1945 – 1949
1950 – 1954
1955 – 1959 1960 – 1964
1965 – 1970 1971 – 2004
This filmography first appeared in the book Ciné-Ethnography by Jean Rouch, edited and translated by Steven Feld (University of Minnesota Press, 2003). Many thanks to the University of Minnesota Press and Steven Feld for permission to reprint it here.
This comprehensive listing of films by Jean Rouch draws from several sources. For the pre-1981 films, original synopses were written by Jean Rouch and first appeared in the catalog Jean Rouch: Une rétrospective, published in 1981 in Paris by the Ministère des Affaires Etrangères-Animation Audiovisuelle and the Service d'Etude, de Réalisation et de Diffusion de Documents Audio-Visuels of the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique. Anny Ewing and I translated these synopses, and Jay Ruby embellished some of them with material from various sources, principally Mick Eaton's book Anthropology–Reality–Cinema: The Films of Jean Rouch, published by the British Film Institute in 1979. This portion of the filmography was then compiled by Jay Ruby and published as "A Filmography of Jean Rouch, 1946–1981," Visual Anthropology 2, nos. 3–4 (1989): 333–65.
Information on the films after 1980 comes from the document Rouch films depuis 1980 provided by Françoise Foucault of the Comité du Film Ethnographique, Musée de l'Homme, with original comments and synopses by Jean Rouch. These were translated by Catherine Maziére and me and appended to the prior composite document. The entire filmography was then checked and completely revised for technical details (dates, running times); it was also updated to conform with the most recent Films Rouch database, also provided by Françoise Foucault of the Comité du Film Ethnographique, Musée de l'Homme.
The following abbreviations are used throughout the filmography.
|CFE||Comité du Film Ethnographique|
|CNRS||Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique|
|FEMIS||École Nationale Supérieure des Métiers de l'Image et du Son|
|GREC||Groupe de Recherche et d'Essai Cinématographique|
|IFAN||Institut Français d'Afrique Noire|
|INA||Institut National de l'Audiovisuel|
|SCOA||Société Commerciale de l'Ouest Africain|
|SERDDAV||Service d'Etude, de Realisation et de Diffusion de Documents Audio-Visuels|
Les Films de la Pléiade, the producer of many of the films, is now Les Films du Jeudi.
Unless otherwise stated, Rouch was the director of each film, and all films are in 16 mm with sound and in color. For distribution information, contact the Comité du Film Ethnographique, Musée de l'Homme, Palais de Chaillot, Place du Trocadéro, 75116 Paris, France. The primary North American distributor of Rouch's films is Documentary Educational Resources,
101 Morse Street, Watertown, Massachusetts 02472.
La chevelure magique
With Pierre Ponty and Jean Sauvy. Black and white.
This film has been lost.
1946 – 1947
Au pays des mages noirs
(In the Land of the Black Magi)
Produced by Actualités Françaises. With Pierre Ponty and Jean Sauvy.
Black and white. 12 minutes. Blown up to 35 mm.
Synopsis: Hippopotamus hunting with a harpoon by the Sorko of Niger. In the village of Firgoun, in sheds shaped like amphorae, the fishermen build a large hunting canoe with strips of wood sewn together. Shots of daily life in the village. Making harpoons and propitiatory sacrifices to the spirit of the water. In the marshes on the edge of the river, the fishermen approach and harpoon a hippopotamus. The hippopotamus, covered with harpoons, cannot get out of the marshes. One of the fishermen kills it with a blow from a lance. They haul its body onto dry land to butcher it and divide the meat into portions. Possession dances with details of the dance steps; a woman is possessed by the spirits of the water. In the evening, some Hauka arrive. They are the powerful spirits of the villages and countryside of Niger.
Chasse traditionelle à Bangawi
(Bangawi Traditional Hunt)
Black and white. 12 minutes.
Rouch's own cut of Au pays des mages noirs.
Chasse à l'hippopotame
With Pierre Ponty and Jean Sauvy. 50 minutes.
Techniques of the hippopotamus hunt.
Produced by CNRS and Secrétariat d'Etat à la Cooperation. 15 minutes.
Awarded Prix du Reportage, Misguich Festival of the Short Subject, 1949.
Circumcision rites of thirty Songhay children from the village of Hombori, Mali. The boys are taken into the bush, prepared, and circumcised. After the circumcision they are cared for, and in the evening, they make their first appearance and sing the first song of the circumcised.
