Short Documentary Films About Indigenous Peoples and Indigenous Knowledge

Our short documentary films about indigenous peoples, their traditions and their knowledge offer unique insights into these ancient societies. They are available for online viewing on our YouTube channel, where you can subscribe to receive notification each time we publish new content. Most of these short films can be viewed in up to HD (1280x720) format.

Maya Timelapse (2020, 7 minutes).

Maya Timelapse

Using timelapse videography, this short film glimpses daily life in three different Guatemalan Maya communities. In the north, on Lake Peten, we see the Itza people. In San Cristobal Verapaz, in the central part of the country, we visit the Poqomchi people. Finally, daily life of the Kaqchikel and Tzutujil peoples is observed in Panajachel on the shore of Lake Atitlan in the south.

Watch on YouTube. Watch our feature-length documentary, Peoples of the World: The Maya.

Erecting a Kazakh Ger (2020, 4 minutes).

Kazakh Ger

In western Mongolia, most of the ethnic Kazakh people are nomads. For most of the year they live in tents called gers (or yurts). They have to be able to take down and erect these gers very quickly.

This short film is a scene taken from our 2018 feature-length documentary, Peoples of the World: The Altai Kazakh. Using timelapse videography, it condenses the erecting of a Kazakh ger into just four minutes.

Watch on YouTube. Read our travel story, Kazakh Tours. Watch our feature-length documentary, Peoples of the World: The Altai Kazakh.

Ancient Peoples of Mesoamerica (2016, 5 minutes).

Ancient Mesoamerica

Until the arrival of the Spanish, Mesoamerican history is synonymous with the Maya. But they weren't the only — or even the first — ancient people to flourish in that part of the world. Other civilizations existed both before and after theirs.

This short film, taken from our 2016 feature-length documentary, Peoples of the World: The Maya, chronicles the rise and fall of the other major pre-Columbian peoples in the area.

Watch on YouTube. Watch our feature-length documentary, Peoples of the World: The Maya.

Traditional Modern Andean Music (2020, 8 minutes).

Indigenous Andean music

Thousands of years before the Inca and the Spanish, the Andean region of what is now Argentina had a thriving indigenous population. Over the centuries there has been so much human migration that it is no longer possible to distinguish indigenous and non-indigenous people there. But it is still possible to discern the style of the region's indigenous music.

This short film, shot in Humahuaca, Argentina near the Bolivian border, shows how modern musicians preserve the traditional style while blending it with modern influences.

Watch on YouTube.

Maya Counting and Calendars (2016, 4 minutes).

Maya calendars short film

At its height, long before the arrival of Europeans, the Maya civilization was one of the most advanced in the world. Their knowledge of astronomy/cosmology, mathematics and engineering was at least equal to that of any previous civilization and was far in advance of Europe. Although they are best known for their impressive pyramids, it is their calendars and the counting system behind them that reveal their ancient wisdom.

This short film, taken from our 2016 feature-length documentary, Peoples of the World: The Maya, explains their counting and their calendars.

Watch on YouTube. Watch our feature-length documentary, Peoples of the World: The Maya.

Inaugural Alma Kuk Golden Eagle Festival (2018, 4 minutes).

Alma Kuk festival short film

On September 24, 2017 the Alma Kuk Golden Eagle Association held its first golden eagle festival near the village of Ulaankhus in the Altai Mountains of western Mongolia. It is a unique festival in which golden eagles are released back into the wild. In the years since, it has expanded to become a regular fixture of the autumn Kazakh golden eagle festival calendar. But in the beginning its future wasn't so certain.

This short film, shot on a freezing day at that inaugural festival, is a scene taken from our 2018 feature-length documentary, Peoples of the World: The Altai Kazakh.

Watch on YouTube. Read our travel story, Kazakh Tours. Watch our feature-length documentary, Peoples of the World: The Altai Kazakh.

Indigenous Dances of West Africa (2020, 7 minutes).

indigenous dances short film

Africa in general, and West Africa in particular, is rich in the tradition of 'tribal dancing.' Yet many people are unaware that these dance traditions embody more than mere dancing. In fact, the music, the chanting, the dance movements and even the costumes have embedded within them indigenous knowledge.

In this short film, shot in Mali and The Gambia, we see traditional dances being performed by three indigenous peoples of West Africa: the Dogon, the Mandinka and the Jola.

Watch on YouTube. Read our photoethnographic essays about the Dogon, Mandinka and Jola peoples.

A Grain of Salt: Indigenous Afar Salt Miners of the Danakil (2020, 8 minutes).

Afar short film

Ninety years ago Mahatma (Mohandas K.) Gandhi used salt to defeat the British Empire and win independence for India. To celebrate the anniversary we have produced a short film about the indigenous Afar salt miners of the Danakil Depression — a hot, dry desert region spanning Ethiopia, Eritrea and Djibouti in the Horn of Africa.

It is the hottest inhabited place on Earth. It is also home to rich salt deposits that form the livelihood for many Afar people who work all day long in the scorching heat to mine that salt using only hand tools. The salt is brought to market by long trains of camels — caravans. It is one of the most spectacular sights in the world.

Watch on YouTube. Read our photoethnographic essay about the Afar people.

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