65 Transcript of commentary by Napoleon Chagnon of film rushes for The Ax Fight.
30160 [The first number in each paragraph below is the digital equivalent of the film frame number that Chagnon is discussing. The second number in the paragraphs is the foot-and-frame number of the 16mm footage. For example, the first paragraph with both numbers begins as follows: "54440 032.00 This woman who's shown ..." The first of the two numbers means that Chagnon is discussing the frame of the digital movie that begins about 91 seconds after the digital movie's first frame. (The digital numbers go by at a rate of 600 per second. 54440 divided by 600 is about 91.) The second number ("032:00" 32 feet, 0 frames) is the equivalent frame in the 16mm version of the film that Chagnon used.
30160 This recording is being made in Cambridge, Massachusetts at the Center for Documentary Anthropology on July 30, 1971. John Marshall is present. Timothy Asch is present. Craig Johnson is present. The narrator is Napoleon Chagnon, the ethnographer who led this filming group. The village that we are entering is Mishimishima-boweiteri, located in the headwaters of the Mavaca River in Southern Venezuela - a village that had never seen an outsider until I went there in 1968 to make the first contact with them. I went to the village every year thereafter and the film was shot in February and March of 1971. (I had shot 4000' of film there in 1970, from which Magical Death was edited.)
30160 Film roll 15, sound roll 15. Edge numbering system DR-OOOO, Kem counter set at OOO at head synch.
43571 On this roll I can't see anything obvious, but Tim and Craig assure me that there's a woman [Sinabimi] in the background who is crying; apparently she has been beaten. Is that the woman who came in from the garden? OK, this is the starting of the fight.
54440 032.00 This woman who's shown in footage counter 32 is the wife of Yoinakuwä [Sinabimi]. She'd been harvesting bananas in the garden, and a young man named Dorawa [Törawä] approached her in the garden and asked for some of the bananas and she refused to give him some, so he beat her with a club. She came into the village and went to her hammock where the men, I believe, were curing at the time. I don't know what was going on at the time, but she came screaming and crying into the village and told what had happened. At first the rumors were circulating that she had been sexually assaulted by the guy, and that turned out to be false. What ultimately came to the surface was that he had merely wanted some plantains or bananas from her. She wouldn't give them to him, so he hit her on the head with a club. She came into the village, and that touched off a club fight shortly after she returned to the village. All the women in that section of the village began crying and feeling sorry for her, and the men began ripping out posts out of the house to have a fight, and there they are swinging their clubs at each other. There's Dorawa [Törawä]; he just got hit on the arm with a club. No, that's Mohesiwä with the [unintelligible] chasing Uuwä.
85400 36:20 You see the woman [Nakahedami] running up with a hemo club. It's a hard palm wood club, and she is bringing it up to give to a man there, urging the man to use the club against his opponent. The women also try to cool the tempers of the men off. In fact they even have a magical plant that they use for that purpose. Notice, however, that almost all of the women are carrying clubs which they're going to give to their husbands.
91200 58:20 Yoinakuwä, the husband of the woman who was injured, is in the footage at 58 feet, 20 frames, and he's the only one there that's painted up with pigments. This all is taking place in front of Yoinakuwä's house. Notice at this point that neither Dedeheiwä nor Möawä are involved in this. It looks as though Törawä and Mohesiwä are members of the same side of the issue in this, against Uuwä.
97440 32:05 You see Mohesiwä jab his club into the ground and dare the other guy to hit him on the head. This is the stance they use when they have club fights. He's daring Uuwä to hit him on the head.
98640 32:20 The fellow on the right with his club held horizontally, aiming at Uuwä whose back is to us, is the [unintelligible; Törawä]. Notice the woman urging the children to get out of the way so they won't get hurt [sic?].
102590 41:20 You can see a woman stroking the arm of Mohesiwä to try to cool his temper off. I'm going to try and identify that woman. This fight took place just before a large fraction of the village ran off to Ironasi-teri, and I may not have identification photographs on 100% of the women in this group. The initial confrontation began when everybody was arguing and nobody was in the center of the village. Suddenly this fellow Uuwä grabbed a club and ran all the way across the village with the club and took a swing at Mohesiwä, the fellow who hit the woman. And that was when all of the other men came out. And that's why Uuwä is out there being challenged by the other people. And the woman who's soothing off Mohesiwä by rubbing his arm is scolding Uuwä, giving him a real tongue-lashing. Now you see Uuwä raising his club as if he's going to strike Mohesiwä. It looks like the women are arguing among themselves.