This film has been lost.
Initiation à la danse des possédés
(Initiation into Possession Dance)
Produced by CNRS. 22 minutes.
Awarded first prize, Biarritz Festival, 1949.
A woman is initiated into ritual possession dances among the Songhay of Firgoun, Niger. The musicians arrive. The first dance. The dancing lesson: learning the main steps. Dance of departure of the initiated, and group dance.
Les magiciens de Wanzerbé
(The Magicians of Wanzerbé)
Produced by CNRS and Secrétariat d'Etat à la Cooperation. In collaboration with Marcel Griaule and Roger Rosfelder.
Black and white. 33 minutes.
Screened at the first ethnographic film conference, Musée de l'Homme.
Principal rituals of Songhay magicians who are descendants of emperor Sonny Ali, from the village of Wanzerbé, Niger. The Wanzerbé market, children's games, Mossi the magician, dance of the magicians, sacrifice made to the village mountain spirit.
1949 – 1951
Les fils de l'eau
(The Sons of the Water)
Produced by Les Films de la Pléiade. 69 minutes. Blown up to 35 mm.
A long work built up from excerpts from Les hommes qui font la pluie, La circoncision, Cimitière dans la falaise, Bataille sur le grand fleuve, and Les gens du mil.
Cimetière dans la falaise
(Cemetery in the Cliff)
Produced by CNRS and Secrétariat d'Etat à la Cooperation. With Roger Rosfelder. Commentary by Marcel Griaule and Germaine Dieterlen. 18 minutes.
Synopsis: Funeral rituals among the Dogon on the cliffs of Bandiagara, Mali. Dogon country: a cliff, waterfalls, cricks in the rocks, onion gardens, millet field. The farmers and their wives come back from working in the fields. The rainy season: wintry sky. The goat herders gather their flocks. The women grind the millet. It is raining. The streams are swollen with water. A man drowns.
Sacrifice to the spirit of the water: at dawn two priests go to the edge of the stream. They undress and put on leather trunks. Holding a chicken, one of them speaks to the spirit of the water, asking him to give back the body of the dead man, while the other taps on a rock with a tata iron. Sacrifice of the chicken above the water of the stream. Its body is grilled over a wood fire.
Return of the cadaver: The recovered corpse is carried on a man's back, at a running pace along the cliff toward the village of Idyeli at sunset. Funeral: The next morning, at dawn, the cadaver, attached to a stretcher, is brought out of the mortuary house, saluted by drums and bells and the cries of wailing women. On the village square, a mock combat to prevent the body from entering. The body enters the square, following a winding path, symbol of its resurrection. It is placed on the "stone of the brave." The women greet the body with upside-down gourds; the men take up the stretcher and carry the cadaver to the end of the village, at the foot of the cliff.
Putting the body in the cemetery: Some men climb up to the cave, which dominates the village of Idyeli from above 100 meters, so as to hoist the cadaver up there. The cadaver is removed from its stretcher. It is wrapped in the blanket of the dead. They attach it to a thick rope. The men haul it up. It rises slowly toward the sky and the cemetery in the cliff. The condolences: In the village, all the women salute the dead man as he disappears. They cry. They scrape the earth with broken gourds ("the broken egg of the world"). They give the ritual condolences to the mother of the dead man, who is singing the praises of her departed son. Conclusion: In the cemetery cave, the men replace the stones that close the opening. All around them are the skeletons of the other dead men. Countryside, waterfall (a symbol of life, which is always reborn from death).
Les gens du mil
(The People of the Millet)
Assistant: Roger Rosfelder. 45 minutes.
Les hommes qui font la pluie, or Yenendi, les faiseurs de pluie
(The Men Who Make the Rain, or Yenendi: The Rainmakers)
Produced by Institut Français d'Afrique Noire. With Roger Rosfelder. 28 minutes.
Synopsis: Rain rituals with possession dances among the Songhay and Zarma of Simiri, Zermaganda, Niger. Dry Season: The village of Simiri; water carriers, the rainbow tree. Possession of the faithful making their way to the spirits' hut on the seventh day of the seventh month of the dry season. All of the inhabitants of the village go to the spirits' hut to celebrate the Yenendi, the festival of the rain. Preparation by the musicians: under the shelter, gourd drummers. The chief of the village, old Wadi Sorko, prepares his violin. Dance of the "spirit" horse (possession dance).
