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Jean Rouch
Edited and Translated by Steven Feld
Volume: 13
Copyright Date: 2003
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 416
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Book Description:

    Edited and translated by Steven Feld Jean Rouch has made more than one hundred documentary films in West Africa and France, pioneered numerous film techniques and technologies, and in the process inspired generations of filmmakers. Ciné-Ethnography is a long-overdue English-language resource that collects Rouch's key writings, interviews, and other materials that distill his thinking on filmmaking, ethnography, and his own career.

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-9454-9
    Subjects: Anthropology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-viii)
    S. F.
  4. Editor’s Introduction
    (pp. 1-26)

    I first encountered Jean Rouch’s films in 1972, at a National Science Foundation Summer Institute in Visual Anthropology organized by Jay Ruby, Sol Worth, Karl Heider, and Carroll Williams. I had just finished my first year of graduate school in African studies and anthropology, and I was deeply moved by the complex layers of the Africa I saw represented inLes maîtres fous, The Lion Hunters,andJaguar.I wanted to know more. If these were the kinds of films and ethnography Rouch had done in the 1950s and 1960s, what could he possibly be doing in the 1970s? I...


    • The Camera and Man
      (pp. 29-46)

      In 1948, when André Leroi-Gourhan organized the first ethnographic film congress at the Musée de l’Homme, he asked himself, “Does the ethnographic film exist?” He could only respond, “It exists, since we project it.”

      And in 1962, Luc de Heusch quite justly wrote:

      To brandish the concept of the “sociological film,” isolating it within immense world production, is this not a chimerical and academic exercise? The very notion of sociology is fluid, varying by country and local tradition. The term does not apply itself to the same research in Russia, the United States, or Europe. Is it not, on the...

    • The Situation and Tendencies of the Cinema in Africa
      (pp. 47-86)

      The cinema began to take hold in Africa from the first years that followed its invention. In South Africa, for example, as early as 1896, cinema was introduced by a vaudeville magician who had stolen a “theatregraph” from the Alhambra Palace in London. And today, the word “bioscope,” used from the turn of the century by “Warwick bioscope” projectors, is still the usual word for cinema in South Africa.

      In West Africa, the first attempts at cinema projections date from 1905, the year that traveling cinemas projected the first animation strips in Dakar and surrounding areas. At the same time...

    • On the Vicissitudes of the Self: The Possessed Dancer, the Magician, the Sorcerer, the Filmmaker, and the Ethnographer
      (pp. 87-101)

      This essay is based, on the one hand, on knowledge about the Songhay-Zarma, at the loop of Niger, which I have gathered over a period of thirty years of ethnographic research. On the other hand, it is based on experimentation with direct cinema, deriving from the theories, under the namecinéma-vérité,prophesied in 1927 by the Russian filmmaker Dziga Vertov. I have used direct cinema as a special research tool in doing ethnography among these West African groups.

      If the notion ofpersonne—the self, person—is effectively one of the key religious factors involved in trance, possession dance, magic,...

    • The Mad Fox and the Pale Master
      (pp. 102-126)

      Why tell it? Why tell this story of joy and of passion, of humiliation as well as revolt, this story that nobody else will ever tell? Maybe it’s because all our youth was a witness to this strange fever that keeps making our heart beat, something that keeps coming back like a recurring memory, a word, a question that still has no answer. Maybe it’s also because, for me, to write this homage to Germaine Dieterlen is to go back on the road, to meet Michel Leiris’s “Blaise berçant sa laisse” and a manhood that we, neither you nor I,...


    • A Life on the Edge of Film and Anthropology
      (pp. 129-146)

      Anthropologist and filmmaker Lucien Taylor edited and translated his conversations with Jean Rouch, which took place in Paris on December 21–24, 1990.—Ed.

      LUCIEN TAYLOR:Why don’t we start out with your beginnings.

      JEAN ROUCH: My mother came from Normandy and my father from Catalonia—Ruig is a Catalonian name that means “red.” He was an officer in the navy. Before the war he had trained as a meteorologist, and then he joined Dr. Charcot’s famous expedition to the Antarctic on the boat calledPourquoi Pas?They had no radio connection with the outside world, so they were totally...

