DER Documentary

In the Shadow of the Sun

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by Nadine Wanono and Philippe Lourdou
color, 83 min, 1998

Non-profit, K-12, and Individual pricing also available
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A film about a Dogon funeral and enthronement ritual.

In Mali, 800 kilometers northeast of the capital of Bamako, the cliffs of Bandiagara stretch about 300 kilometers and reach a height of 300 meters. It is here among the Arou, one of the four tribes of the Dogon population, that Amma, Lord and creator of the world, chose the supreme religious chief who was responsible for fertility, rain and order on earth.

The chief priest, called a hogon, resides with a few members of his family in an isolated sanctuary given the name of his cast, "Arou", a sanctuary embedded in the cliffs, sheltered from the eyes of men. In 1984, the last of the Arou hogons died. At the bequest of the elders, his son, Ogomale, accepted the offer to replace his father temporarily to avoid leaving the position vacant. Due to economic troubles and religious discord, the funeral was not set until June 7th, 1992. For three days and two nights, the men of the Arou clan and neighboring families came to pay homage to the priest. Six weeks later, the nomination and the enthronement of the successor are organized. After his enthronement the hogon will spend the rest of his life in the sanctuary of Arou, and he will not be allowed to leave under any circumstances.

The film is beautifully shot, with the intense colors of the region coming into play, adding to our aesthetic enjoyment of this film. The filmmakers have worked closely together, and with, the famous French filmmaker, Jean Rouch, since the 1970's. This film reflects their intense engagement and in-depth knowledge of the people and events they have chosen to film. This is the second film DER has recently acquired about the Dogon culture in Mali.

Film Festivals, Screenings, Awards
ARTE TV Broadcast, Europe, February 1998
Cinema' du Reel, March 1998
Gottingen Ethnographic Film Festival, May 1998
ICAES Conference screening
RAI Ethnographic Film Festival, England, September 1998

Related Resources:
African Carving: A Dogon Kanaga Mask
Inagina: The Last House of Iron
Funeral Season

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Supported By Massachusetts Cultural Council National Endowment for the Humanities National Endowment for the Arts