Disappearing World (TV series) Source: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Disappearing_World_(TV_series)

Disappearing World
Disappearing World Volume 1 DVD box set cover.jpg
Cover of the Disappearing World Vol. 1 DVD box set
GenreTelevision documentary
Created byBrian Moser
Country of originUK
Original languagesEnglish, various languages (subtitled in English)
No. of episodes49
Original networkGranada Television
Original release19 May 1970 (1970-05-19) –
25 May 1993 (1993-05-25)

Disappearing World is a British documentary television series produced by Granada Television, which produced 49 episodes between 1970 and 1993. The episodes, each an hour long, focus on a specific human community around the world, usually but not always a traditional tribal group.[1]

Series title[edit]

The title of the series invokes salvage ethnography,[2] and indeed some of the early episodes treat small societies on the cusp of great changes. However, later the series tried to escape the constraints of the title and already in the 1970s produced several episodes about urban, complex societies.[3]: 590  In 1980, Peter Loizos characterized the series title as "something of an albatross"; some filmmakers had suggested alternatives they saw as less problematic, but Granada declined to change it.[3]: 581  David Wason, the series producer in the 1990s, observed, "We recognise that the series title can be misleading. Our films more often reflect a changing world than a disappearing one."[1]

Filming of episodes[edit]

Each episode was filmed on 16 mm film, on location, usually over the course of about four weeks. They were then edited in the Granada studios in Manchester,[1] usually allowing three months, for the process.[3]: 582  Each episode was made in consultation with an anthropologist, working with the producer from the episode's conception, and building off of their personal relationships with the featured community.[1][4]: 378 

In the United States, some of the episodes were re-edited as part of the PBS series "NOVA" (1974),[5] and Odyssey (1980-1981),[6]: 202 [7] indeed, they made up a quarter of the first season.[3]: 573  Later, episodes from the original Disappearing World ran but received little publicity.[8]


The series was made available outside of broadcasts early, and proved themselves successful for teaching undergraduate anthropology.[3]: 591  Already in 1980, Granada Television had made the series available on videocassettes for educational purposes.[3]: 576  Most of the films are held in the Royal Anthropological Institute film library.[9] Much of the series is now available on DVD. The Network imprint issued a 4-DVD set of the first 15 episodes in 2010.[10]


In the 1960s, Denis Forman, the chairman of Granada Television, saw an amateur film made in the Amazon and became convinced that well-researched and well-made ethnographic films could have a broad appeal. He sought out its producer, Brian Moser, and had him train professionally at Granada, in exchange for backing for a series of documentaries about indigenous people in South America. The show debuted in 1970 with A Clearing in the Jungle,[11] and Moser remained the series editor until 1977,[4]: 377  when, despite its success, the series went on hiatus due to production disputes.[4]: 382 [3]: 576 

Production resumed in the early 1980s, producing three episodes most years, under a succession of series editors including André Singer, Leslie Woodhead, and David Wason.[12][3]: 575 


The series received unusually high ratings for a documentary. In 1978, it was voted the best commercial series in that year.[4]: 382 

The series was largely well-received by anthropologists. Of its initial run in the 1970s, Gregory A. Finnegan said: "The series has brought an unprecedented wide awareness of anthropological subjects and, arguably, anthropology to the British public."[3]: 573  Peter Loizos wrote that the series had had "the most positive influence in the British mass media on public views both of 'primitive people' and of social anthropology."[3]: 575–576  Among anthropologists, it led to a great deal of writing, discussing documentary film style, working conditions, cooperation between filmmakers and anthropologists, and accounts of films; assessments had been both positive and negative.[3]: 576 

Upon the broadcast of the series in the United States, John Corry in The New York Times characterized its approach as a "throwback" to "the old days of educational television," with an "austere ethos" that allows viewers to make their own judgments.[8]

After reviewing The Last of the Cuiva, Pia and David Maybury-Lewis, Cultural Survival Inc. and Harvard University said, "We saw the film twice because we had to, but I would recommend that anyone else should do the same for enjoyment, awe, sorrow, and time to contemplate what is going on in the indigenous world, if one can use such a term. The Last of the Cuiva is first and foremost an anthropological film that tries to tell “how it was” and “how it is now.” One hopes against hope that the latter is overdone, but of course, if one reads the newspapers, one knows that the film is right."[13]


