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by Robert Gardner
color, 58 min, 1981
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Deep Hearts is a film about the Bororo Fulani, a nomadic society located in the central portion of the Niger Republic of Africa. The title is a reference to an important aspect of these people's thought and demeanor.
The Bororo are immensely beautiful. They are also extremely envious of each other's looks. This envy accounts for their truly suspicious nature; one which leads quickly to feelings of fear. They are particularly fearful of being 'devoured' by both the eyes and mouths of those around them with whom they compete as beautiful creatures. The concept of a deep heart is useful because it accommodates their fears by providing a metaphysical space in which to hide their true feelings.
Deep Hearts describes the Gerewol, an occasion during the rainy season when two different and competing lineages come together at a designated watering place to choose the most 'perfect' Bororo male. It is close to being a physical and moral beauty contest in which the winner, selected by a maiden of the opposing lineage, is acclaimed the 'bull.' The film is also an attempt to let this ceremony of the Bororo be a way of speaking to the larger question of choice itself, something which confronts all human beings at all times.
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