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The Linguists

A two-man mission to document the world's endangered tongues becomes a fleet-footed study of human communication and its limitless structural and functional possibilities in "The Linguists."

A two-man mission to document the world’s endangered tongues becomes a fleet-footed study of human communication and its limitless structural and functional possibilities in “The Linguists.” Proceeding from the alarming reality that a language goes extinct every few weeks, this involving if somewhat scattershot travelogue sheds a well-intentioned light on how smaller native communities and their systems of speech are often marginalized by the dominant cultures around them. Cable-ready docu could easily be trimmed to a broadcast-friendly hourlong format and exported to viewers in any language.

Speaking an impressive combined total of 25 languages, David Harrison and Gregory Anderson make an engaging globe-trotting duo as they locate seven surviving speakers of Chulym in Siberia (two of whom had died by 2007); interact with speakers of the little-known Sora tongue in tribal India; and track down the few remaining Bolivians fluent in Kallawaya, a mysterious language linked to the practice of healing rites. Fascinating insights about the many uses and varieties of human communication — and the suppression of rural cultures by urban institutions such as boarding schools — compensate for pic’s routine ethnographic approach and sometimes too-swift editing. Tech package is OK.

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The Linguists

  • Production: An Ironbound Films presentation sponsored by National Science Foundation, Nonprofit Media Group. Produced, directed by Seth Kramer, Daniel A. Miller, Jeremy Newberger. Written by Miller.
  • Crew: Camera (color, DV), Kramer, Newberger; editors, Anne Barliant, Kramer; music, Brian Hawlk; music supervisor, Brooke Wentz; sound, Miller, James David Redding III. Reviewed at Wilshire screening room, Los Angeles, Jan. 10, 2008. (In Sundance Film Festival -- Spectrum.) English, Russian, Chulym, Chemehuevi, Hindi, Sora, Quecha, Kallawaya dialogue. Running time: 65 MIN.
  • With: <b>With:</b> Gregory Anderson, David Harrison, Vasya, Nora Vasquez, Johnny Hill Jr., Manideepa Patnaik, Mr. Panda.
  • Music By: