing our out of sight, out of mind approach. These lives are fascinating and instructive.