The Archives of Jorge Prelorán

Glimpse the remote and rugged lives of rancheros in the western Pampas of Argentina 40 years ago, or watch an Afro-American dance ensemble in Poland in the 1950s, or meet the Warao people of Venezuela in 1974: The eclectic and heartfelt ethnographic documentaries of Argentine filmmaker Jorge Prelorán will transport you, and make you feel like a real connoisseur of obscure documentary film.

Prelorán is revered as the father of film ethnobiographies, and archivists in the Anthropology department of the Smithsonian Institution have cataloged, organized, and in some cases, digitized, his works. Their new website launched recently and features a look into this impressive collection of all things Prelorán: films, film outtakes, books, audio recordings and even papers- correspondence and photographs that, if stacked, would topple at 23 feet tall.

On the website you’ll find video clips, an interactive map showing the sites of Prelorán’s many documentaries (he completed 60 films), digital photo books and information on how old film reels were preserved for the archives. The physical collection is available to the public and researchers by appointment at the Smithsonian’s Human Studies Film Archives in Suitland, Maryland. If you’re nice, they’ll even burn and send you a disk so you can organize your own Prelorán screening!

Image courtesy of: Human Studies Film Archives, Smithsonian Institution.  Photograph by Lorenzo Kelly. Photographs Series, Jorge Prelorán Collection: sihsfa_2007_10_19b.