Arrival of the spirits: Start of the possession dances, which permit the spirits to speak through the voices of the dancers they have chosen. These are Moussa, spirit of the wind; Naiberi, goddess of the cemeteries; Sadara, the rainbow; Tyirey, master of the lightning; Hausakoy, master of the thunderbolt; and Dongo, master of the thunder and the rain. They fall down before the hut. They back out, dressed in their ritual costumes and carrying their ritual objects.
They go back to the hut to talk with the men about the next rainy season. Bargaining: the men want a lot of rain and very little thunder. The gods want a lot of thunder and very little rain because they are angry. They are appeased with gifts.
Making rain: The priests and the faithful go behind the hut. A ditch is dug, running east to west (it represents the land of Simiri). The hampi (ritual jug) is placed at the top of this ditch. It is filled with water and millet (first fruits of the last harvest): it represents the spirit of the thunder, and the priests and spectators place one finger on the edge of the jug; this is the sermon of the rain. Dongo pours out the jug of the sky: the year's rain falls on the land of Simiri. According to the pattern created by the streams of water and the distribution of the grains, the men learn whether the season will be good and the crops abundant.
The men turn their backs. A black goat and a chicken are sacrificed above the hole of the hampi.
Rainbow cult: The priests sacrifice a multicolored ram (with brown, black, and white patches) to the tree and to the stones of the rainbow, which divert the waters from the cloud to fill the wells. The blood is poured over the tree. The festival is finished. Priests and faithful go home.
The first rain: The rainy season begins. Clouds appear. The sky is completely black on the eastern side. The herds are brought in. Dust storm, tornado, lightning, rain.
Bataille sur le grand fleuve
(Battle on the Great River)
Produced by Institut Français d'Afrique Noire and Centre National du Cinéma. With Roger Rosfelder. 33 minutes.
Synopsis: The Sorko hunt the hippopotamus with harpoon on the Niger River (around Ayorou and Firgoun, Niger). The fishermen build a large canoe out of planks sewn together. Harpoons with floats indicate where the beast has dived.
Ceremony to question the spirit of the river on the possibility and success of the hunt. Possession, dance: dance of a woman possessed by the spirit of the river, dance of the Haukas, spirits of force. Final three preparations before departure: the fisherman wash themselves with magic water in order to have courage.
February – March: Going back up the Niger with eight small canoes and one large one; the hippopotamuses have taken refuge in the tall grass marshes. First success: a two-ton female is killed.
April: The water level in the river has gone down; the beasts have abandoned the high grasses and have gone back up the rapids. New departure of the fishermen, who attach straw bumpers to the front of the canoes to break on the waves. Attack: a young hippopotamus is captured alive. New attack on an old hippopotamus; alone and ferocious, riddled with harpoons, he manages to escape after smashing up the large canoe.
Repairing the large canoe. Two fishermen leave again in pursuit of the hippopotamus; they catch a manatee.
The old hippopotamus has gone back down the Labbezenga rapids. In spite of the harpoons implanted in his body, he again manages to escape and completely demolishes the large canoe. It is the season of mists on the river; the hippopotamus is still impossible to find, vanished into the marshes of the north. Return of the fishermen, who have turned their clothes inside out as a sign of defeat.
1953 – 1956
Produced by Films de la Pléiade and CNRS. 20 minutes.
Editing and sound track completed in 1966.
Daily life of the Fanti fishermen of Ghana, and rituals for the opening of the fishing season at Shama, Ghana.
(The Mad Masters)
Produced by Films de la Pléiade. Sound by Damouré Zika. Edited by Suzanne Baron. 24 minutes.
Prize for best short film, Venice, 1957.
Synopsis: Annual major ceremonies of the Hauka, spirits of power in Accra, Ghana. Titles and explanatory text concerning the basis of Hampi possession states. Urban life in Ghana and principal activities of Nigerian migrants. Amusements of migrants of all nationalities.
Headquarters of Hauka: the buying of salt in Accra. Departure for the annual grand ceremony in some trucks carrying some slogans. Arrival at the ritual arena of Mountyéba.
The arena: British pavilion displaying the Union Jack; wooden copy of statue of the governor. Presentation of a newcomer, which opens the first "possession."
Public confessions: each accuses himself, and the priest Mountyéba recites the slogans of Hauka. The guiltiest must make a sacrifice of chickens and sheep. The punished are sent to the bush. The priest Mountyéba sacrifices some eggs on "the stairs and the balconies" of the "secretary general." It is raining; at the sound of a violin, the initiates await the one who brings the sacrificial dog from the bush (all food is forbidden).
