James Sudalnik: Documentarian Participates in Emmy Award Selection
James Sudalnik, chair and professor of communications, participated in the initial round of voting
for the 2006 Primetime Emmy Awards. Sudalnik is a member of the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences
in the non-fiction peer group. The 58th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards were telecast from the Shrine Auditorium
in Los Angeles on August 27.
As a member of the non-fiction peer group, Sudalnik has the opportunity to award and promote works with a potential
for social impact that utilize innovation of the art form, and display mastery of filmmaking technique.
“Education is one of the cornerstones of the organization and its work,” he says. “This is exemplified in dozens
of screenings, seminars, and meetings throughout the year, and especially in the student membership program,
which students can participate in through the Communications Department here at CSUDH.”
Sudalnik’s own documentary films were part of the exhibit “The Art of Being Kuna: Layers of Meaning Among the
Kuna of Panama,” which ran from April 1 to September 4 at The San Diego Museum of Man in Balboa Park. The filmmaker
joined a team from the UCLA Fowler Museum of Cultural History to visit Kuna villages off the coast of Panama,
eating their food, sleeping in hammocks in open air huts, and experiencing their rituals, a couple of which he captured on video for the first time.
“One of these was a healing ceremony, the other a coming of age celebration,” Sudalnik says. “They took place in
darkened huts or special structures and involved the burning of substances, consumption of home brewed liquids,
and many other rites and rituals I had never before seen or experienced. Since that time, I've recognized parallels
among other Indian cultures but the Kuna remain unique.”
“The Art of Being Kuna: Layers of Meaning Among the Kuna of Panama” presents a view of the Kuna culture as seen
through the Kuna's central concern for form and beauty in everyday life, as experienced through narratives, rituals,
healing, and visual arts such as molas (decorative textiles). One of Sudalnik's six films in the exhibit is an overview of how
molas are made.
Sudalnik was amazed by “the individualistic treatments delivered by various artists, their styles, and their
technique. I discovered the well-established methodologies of mola making, the intricacies, the enormous amount
of work, and that these elements were only the beginning of the artistic interpretive process that the Kuna women
employ in creating them.
“I noticed a wide array of subject matter in the many molas I was initially exposed to, many of which were incorporated
into articles of clothing. The colors were brilliant and the art could be appreciated up close and, differently, at
a distance," says Sudalnik. "After more research, I saw that it was an artistic mechanism utilized to explore what the
Kuna see in their culture and in the world.”
Sudalnik’s films are a permanent part of the traveling exhibit, which has been shown at the UCLA Fowler Museum of
Cultural History, the National Museum of the American Indian in New York, the Field Museum in Chicago, and the
Maxwell Museum of Anthropology at the University of New Mexico. Originally developed at the UCLA Fowler Museum of
Cultural History with support from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the exhibit represents a 12-year
collaborative effort between Kuna cultural specialists and anthropologists.
For more information on the exhibit, visit
- Joanie Harmon