118720 56:20 In the background you see somebody running out of the house with a machete and a club to go arm some other man right in the background behind Törawä.
147240 82:20 You see Möawä pass in front of the camera where Tim is filming, very close to the camera and quite a distance from where the fight is actually going on. He's walking back to his house; he's all painted up. And it was just before this that Mohesiwä turned his back on Uuwä and began walking home. That did not, however, end the fight. I think Möawä thought the fight was terminated at that point, and began going home. But tempers suddenly flared again, and they relaunched the battle in front of the house of Daramasiwä. Uuwä would be a [classificatory] brother to Möawä. In other words, the guy who actually struck the first blow, who ran out and started the fight after the incident that provoked the anger.
148640 87:20 Oh, in the background you also see Nanokawä returning to his house. And Nanokawä is the head man of the other village, Ironasi-teri, or one of the prominent men in Ironasi-teri. Mohesiwä, one of the main principal contestants in this, and Nanokawä, would be living in the same village. That's at 87 feet, 20 frames. So it's quite clear that the group had not gone back to Ironasi-teri at this point. They were all still there. This was the second day we were in the village, or the third day, and I may not have had everybody's identification photographs.
154880 89:20 The guy with the red loincloth is Hiimashiwa; he's got two names, the other one is Kaaböwä. As soon as Mohesiwä turned his back and began going home, Uuwä was left standing there alone, and when everybody's back was turned, he immediately began running after them. And the women are starting to try to head him off at the pass before he strikes somebody from behind.
155960 91:20 The women start running away from him because they're afraid he might try to hit them.
162040 97:20 It looks like the conflict is just about over, and three women, one of whom is Kumishiwa's wife [Roenama], is walking back toward the camera.
162880 101:20 The two boys who are walking back holding their hands, sort of reassuring each other, one of them is Shimoneiwä, and the other one is Shiririwä. They would be classificatory brothers. Shimoneiwä is the son of Dedeheiwä, and Shiririwä is the son of Ishiweiwä, Dedeheiwä's older brother.
170320 106:20 Some guy just burst out of the house with his bow, with the string removed, it looks like, which is a very formidable weapon for running somebody through. The women who are walking back toward the camera immediately take note of this. Shortly after that, other men become excited and they are running out of the house, too, with other kinds of weapons, but they're too far away, I can't identify some of them. At this point one of the women who is walking toward the camera turns around and goes back, knowing that the conflict is going to emerge again.
177320 113:10 You see the ax for the first time. The man who has the ax is Kebowa. He's the one who [soon] strikes Törawä on the back when Törawä isn't looking. He was one of the guys who just ran out of the house who I couldn't recognize. The man in the same shot (113 feet, 10 frames) who's walking toward the camera with his back turned to everything is Dirimawä, one of Dedeheiwä's sons.
180120 114:20 The woman see him coming (114 feet, 20 frames) and they begin scattering and shouting at him. Behind him is Yoinakuwä with a club. Yoinakuwä runs toward the house. The women try to disarm the man Kebowa, who's attempting to hit somebody with the ax. I believe he's trying to hit Mohesiwä, the fellow who started the whole thing. And Yoinakuwä is running into the house with a -- no, it's a machete, it's not a club. Dirimawä, who's out of the picture now -- the woman who turned back is running into the fracas again. They succeed in taking the ax away from Kebowa. It looks as though Wadoshewa or Daramasiwä , one of the two of these men, is -- it's in his house that it's happening -- have disarmed Kebowa , and the reason has to be due to the fact that Mohesiwä is one of their sons. You see Törawä in the fracas too, and he's part of the conflict.