Beginning of the possession: dribbling, hands trembling, panting, the first possessed arrives, "Corp'ral Gardi" (the corporal of the guard). Then the other possessed arrive: Gerba "Conductor"; "Madam Lokotoro" (Madam Doctor); the "Ordinance Lieutenant" (eyes bulging, panting); "Madam Salma" (wife of Captain Salama, commander of Niamey club).
Inspection of the governor's statue: after different ceremonial greetings of all the Hauka, there is the inspection. Then the last possessed arrive: "General Furious"; the soldier, "Tiémoko"; then the "Secretary-General"; and the "truck driver." Finally, the "Sorry Commander" who almost set himself on fire with a torch.
Sacrifice of the dog: roundtable conference and gathering around the concrete altar; sacrifice; the Hauka lick the blood. Dismemberment, new conference, cutting up of the dog by the "Governor," the dog boiled in the cooking pot.
Consumption: the Hauka leave the broth boiling and eat it; they prepare some pieces for the absent ones. When the crisis state is over, the possessed lift themselves up and leave. Night falls on the arena of Mountyéba.
The next day: streets of Accra, headquarters of the initiated. The possessed sitting-up (like a wake) return to their usual jobs: "Madam Doctor" is a saleswoman in a shop; the "Corporal of the Guard" makes gravel; the "Lieutenant" is a pickpocket; the "General" is a simple soldier. The "Governor" and the "Conductor" work for the water department. While mastering the Hauka cult, they have resolved, through violent crises, their adjustment to today's world.
Produced by CNRS. 12 minutes.
The independence of Ghana.
1957 – 1967
Produced by Films de la Pléiade. Commentary and dialogue by Damouré Zika, Lam Ibrahima Dia, Illo Gaoudel, Amadou Koffo. Sound by Damouré Zika. Edited by Josée Matarassa, Liliane Korb, Jean-Pierre Lacam. Music by Enos Amelodon (guitar), Tallou Mouzourane (piano), Amisata Gaoudelize (chant), Yankori (violin), Ama (flute), Djenne Molo Kari (harp).
Cast: Damouré Zika (Damouré), Lam Ibrahima Dia (Lam), Illo Gaoudel (Illo), Douma Besso (the miner), Amadou Koffo, Jean Rouch (narrator).
Synopsis: The migration of three young men from Niger to Ghana and their return. The journey of Lam, Illo, and Damouré to Ghana, where they find their fortune and the largest market in Africa. But they finally return to their country.
Introduction: presentation of the three heroes: Lam, a Peul herdsman, guards his cattle in the Niger bush. Illo, a Sorko fisherman, pulls up his wicker traps in the river and goes back to the fishing camp. Damouré, the young "gallant," gallops through the streets of the village on his horse, Tarzan. All of them are descendants of the warriors of yesterday.
The departure: every Sunday the market is opened in Ayorou. Arrival of Illo the fisherman in his canoe and Lam the herdsman with his cattle. Damouré in his "office" under a tree, since he knows how to read and write. They decide to leave on a trip and prepare themselves. During a marabou festival, Lam and Illo pray that God will give them a good journey. During a possession dance, Damouré asks the spirits to protect their voyage.
The voyage: three friends leave on foot. The vegetation changes a bit: the farther south they go, the more different the trees are. A stop in the land of the Somba, who live naked. Crossing the mountains of Togo. Discovery of the sea. Smuggled across the frontier. Then, separation of the three heroes.
Illo, the fisherman, stays on the coast. He will throw his nets with the Ewe fisherman. Then he will become a clothing retailer. As soon as he has a bit of money, he will leave for Accra.
Damouré, the gallant, walks along a paved road: he is hitchhiking to Accra. Discovery of the big city. He looks for people from his village whom he discovers at the timber market where everyone sells wood. He becomes a laborer there.
Lam, the herdsman, meets another herdsman who is going to the Kumasi market. Lam discovers the largest African market. He becomes a perfume merchant with a friend who has a shop there.
The beginning of success: Illo, the fisherman, discovers some friends who are dockers in the port of Accra. Damouré becomes a clerk for the wood merchant, then a foreman. Now Damouré is a "jaguar," a young man in style. Lam, the herdsman, has become a peddler and sells perfumes and cloths. In a gold mine he runs into Douma, an old friend from Niger, and makes him his partner.