It was nominated for the BAFTA award for Factual Series every year from 1975 to 1978, winning in 1976.[14] It was nominated again in 1991.[14] The episode We Are All Neighbors won an International Emmy Award for Best Documentary at the 21st International Emmy Awards, sharing the honor with Monika and Jonas – The Face of the Informer State.[15]


Sources:[3]: 573–575 [16][17]
Episode No. Title Ethnic group Director/producer Anthropologist Broadcast date
1 A Clearing in the Jungle Panare Charlie Nairn Jean-Paul Dumont 19 May 1970
2 The Last of the Cuiva Cuiva Brian Moser Bernard Arcand 8 June 1971, as part of NOVA series 31 March 1974
3 Embera: The End of the Road Emberá Brian Moser Ariane Deluz 15 June 1971
4 War of the Gods Maku and Barasana Brian Moser Peter Silverwood-Cope and Christine and Stephen Hugh-Jones 22 June 1971
5 The Tuareg Tuareg Charlie Nairn Jeremy Keenan 18 April 1972
6 The Meo Miao Brian Moser Jacques Lemoine 4 July 1972
7 Kataragama: A God for All Seasons Sri Lankan Charlie Nairn Gananath Obeyesekere 20 November 1973
8 Dervishes of Kurdistan Kurds Brian Moser André Singer and Ali Bulookbashi 4 October 1974
9 The Mursi Mursi Leslie Woodhead David Turton 13 November 1974
10 Mehinacu Mehinaku Carlos Pasini Thomas Gregor 20 November 1974
11 Masai Women Maasai Chris Curling Melissa Llewelyn-Davies 27 November 1974
12 Quechua Quechua Carlos Pasini Michael Sallnow 4 December 1974
13 Ongka's Big Moka: The Kawelka of Papua New Guinea Kawelka Charlie Nairn Andrew Strathern 11 December 1974
14 The Sakuddei Sakuddei John Sheppard Reimar Schefold 18 December 1974
15 Masai Manhood Maasai Chris Curling Melissa Llewelyn-Davies 8 April 1975
16 The Kirghiz Kirghiz Charlie Nairn and André Singer Nazif Shahrani 29 December 1975
17 The Shilluk Shilluk Chris Curling Paul Howell, Walter Kunijwok, and André Singer 5 January 1976
18 Eskimos of Pond Inlet - The People's Land Inuit Michael Grigsby Hugh Brody 12 January 1976
19 Some Women of Marrakesh Moroccan Melissa Llewelyn-Davies Elizabeth Fernea 26 January 1977
20 The Rendille Rendille Chris Curling Anders Grum 23 February 1977
21 Sherpas Sherpas Leslie Woodhead and Pattie Winter Sherry Ortner 13 April 1977
22 Umbanda Brazilians Stephen Cross Peter Fry 23 November 1977
23 The Pathans Afghans André Singer Akbar Ahmed and Remy Dor 20 February 1980
24 Witchcraft Among the Azande Azande André Singer John Ryle 9 March 1982
25 Asante Market Women Asante Claudia Milne Charlotte Boaitey 16 March 1982
26 The Kwegu Kwegu Leslie Woodhead David Turton 23 March 1982
27 Inside China: Living with the Revolution Chinese Leslie Woodhead Claire Lasko 27 April 1983
28 Inside China: The Newest Revolution Chinese Leslie Woodhead Claire Lasko 4 May 1983
29 Inside China: The Kazakhs of China Kazakhs in China André Singer Shirin Akiner 18 May 1983
30 The Migrants Mursi and Kwegu Leslie Woodhead David Turton 14 October 1985
31 The Kayapo Kayapo Michael Beckham Terence Turner 3 June 1987
32 The Basques of Santazi Basques Leslie Woodhead Sandra Ott 10 June 1987
33 The Lau of Malaita Lau Leslie Woodhead Pierre Maranda 1987
34 The Whalehunters of Lamalera Lembatans John Blake and David Wason Robert Barnes 13 July 1988
35 Across the Tracks: Vlach Gypsies in Hungary Vlachs John Blake Michael Stewart 20 July 1988
36 The Wodaabe Wodaabe Leslie Woodhead and David Wason Mette Bovin 27 July 1988
37 The Kayapo: Out of the Forest Kayapo Michael Beckham Terence Turner 13 June 1989
38 Villagers of the Sierra De Gredos Spaniards Peter Carr William Kavanagh 20 June 1989
39 The Herders of Mongun-Taiga Tuvans John Sheppard Caroline Humphrey 27 June 1989
40 The Mende Mende Bruce MacDonald Marianne Ferme 18 July 1990
41 Trobriand Islanders of Papua New Guinea Trobrianders David Wason Annette B. Weiner 25 July 1990
42 The Kalasha: Rites of Spring Kalasha John Sheppard Peter Parks 1 August 1990
43 The Mursi - The Land Is Bad Mursi Leslie Woodhead David Turton 17 July 1991
44 The Mursi - Nitha Mursi Leslie Woodhead David Turton 24 July 1991
45 The Albanians of Rrogam Albanians David Wason Berit Backer 31 July 1991
46 Cakchiquel Maya of San Antonio Palopo Kaqchikel Bruce MacDonald Tracy Bachrach Ehlers 7 August 1991
47 War: We Are All Neighbours Bosnians Debbie Christie Tone Bringa 11 May 1993
48 War: Orphans of Passage - Sudan Uduk Bruce MacDonald 18 May 1993
49 War: The Longest Struggle Karen John Sheppard Tom Sheahan 25 May 1993