183320 119:15 You see Ruamowä walk casually by paying no attention to what's going on. You see to the left Yoinakuwä running to the left of the house with his machete in his hand. The reason Yoinakuwä ran to the left of the house is to sneak around behind everybody to get a good lick at the guy from behind. People are now running in great numbers toward the area of the fight, where Kebowa is struggling with the other people, Mohesiwä and Wadoshewa, about the ax. And there are people streaming off to the right where apparently another conflageration is breaking out. It looks as thought the women are now running home to get more weapons for the men.
190360 125:20 You see Yoinakuwä , who's managed to sneak in behind but is apprehended by some women, and they're trying to take the machete away from him. That's at 125 feet, 20 frames. The man who is sending his wife or some woman back to the house has now returned; the woman apparently went and got a machete for him, because he now zips back into the photograph with a club about ten feet long and a machete in the other hand, and the other woman has carried an ax into the fight now. The man with the machete dropped his club and he is not taking -- raising his machete to take a swing at somebody, and people are for very legitimate reasons getting the hell out of his way. Apparently the guy with the machete has a reputation for not fooling around. I can't identify the man with the machete, but I think it might be Uuwä again. Kebowa has his ax back. He's standing next to the post, in front of the post, and the man with the machete has got his machete poised over his head, and I'm not sure whether they're on the same team.
198280 133:20 Now there's a woman coming in at 133 feet, 20 frames, and she's got a hemo club, one of these very sharp palm wood clubs that are very dangerous weapons that they use to crack people on the head. I see in the background also Mohesiwä, with a great big long hemo club, and he is about ready to be clobbered by somebody with an ax. Yoinakuwä, in the meantime, is way over to the left of the house again. Some woman succeeded in dragging him away and holding him at bay over to the left of the house, while the other younger man are fighting it out. The fellow at 133 feet, 20 frames, who had his ax poised swung it and struck somebody with it, but it's a little too far away for me to see who got hit, but he got hit about in the kidneys; he hit him with the blunt side of the ax. The guy who did the swinging was Kebowa. I think the man who got hit was Mohesiwä. Indeed it was Mohesiwä, and he got clobbered. He got clobbered again by Kebowa, who's not swinging ...
193720 135:20 This is at 135 feet, 20 frames -- ... [Kebowa] is swinging repeated blows with the blunt side of his ax, and he is holding on to Mohesiwä with one hand and he [Mohesiwä] can't get away, but he's trying to duck the blows of the ax, but he's gotten hit at least twice so far. Now a man with the machete plunges into the fracas and I think it might be Uuwä. He's also attacking Mohesiwä.
201520 137:20 The man who plunged into the fight with the machete dropped it at 137 feet, 20 frames, and was handed an ax by some woman. Immediately somebody else picked up the machete and now two men, Kebowa and another man with an ax, are poised to -- I can't tell who's swinging at who, but it looks as if Kebowa is swinging at Mohesiwä. The second man, who picked up an ax, took a swing at Kebowa with his ax, so he's defending Mohesiwä, and I think that the man with the second ax is Törawä. He missed him with his first swing of the ax. At this juncture Kebowa realizes that he's being challenged by somebody with an ax.
204880 140:20 ... and you see Nanokawä at 140 feet, 20 frames, walk into the fracas, or by it, and he's totally unarmed. Kebowa just got a blow on the head with a machete, whoever has the machete smacked him on the top of the head with it. Somebody is trying to disarm Kebowa now by taking his ax away, and it looks like it might be Wadoshewa, who's the father of the guy who started the whole thing, the father of Törawä, at least in the classificatory sense.
206680 143:20 More men are getting weapons and entering the fight. Kebowa is still fighting with somebody over the possession of an ax; it looks like he's fighting with Mohesiwä about the ax. We're still in the back of the house. One man who is in the fracas too with a piece of bark around his head is Yoroshianawä, who would be a classificatory father to Törawä, so he would obviously take his side.
212360 147:20 The conflict at this point is now getting very dangerous, at 147 feet, 20 frames, because they are now clearly using the axes with the sharp edges exposed. One guy's got his ax poised with the sharp edge as the striking edge. The guy [Törawä] who's got the sharp edge exposed has just been grabbed by Yoroshianawä, who clearly sees that this is the wrong direction for the fight to take, so he tries to take the sharp-edged ax away from him. And sure enough, the ax is twisted around by somebody behind him so that the blunt edge is up.
