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Documentaries by Niels Gutschow and Axel Michaels

Prof. Niels Gutschow and Prof. Axel Michaels have produced a number of documentaries on restoration and rituals in India, Nepal and Japan. Shot by cameraman Christian Bau, the films have been realised in cooperation with Thede Film Production. Some of the films are available on DVD as part of book publications by Harrassowitz.

The film "The Authentic Replica" (70 minutes, Niels Gutschow with Christoph Henrichsen) presents the renewal of Shinto shrines in Ise, Japan. These shrines are replaced by faithful replicas every 20 years. The documentation features on-site visits to the forest and workshops of the shrines in May 2011 as well as craftsmen such as carpenters and tinsmiths at work.

The building of new and restoration of old temples in Gujarat, India, documents the film "Jain Architectural Heritage" (39 minutes, Niels Gutschow with Rabindra Vasavada). In the interior, the external surface of fine plaster is regularly scratched off to be replaced by new plaster.

"The Spirit of the Architecture versus Material Authenticity" (38 minutes) discusses another film by Niels Gutschow. In particular, it observes the conservation of Humayun´s Tomb in Delhi, India. The implementation phase created a fruitful dialogue between the Archaeological Survey of India, with its emphasis on the material authenticity, and the Aga Khan Trust for Culture, an advocate of a conservation practice that supports the spirit of the architecture.

Axel Michaels and Niels Gutschow produced three films on life cycle rituals in Nepal. "Handling Death" (48 minutes) examines the dynamics of death rituals and ancestor rituals among the Newars of Bhaktapur, Nepal. The film was shot by Christian Bau and is available on DVD as part of a publication, which was published by Harrassowitz in 2005.

"Bel Fruit and Loincloth" (65 minutes) documents coming of age rituals in Bhaktapur, Nepal. Girls are married with the fruit of the wood apple tree and boys receive a loincloth. The film was produced with Christian Bau who was also director of photography of this as well as all the above described films. This film is also part of a publication. The book "Growing up" was published by Harrassowitz in 2008.

"Getting Married" (55 minutes) documents the main events of a Hindu marriage in Bhaktapur, Nepal, in November 2010. It covers the preparation and main rituals in both the house of the bride and the groom. The film is part of the publication "Getting Married. Hindu and Buddhist Marriage Rituals Among the Newars of Bhaktapur and Patan, Nepal" which was published by Harrassowitz in 2012.

Prof. Niels Gutschow is honorary professor at Heidelberg University's Department of Indology and lives in Abtsteinach, Germany, and Bhaktapur, Nepal. At the Cluster, he coordinated the research project D4 "Aspects of Authenticity in Architectural Heritage Conservation". Prof. Axel Michaels is Head of the Department of Classical Indology and Religious Studies at Heidelberg University and Co-Director of the Cluster of Excellence "Asia and Europe in a Global Context". He is also the Speaker of the Collaborative Research Centre SFB 619 "Ritual Dynamics". Christian Bau is a founding member of Thede Film Production in Hamburg. Since 2002, he is engaged with ethnographical films on Nepal, India and Japan.

View various trailers at

The Authentic Replica
Jain Architectural Heritage
The Spirit of the Architecture versus Material Authenticity
Handling Death
Bel Fruit and Loincloth
Getting Married

More information about the three mentioned books:

Handling Death (216 pages, published in 2005)
Growing up (332 pages, published in 2008)
Getting married (411 pages, published in 2012)