At the request of the Mongolian government, the episodes filmed in Mongolia during the 1970s were not distributed under the title Disappearing World, but should be considered in essence part of the series.[3]: 575 

Episode No. Title Ethnic group Director/producer Anthropologist Broadcast date
On the Edge of the Gobi Khalka Mongols Brian Moser Owen Lattimore 1975
The City on the Steppes Khalka Mongols Brian Moser Owen Lattimore 1975


  1. ^ a b c d David Wason (1992). "Disappearing World: A Guide for Anthropologists". Passages: A Chronicle of the African Humanities. 4: 5.
  2. ^ Jay Ruby (Spring 1994). "Review of Film as Ethnography, Peter Ian Crawford and David Turton, editors, and Innovation in Ethnographic Film: From Innocence to Self-consciousness, Peter Loizos". Visual Anthropology Review. 10 (1): 165.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m Peter Loizos (September 1980). "Granada Television's Disappearing World Series: An Appraisal". American Anthropologist. 82 (3): 573–594. doi:10.1525/aa.1980.82.3.02a00220.
  4. ^ a b c d Faye Ginsburg (2003). Paul Hockings (ed.). Ethnographies on the Airwaves: The Presentation of Anthropology on the American, British, Belgian and Japanese Television. Principles of Visual Anthropology. ISBN 9783110179309.
  5. ^ "Nova". TVGuide.com. 31 March 1974. Retrieved 1 December 2018.
  6. ^ Matthew Durington and Jay Ruby (August 2012). Marcus Banks Jay Ruby (ed.). Ethnographic Film. Made to Be Seen: Perspectives on the History of Visual Anthropology. p. 202. ISBN 9780226036632.
  7. ^ Ruby, J.; Ruby, P.A.J. (2000). Picturing Culture: Explorations of Film and Anthropology. (Film. Anthropology). University of Chicago Press. p. 16. ISBN 978-0-226-73099-8. Retrieved 1 December 2018.
  8. ^ a b John Corry (19 February 1985). "TV Review: 'Disappearing World' on Channel 13". The New York Times. p. 22.
  9. ^ Film and Television Collections in Europe: The MAP-TV Guide. Psychology Press. 1995. p. 541. ISBN 9781857130157.
  10. ^ "Disappearing World, Vol. 1/Granada Television International". National Library of Australia.
  11. ^ Medicine, Bea; Baskauskas, Liucija (30 November 1999). "Department of Anthropology Film List". Anthropology, University of Regina. Retrieved 1 December 2018.
  12. ^ Jenkins, Alan (June 1986). "Disappearing World Goes to China: A Production Study of Anthropological Films". Anthropology Today. Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland. 2 (3): 6–13. doi:10.2307/3033018. JSTOR 3033018.
  13. ^ Pia; Maybury-Lewis, David (1974). "AudioVisuals". American Anthropologist. American Anthropological Association. 76 (2): 487–489. doi:10.1525/aa.1974.76.2.02a01160.
  14. ^ a b "Television: Factual Series in 1976". BAFTA. Retrieved 22 September 2018.
  15. ^ "Foreign Emmys Awarded". Variety. 22 November 1993.
  16. ^ Royal Anthropological Institute. "Ethnographic Film: RAI Film Festival". Retrieved 1 December 2018.
  17. ^ "Disappearing World: Volume 1 · British Universities Film & Video Council". British Universities Film & Video Council. Retrieved 2 December 2018.

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