Archives / 2008 Sundance Film Festival

The Linguists

Director: Seth Kramer, Daniel A. Miller, Jeremy Newberger

Institute History

Description

Like modern-day explorers, the two academics featured in The Linguists travel to forgotten places around the globe to unearth rare treasures—in this case, endangered languages. On a shoestring budget, professors David Harrison and Gregory Anderson navigate difficult terrain, searching for speakers of these forgotten and mostly hidden languages. While more than 7,000 different languages are currently spoken around the world, many are rapidly disappearing. Language diversity is shrinking as colonialism and economic unrest destroy traditional tribal tongues. When young people abandon their ancestral language, the passive suppression of their culture begins, and soon those languages will cease to exist.

Joining a traditional ceremony in a remote village in India, observing a Kallawaya healing ritual in Bolivia, and completing an arduous journey into Siberia is all part and parcel of heeding the urgent call. The word connoisseurs are well suited for the monumental task of researching and documenting native tongues; they speak 25 languages between them. These humble ethnographers are in a race against time to preserve the increasingly rare words, which are intricately linked to the vanishing traditions and heritage of Indigenous populations. Well-paced and laced with humor, The Linguists serves as an insightful, contemporary adventure film with a strong emphasis on cultural history.

— Lisa Viola

Screening Details

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