Amusements: on Sundays, Damouré lives the life of Accra: races, dances in the streets, dances of the Hauka, general election of Kwame Nkrumah.
The meeting: Illo and Damouré take the train to Kumasi. They find Lam and Douma in their open-air shop. The shop, Petit à petit l'oiseau fait son bonnet, is a great success. They get rich. One evening it begins to rain. They decide to go back home.
The return: The four friends and their baggage leave in a truck. Once they arrive in the village, they distribute in one day what they earned over several months. They have nothing left, but they are the kings of their village.
Village life resumed: Douma, the miner, has become a farmer again. The herdsman, Lam, watches over his flock. Illo, the fisherman, hunts the hippopotamus. Damouré the gallant tries to seduce all the girls in the village.
1956 – 1957
Produced by CNRS and the Institut Français d'Afrique Noir. Edited by Jean Ravel. 27 minutes.
Prize, Florence Festival, 1960. 28 minutes.
Funeral rituals for the traditional leader Moro Naba of the Mossi at Ougadougou, Upper Volta (now Burkina Faso). Election ceremonies for his successor. Preparing the feast for the end of mourning. Ceremony in the palace, the people of Ougadougou, the warriors in traditional dress. Presentation of the new leader.
1957 – 1964
(The Lion Hunters)
Begun in 1957 and completed in 1964.
Produced by Les Films de la Pléiade/Pierre Braunberger.
Assistants: Damouré Zika, Lam Ibrahima Dia, Tallou Mouzourane. Sound by Idrissa Meiga, Moussa Amidou. Edited by Josée Matarasso, Dov Hoenig. Cast: les chasseurs à l'arc (the bow and arrow hunters) Tahirou Koro, Wangari Moussa, Issiaka Moussa, Yoya Koro, Belebia Hamadou, Ausseini Dembo, Sidiko Koro, and the apprentice, Ali.
90 minutes. Golden Lion Prize at the 26th Venice Film Festival, 1965.
Synopsis: Between 1957 and 1964, hunters from the Yatakala region undertook seven hunting expeditions employing traditional bows and poisoned arrows. The film follows the technical and religious aspects of that hunt, which today has disappeared: the construction of the bows and arrows, preparation of the poison, tracking, arrow-making rituals, the death of the prey, cutting up the meat, and the telling of the story to the children. On the boundary between Niger, Mali, and Upper Volta (Burkina Faso) live the Gow—the last hunters of lions with bows and arrows. It is a "nowhere" land—"the bush that is farther than far"—beyond the sedentary villages, where the great Peul or Bella herdsmen wander around scattered ponds.
The cattle and the lions live in peculiar contact: the best pastures are precisely the lion's bush, where each night the wild beasts contend with the herds for the capture of the weaker animals. Natural selection, which the lion sometimes overdoes by killing for the pleasure of killing. So the herdsmen call upon the Gow hunters.
During the five years from 1957 to 1962, we followed the hunting campaigns of the Gow group from the village of Yatakala, led by the chief of hunters, Tahirou Koro.
Preparation of the bows, the arrows, and the arrow poison, nadji boto, the technique and the magic of the hunt are intimately mixed.
Tracking the lions from camp to camp. Failure of the first campaign: the bush is "spoiled," and a diviner reads in the earth that one of the hunters is allied with the lions.
New hunting campaigns where the death of a hyena is a bad sign of new spells to combat.
A young lion caught in a trap is put to death: the hunter who will shoot it knows that, in return, he will lose one of his own sons.
Discovery of the trail of a killer lion, "the American," who springs all of the traps of the hunters, who then kill two of his females. The first dies ritually, calmed by the praises of the hunter chief until the moment when she "vomits her death."
But the second, "Fitili's lion," counterattacks and dangerously wounds a Peul herdsman before being paralyzed by the poison. So the victorious hunters, "tired but happy," return to their village, where they divide up the lion meat. And in the evening they tell their sons the marvelous story of gawey, gawey, the lion hunt.
Produced by CNRS/CFE. With Gilbert Rouget. 25 minutes. Released in 1963.
The initiation of three new "horsemen" in a Vaudoun d'Allada monastery in southern Benin.
