For someone who is an inexperienced student and intends to venture into a field of study laden with so-called normative conflicts (and I think we can describe a Twelve Tribes-community this way), it would probably be a better idea to be asking tons of questions instead of trying to give overly ambitious answers that are but only half-baked. Also, if he has anything to say at all, he should perhaps rather try his hand at arts instead of acting like a smart scientist. Art allows for expressing subjective views – something which is considered a vital part of anthropological methodology – maybe even more clearly than what plain ethnographic text can achieve.

Members of the Twelve Tribes (photo was taken during the study)
Members of the Twelve Tribes (photo was taken during the study)

This is why this film has been made.

   A film that tries to present an attempt at research exactly the way it felt like for the researcher – and because of this somehow degenerates into a scrappy mixture of pseudo-horror movie, pseudo-documentary, video diary, dance show and satire.

   A film that fails in all its small single objectives, but maybe as a whole manages to become just the kind of subjective sidelight it wants to be.

   A film that tries to test the borders of Visual Anthropoloy (in case they exist), maybe to cross them and somewhere out there find a subtle connection between science and art.

   A film that wants to prompt some or rather a lot of questions, which also still remain questions to the film-maker – questions of the categorization of evil, of the significance of norms like human rights, of behavioral ethics and dealing with prejudgements, of the justification or unjustification of forms of counter culture, of the necessity but also the danger of understanding, of the role of one's own, probably manipulated perception. 

   A film that, in the end, wants to give voice to those who usually only are talked about (maybe rightfully so?), that forces the audience to listen to those whose values they maybe abhor.


This is also the reason this website has been created.

   Adhering to the anthropological practice of transparency, this website intends to publish some important results of the research, in order for them not to remain in the „academic ivory tower“, but to become availabe for the public where they can be received and criticized by everybody, also by the investigated persons themselves.

   In particular, this website tries to achieve some understanding of this controversial field of study and the perspective of the researcher.


Members of the Twelve Tribes (photo was taken during the study)
Members of the Twelve Tribes (photo was taken during the study)

With regards to what has just been said about this research project, the documentary, trailer, and actually the whole website have to be taken with caution – they neither claim to present „objective“ data about the religious community „Twelve Tribes“, nor do they claim to be made fully out of „authentic“ material.


For a more comprehensive view on the „Twelve Tribes“ the link section can point you to several other resources like texts and blogs with different perspectives on the issue.


Finally, this website can be no more than an attempt – an attempt to bring these high-level objectives a little more within reach. But an attempt is actually enough – right now, more simply isn't possible.

Member of the Twelve Tribes (photo was taken during the study)
Member of the Twelve Tribes (photo was taken during the study)


In summer 2015, Manuel, a student of B.A. Social and Cultural Anthropology at Goethe-University Frankfurt am Main, did an eight-week field research in a community of the religious movement „Twelve Tribes“ where he did participatory observation and conducted lots of interviews with different informants in order to learn ethnographic methods. One of the results of his stay is the documentary presented on this website.