    • Ciné-Anthropology
      (pp. 147-187)

      This interview was recorded on video in August 1980 to serve as an introduction and commentary to a major retrospective of films by Jean Rouch. Enrico Fulchignoni, who conducted the interview, often moderated film presentations with Rouch at film festivals and university classes. He was active in ethnographic film in Europe, particularly the Festival dei Popoli in Florence, and served on many UNESCO commissions concerning Third World film. He died in 1988 in Paris.—Ed.

      ENRICO FULCHIGNONI:In 1895 the Lumière brothers invent a light, mobile camera. An eye that watches, that moves, that jumps, that captures the most mobile...

    • Les maîtres fous, The Lion Hunters, and Jaguar
      (pp. 188-209)

      Filmmaker John Marshall and anthropologist John W. Adams interviewed Jean Rouch in English in September 1977 at the Margaret Mead Film Festival at the Museum of Natural History in New York. They asked Rouch to present his story of the making ofLes maîtres fous, The Lion Hunters, andJaguar. At the time, these three films about Africa were Rouch’s best-known works among North American students and teachers of anthropology. John W. Adams begins each section with a brief anthropological introduction to the films; Rouch’s comments follow.—Ed.

      Les maîtres fous(1953) is perhaps the best-known film by Rouch. Within...

    • The Politics of Visual Anthropology
      (pp. 210-226)

      Dan Georgakas, Udayan Gupta, and Judy Janda interviewed Jean Rouch in English in September 1977 at the Margaret Mead Film Festival at the Museum of Natural History in New York. The questions and responses relate to the seven films by Rouch featured over three evenings at the festival that year:Les maîtres fous, Moi, un Noir, Chronicle of a Summer, The Lion Hunters, Jaguar, Petit à Petit, and Cocorico, Monsieur Poulet.Ed.

      You are best known in the United States forChronicle of a Summer.The more we learn about the film that launched cinéma-vérité, the more controversial and intriguing...


    • Chronicle of a Film
      (pp. 229-265)

      In December 1959, Jean Rouch and I were jurors together at the first international festival of ethnographic film in Florence. Upon my return, I wrote an article that appeared in January 1960 inFrance Observateur,entitled “For a New Cinéma-Vérité.” I quote it here because it so clearly conveys the intentions that pushed me to propose to Rouch that he make a film not in Africa this time but in France.

      At this first ethnographic and sociological festival of Florence, the Festival dei Popoli, I got the impression that a newcinéma-véritéwas possible. I am referring to the so-called...

    • The Cinema of the Future?
      (pp. 266-273)

      Making a film is such a personal thing for me that the only implicit techniques are the very techniques of cinematography: sight and sound recording, editing the images and recordings. It is also very difficult for me to talk about it and, above all, to write about it. I have never written anything before starting a film, and when for administrative or financial reasons I’ve been obligated to compose a scenario, some continuity plans, or a synopsis, I have never ended up making the corresponding film.

      A film is an idea, flashing out or slowly elaborated, but one that cannot...

    • Chronicle of a Summer: The Film
      (pp. 274-329)

      ROUCH: You see, Morin, the idea of gathering people around a table is an excellent idea. Only I don’t know if we’ll manage to record a conversation that’s as normal as it would be if the camera wasn’t present. For example, I don’t know if Marceline will be able to relax, will be able to talk absolutely normally.

      Marceline turns to Morin.

      MORIN: We’ve got to try.

      MARCELINE: I think I’m going to have some difficulty.

      ROUCH: Why?

      MARCELINE: Because I’m a bit intimidated.

      ROUCH: You’re intimidated by what?

      MARCELINE: I’m intimidated because . . . at a given moment...

    • The Point of View of the “Characters”
      (pp. 330-342)

      We presented the principal participants ofChronicle of a Summerwith the following questionnaire:

      1. What were your feelings during the making of the film? Did you feel that you were interpreting a role? Were you bothered by the presence of the camera? by the method of the “authors”? Or, on the contrary, did you have the feeling of surrendering yourself totally and sincerely?

      2. Do you think that some other method of inquiry, of “attack,” might have achieved a greater degree of truth? What, for example?

      3. Does the definitive representation of you in the film seem true to...


  9. Publication Information
    (pp. 390-392)
  10. Index
    (pp. 393-400)
  11. Back Matter
    (pp. 401-401)