Moi, un Noir
(Me, a Black)
Produced by Films de la Pléiade. Sound by André Lubin. Edited by Marie-Josèphe Yoyotte and Catherine Dourgnon. Orchestra music by Yopi Joseph Degré. Songs by Miryam Touré, N'Daye Yéro, Amadou Demba. French commentary by Oumarou Ganda. Adviser: Lam Ibrahima Dia. Director of production: Roger Felytoux.
Cast: Oumarou Ganda (E. G. Robinson), Petit Tourè, Alassane Meiga, Amadou Demba, Seydou Guede, Karidyo Faoudou, Mlle Gambi.
73 minutes. Prix Delluc, 1959.
Synopsis: The lives of young Nigerian émigrés in Treichville on the Ivory Coast. Introduction: Presentation of the particular context in which the film was shot (a film biography). Night falls on Treichville; bridge in Abidjan at night.
Presentation of the hero: Edward G. Robinson, a young Nigerian, walks down the roads from the plateau and enumerates his misfortunes. No job, no place to live. He crosses the lagoon in a small motorboat and gets off at Treichville.
Presentation of this neighborhood to the theme of a modern African song; Robinson enters his home in the "Nigerian Community."
The week: Different activities of Nigerians in Abidjan. Unskilled laborers, porters, dock workers, and "coaxers"—men who coax passengers into trucks. Robinson's two best friends, Tarzan and Eddie Constantine, are a taxi driver and a peddler–cloth merchant, respectively. Robinson and his friend Eddie are looking for work as occasional laborers. Robinson keeps his eye on the hiring at the entrance to the port where once in a while he works all day loading sacks of coffee. At noon he has lunch at the Hotel des Bozeri, sleeps in the street, and returns to his work, reminded of his military campaigns. In the evening he goes back to the "Nigerian Fraternity," where they gamble away the day's wages at cards. He tells stories about the granddaughters of the chief of the Nigerian community, and goes to the Ambiance bar to find Tarzan in his boxing workout.
Saturday: In the afternoon no one works. Robinson meets "Little Jules," and they go to the beach in Tarzan's taxi with two young Nigerian women, Dorothy Lamour and Jeanne Tarzan. Beach games, picnic, swimming in the lagoon. Robinson, sitting next to Dorothy Lamour, dreams about becoming a boxing champion, but it is only a dream. In the evening, Robinson and "Little Jules" and Eddie Constantine are the sole spectators at a real boxing match. Upon leaving, Robinson is invited to the Esperance dance hall by Tarzan. He drinks beer and would like to pick up girls, but they ask him for money, and he doesn't have any. He goes home alone and unhappy.
Sunday: In the morning, Eddie Constantine goes to the cathedral exit to meet some girls, then goes to the hairstylist "Cha-Cha-Cha." This Sunday is both an election day and a Muslim holiday. Robinson goes to pray in the street near the Treichville mosque. Everyone but him is well dressed. He walks through a political demonstration, which he does not take part in. He doesn't vote, either. In the early afternoon Eddie Constantine goes to the stadium to see a soccer match. Here again he is much more interested in the young female spectators than in the sport. Then Tarzan, Robinson, and Eddie go to the Goumbé, Abidjan's dance club. Procession in the street accompanied by singing, drums, and trumpets. Then the start of the dance: a young novice champion, dressed cowboy style; bicycle dances (rodeo). When night falls, a dance contest: Eddie Constantine and Nathalie are the best dancers and are proclaimed "King and Queen of the Royal Goumbé." Robinson flirts with Dorothy Lamour, but an Italian sailor steals her away from him. Robinson, sad and solitary, gets drunk on beer. When he can no longer pay his tab, he is kicked out of the Mexico Saloon. He dreams that Dorothy Lamour is his wife and that they are happy in their house.
Conclusion: At dawn, Robinson gets up and decides to go see Dorothy Lamour. But the Italian sailor opens the door when he knocks. Fistfight. Robinson leaves. It is raining. He goes to find his friends at the entrance to the port. He learns that Eddie Constantine is in prison because he got into a fight with a policeman. He works in the rain and in the evening goes to the prison with Tarzan and "Little Jules." Eddie Constantine will be in for at least three months. The three friends go back down to the edge of the lagoon, which reminds them of their Niger homeland. Robinson becomes more and more bitter. Heading back to Treichville, on the banks of the lagoon, he recalls his military life and the war in Indochina, and philosophizing all the while, he crosses the new bridge, telling "Little Jules" that maybe the future will be better.
