by Dr. Kimberly Cavanagh
Published September 13, 2016 by SCAPOD in Events
Twenty-five years ago, October was designated as Archaeology Month in South Carolina and there are always a plethora of fascinating events and programs highlighting the world of archaeology from which to choose. One such event that has quickly become a favorite is the Arkhaios Cultural Heritage and Archaeology Film Festival, one of only two archaeological film festivals held in the United States of America. Arkhaios, now in its fourth year, takes place on Hilton Head Island, SC and was founded by Jean Guilleux, an avocational archaeologist. Intended to be an educational event showcasing the discovery of past cultures gained from archaeological research, illustrated by documentary films, it is also meant to encourage initiatives and exchanges between the different actors of the world of archaeological films. Too often these productions, which fuse art and science, are unknown and suffer from limited distribution channels. As well, a key goal of the festival is to trigger the interest of the South Carolinian filmmakers to apply their art to the state’s history.
Mr. Guilleux’s enthusiasm and vision for the Festival’s potential quickly created interest from the South Carolina archaeological community, the public, and garnered attention from filmmakers around the world. Both the South Carolina Institute of Archaeology and Anthropology (SCIAA) in Columbia, SC and the Coastal Discovery Museum on Hilton Head Island, SC were founding sponsors and their respective directors serve on the Arkhaios jury, who work to choose the Festival winners. As of 2016, the Coastal Discovery Museum has taken on an even greater role within the festival, now providing additional organizational and strategic support. Even with the assistance from Coastal Discovery, the festival relies on a strong team of committed volunteers who dedicate their time and expertise throughout the entire year and at the festival itself.
Each year, close to 40 films from around the globe are submitted for festival consideration. It is up to the Arkhaios Screening Committee –made up of anthropologists, archaeologists, filmmakers, writers, historians, and critics –to cull these film possibilities down to a total of 12 hours (9 hours for the World Heritage track and 3 hours for the South Carolina Heritage track), to be shown over the course of three days. Once the official selection is chosen, the films are then submitted to the jury, which again is made up of a variety of backgrounds, to determine the winners of the various festival categories. Neither the selection committee nor the jury have an easy task, that is for sure!
The festival typically falls on the second-to-last weekend of October and Hilton Head Island is beautiful at this time of year. Visitors make the most of their time on the island, enjoying the beaches in the morning and then their afternoons at the theatre. Several attendees have even shared that they now plan their autumn vacation around the festival! A real sense of community has developed among the festival attendees. They are more than simply passive filmgoers; intermissions at the festival are a vibrant cacophony, as attendees actively and enthusiastically discuss and debate the films’ content and message. It is not unusual for attendees to even have an opportunity to speak directly with the filmmakers during these intermissions as many filmmakers also attend the festival to introduce their films. The festival presents a rich tapestry of local and global cultures, to date hosting films originating from nearly 20 different countries.
The importance of an event like Arkhaios as a form of public outreach for archaeology and cultural heritage cannot be understated and we are fortunate to have it taking place in our own state. As one juror commented, “[t]he responsibility for preserving our heritage must be shared, not just among archaeologists and other scientists, but among the citizens of the planet.” (Hilton Head Sun, 7 Oct. 2015:3A)