"Les Maîtres Fous—The Mad Masters—one of the truly great films." - Werner Herzog
“I feel that up to now two films of value have been made on Africa: your Moi, un Noir and Come Back Africa.” - Ousmane Sembene
A seminal figure of both film art and social science, Jean Rouch (1917-2004) represents a fountainhead of many aspects. A filmmaker who came to cinema gradually, Rouch had been a civil engineer in colonial Niger, where his observation of possession rituals formed the basis of his interest in anthropology. Formally trained to gather visual evidence, he evolved radically new approaches to documentary practice in Africa over many decades. Among these, one finds the assumption of scientific neutrality replaced by the possibility of fruitful and revealing stimulations in the acknowledgement of the camera, and the possibility of cinema as participating in and subject to trance states. Such affronts to received Western notions opened still-ongoing debates within anthropological circles. Rouch’s interest in the ontology of cinema led to experiments that proved hugely influential in his native France and worldwide, as in his most famous work Chronique d’un Été (1961), co-directed with Edgar Morin, now regarded as a foundation document of cinema verité and a cornerstone of the French New Wave. Rouch’s continuing work in post-colonial Africa evolved collaborative filmmaking approaches with colleagues including Damouré Zika and Oumarou Ganda, creating proto-fictional modes only partly distinct from documentary practice, and opening up the distinction of “ethno-fiction.“ This series samples but a fraction of Rouch’s vast cinematic output, and celebrates his unique contributions to human understanding.
All films Directed by Jean Rouch, unless otherwise noted.
All films in French with English subtitles, unless otherwise noted.
This series draws inspiration in part from the series “Here and Elsewhere: The Films of Jean Rouch” presented in Fall 2012 at the French Institute Alliance Française and Anthology Film Archives in New York, and curated by Sam Di Iorio and Jamie Berthe.
Special thanks to: Adrien Sarre, Lise de Sablet, Beatrice Arnaud, Delphine Selles-Alvarez--The Cultural Services of the French Embassy in the United States; Centre National du Cinéma et de l'image animée (Paris); Centre national de la Recherche Scientifique (Paris); Comité du film ethnographique (Paris); Institut français; Marie Losier-French Institute Alliance Française (New York); Jed Rapfogel—Anthology Film Achives; Sam Di Iorio—Hunter College; Jamie Berthe—New York University; Ayuko Babu--Pan African Film and Art Festival (Los Angeles); Emilie de Brigard.