La pyramide humaine
(The Human Pyramid)
Produced by Films de la Pléiade. Cinematography by Louis Mialle. Sound by Michel Fano. Edited by Marie-Josèphe Yoyotte, Geneviève Bastide.
Cast: Nadine, Denise, Alain, Jean-Claude, Elola, Nathalie, Dominique, Landry.
90 minutes. Released in April 1961.
Synopsis: The problems of interracial relations in a school in Abidjan, Ivory Coast. Introduction: a young white woman and black man are walking along the Champs Elysées. This film is the story of their friendship.
Presentation of the place: Abidjan. The director gathers together a group of high school students, Africans and Europeans, boys and girls, and distributes roles: the racists and the nonracists. Nadine is the new European student in the Abidjan high school. Presentation of her friends, one of whom is Denise, a young African and leader of the black group in the class. Alain, a young European who has a scooter, seems the closest to her. The white group and the black group each lead separate lives. Alain takes Nadine to the swimming pool; he comes to see her with Jean-Claude, another European. She is astonished to hear that they never go out with the blacks. They decide to talk to their white friends about it. In the evening, next to the swimming pool, a general discussion among the core members of the white group. Two racists are violently opposed to any attempt at making friends with them, but the majority are favorable to the idea. Coming out of the next class, Jean-Claude tells his African friends about this decision. Meeting of the black group of the class. In spite of the reticence of the two black racists, Denise and her friends Elola, Raymond, and Baka are ready to try the experiment.
Beginning of the friendship between blacks and whites: Denise comes to see Nadine at home. Raymond and Jean-Claude play the guitar. The white group rapidly forms a little gang. They go to the stadium together and, through Denise as intermediary, learn to know the problems of racism. The Africans take the Europeans to a Goumbé (club for young Abidjan dancers), and for the first time, boys and girls, Africans and Europeans, dance in the streets, led by the "Goumbé Queen," Nathalie.
Their feelings: Some of the boys, black and white, fall in love with Nadine. Baka takes her out in a canoe; Alain takes her to visit his grounded ship (a cargo boat, half smashed by the bar). Jean-Claude takes her to the abandoned house, where he has hidden a piano. During a surprise party organized at Nadine's house, Jean-Claude and Alain have a fight. Raymond, a black, proposes a walk around town with Nadine. He tells her about his childhood. They both fall asleep at the foot of the tree. A division becomes evident in the group. Raymond insists to Denise that Nadine loves him and wants to supplant Baka. Alain, more simply, turns to the young black dancer Nathalie. Denise wants to avoid any dramas and one day, coming out of school, reproaches Nadine for her coquetry. Exams bring back calm.
The drama: Screening of the film for the young actors-improvisers. They decide to give a dramatic ending to the story. The group meets for a picnic on the wrecked boat. Order has apparently returned, but Alain, trying to show off, dares to swim around the shipwreck in a raging sea. He dives. He almost succeeds but then disappears into an enormous wave. Despair overcomes the group. Nadine cries for her departed young friend. The group gathers in Nadine's garden. An argument breaks out between the blacks and whites; the group splits up. The school year is finished. Nadine goes back to France. When she goes to say goodbye to Denise, Denise reproaches her sadly for her coquettish attitude. At the airport the group nonetheless comes to say good-bye to Nadine. She leaves in tears. Jean-Claude, the only white, stays beside the blacks. He makes up with his old friend Raymond, who gives him a ride home on his bicycle. We then see the principal actors, among them Alain, the "dead man," on the Champs Elysées in Paris. Thanks to this film, they have become friends and no longer have racial complexes.
Chronique d'un été
(Chronicle of a Summer)
In collaboration with Edgar Morin. Produced by Argos Films/A. Dauman. Cinematography by Roger Morillère, Raoul Coutard, Jean-Jacques Tarbès, Michel Brault. Edited by Jean Ravel, Nina Baratier, Françoise Colin. Director of production: André Heinrich.
Cast: Marceline Loridan, Marilou Parolini, Angélo, Jean-Pierre; the workers, Jacques and Jean; the students, Régis, Céline, Jean-Marie, Nadine Ballot, Modeste Landry, and Raymond; the employees, Jacques and Simone; the artists, Henry, Madi, and Catherine; the cover girl, Sophie.
Black and white. 90 minutes. Festival prizes: Cannes, Venice, Mannheim, 1961.