215560 152:20 You see a man dash out of the crowd; it's Kebowa and he's got his ax, and he takes a vicious swing at somebody who's got his back to him, and I think this might be the place where he delivers a very crunching blow into the shoulder blade of Törawä from behind.
219760 155:35 You see Chagnon over to the left at the periphery of the fight, taking pictures with the 35 millimeter.
226360 T164:30 You see Dirimawä walk off with a machete, and he finds a club on the ground, but it's too long for him to use at close quarters, so he chops it off to an appropriate length.
231200 166:20 You see a man [Törawä] over to the left taking a swing with an ax at somebody. I can't make out who it is at this distance. I have 35-millimeter color photographs of this that are very, very clear, because I was much closer to the fight, and I have very detailed photographs of who's who in this fight. The man on the left at 207 feet who is taking a swing with an ax, just received a blow from a long club.
232080 167:20 Nanokawä, one of the head men, at 208 feet just enters the fracas with about a seven-foot long club. They've gotten in close quarters and they're now cutting their clubs off shorter so they can swing them easier underneath the roof of the house.
236280 177:20 They seem to have squared away and backed off a little bit, and they're now threatening by waving the clubs at each other, but the camera is a little bit too far away and there are two many bodies in the way to see if anybody is actually getting hit.
246000 210:20 On the sound track at 210.20 there is one man's voice standing out clearly louder than the rest, saying that he's going to beat the shit out of somebody; he's going to hit somebody. You can hear women crying, because they're very worried about the fight escalating.
249080 223:20 Tim has moved in closer. And now you can see the details of their faces. This is much better now. One of the principal contestants at this point you can see [is] Wadoshewa.
249640 225:00 Wadoshewa is standing there with a club,facing the camera at 225 feet. The man who's closest to the camera with his club in the air is Howashiwa, and the man behind him is Mohesiwä, who's apparently been hit on the wrist, because he's holding his wrist, and he's got a hemo club in the ground. Mohesiwä is the guy who in the beginning was being massaged on that very same arm by some woman.
251360 225:20 You see Daramasiwä standing there with his eyes closed, with his club struck in the ground upright, with his back to the main part of the fight. He and Wadoshewa are brothers and their son, the culprit, is Törawä. Törawä's actual biological father is Wadoshewa.
252240 227:20 And Wadoshewa is the man at 227 feet, 20 frames, in the center of the picture with tobacco in his mouth, with no weapon [visible]. Behind him is a lady, a woman with a big club, no it's a piece of firewood, and she's screaming at somebody.
257440 235:20 The guy who was hit with the ax blow, Törawä, is lying on the ground by himself to the left of the main scene of the fighting at 235 feet, 20 frames. It looks as though Mohesiwä is standing there in a ritualized pose asking somebody to bang him on the head next.
260040 237:20 Nanokawä is getting very angry and he is now aggressively chasing people away with his long club, and the man who's right in the middle of the fracas in front of Törawä is Hurumöwä. There's a woman on the ground trying to get Törawä to stand up and hit the guy back that knocked him down. Törawä was hit so hard that he could not get up. Every time the women tried to help him up, he fell down. He was hit on the left shoulder blade by the ax. It looks as though Hurumöwä is the arch principal defender of the area that Törawä is in at the present time.
279440 266:20 People are starting to go home now, and those who remained behind are sort of relaxing their stance.
287640 267:20 Now the father [Wadoshewa] of the injured boy [Törawä] is coming over to help him get up at 308 feet.
293760 274:20 He [Törawä] gets up and follows his father [Wadoshewa] toward home. His father takes a right turn and enters the house at a different place than the son does.
307320 276:20 It looks as though the fight is all over at 276 feet, 20 frames.
366800 459 feet approximately. There's a female [Waböama] yelling at some woman across the village, apparently the mother [Borowama] of the kid who got hit with the ax, and she's being very nasty and threatening to this woman, and she's saying she's got a nasty little son of a bitch of a coward son, who ran away after he got hit, didn't stay and fight. And she's insulting her by calling her Waikayuma, a woman who's from the Waikas, and this is an insult.