Synopsis: A film experiment in Parisian sociology, or a sociological inquiry into Paris. Shot during the summer of 1960 with the prototype for the Coutant-Mathot KMT 16 mm camera, utilizing for the first time the Pilotone system to film synchronously with a Nagra neopilot perfectone magnetic recorder. This film, produced in collaboration with Edgar Morin, is an attempt at cinematographic investigation using an entirely new technique of synchronous sound (direct cinema) on young French people in the summer of 1960. This was the moment when it was thought that the war in Algeria was going to end. It was prolonged, and the incidents in the Congo added the problems of independence in the African states to the problems of the Maghreb states.
Over several months the film follows both the investigation itself and the evolution of the principal characters. These are Marceline (former deportee), doing socioeconomic research; her friend Jean-Pierre, a student of philosophy; Marilou, of Italian origin, a secretary at Cahiers du Cinéma; Angélo and his friend Jacques, workers at Renault; an SNCF employee; a discouraged former militant, and his wife; and Landry, a student from the Ivory Coast, coming from high school in Villeneuve-sur-Lot.
Around this group we discover other Parisians, unknown people met in the streets: Nadine, a high school friend of Landry, Raymond, a student from Ivory Coast at a commercial school, a happy artist-painter couple, a cover girl, a saleswoman in a fashion shop, the daughters of Edgar Morin, and the two authors of the film.
At the beginning, the question asked is "How do you live?" but other, more essential questions quickly appear: political despair, solitude, the battle against boredom. Vacation arrives, the factories empty, the beaches fill up. Algeria will be for some other year.
All of the protagonists attend the first screening of the film. They discuss, accept, or reject it. In the end, the two authors find themselves alone in the face of this cruel but fascinating experiment in cinéma-vérité.
Produced by CNRS/CFE. 25 minutes.
Festival prize, Florence, 1962.
The display of a ritual vase at the Niamey Museum, Niger.
Les ballets du Niger
(Ballets of Niger)
Black and white. 20 minutes.
A visit by the Nigerian ballet company to the Théâtre des Nations in Paris; an interview with Hamani Diori, the president of Niger, at intermission.
Niger, jeune république
(Niger, Young Republic)
Produced by ONF, Quebec, Canada. Directed by Claude Jutra; Rouch acted as adviser.
Assistants: Roger Morillière and Susanne Vianes. 58 minutes.
Made to commemorate the first anniversary of the independence of Niger. Versions in the Zarma and Hausa languages were made for distribution in Niger.
Produced by Films de la Pléiade. Cinematography by Michel Brault, Roger Morillère, Georges Dufault. Sound by Roger Morillère. Editing by Annie Tresgot. Music by Johann Sebastian Bach.
Cast: Nadine Ballot (Nadine), Jean-Claude Darnal (a student), Jean-Marie Simon (an engineer), Modeste Landry (a black from Abidjan). Black and white. 58 minutes. Released in 1962 for broadcast on ORTF TV.
A Parisian examination of commedia dell'arte filmed with the techniques of direct cinema. The film follows the encounters of Nadine as she leaves her Parisian school.
Abidjan, port de pêche
(Abidjan, Fishing Port)
Produced by CNRS/CFE. 25 minutes.
The relationship between industrial and traditional fishing in the Ivory Coast.
(The Coconut Palm)
Produced by CNRS/CFE. 21 minutes.
Agricultural research on coconut palms in the Ivory Coast at the experimental research station at Port Bouët.
Fêtes de l'indépendence du Niger
(Celebrations of the Independence of Niger)
Produced by CNRS/CFE and IFAN, Niger. 27 minutes.
Independence celebrations in the Republic of Niger in 1961–1962.
L'Afrique et la recherche scientifique
(Africa and Scientific Research)
Produced by CNRS for UNESCO. 32 minutes.
An overview of French scientific research in Africa in the fields of hydrology, botany, biology, and agriculture, including palm oil, coconut, and industrial fisheries.
Le palmier à huile
Produced by CNRS/CFE and IFAN. 23 minutes.
Agricultural research on the cultivation of palm oil in the Ivory Coast.
Rose et Landry
(Rose and Landry)
Produced by ONF, Quebec, and the Canadian Film Board. Cinematography by Georges Dufault. Sound by Marcel Carrière. Edited by Jean-Jacques Godbout. Director of production: Fernand Dansereau. Cast: Modeste Landry, Rose Bamba, George Neyra.
Black and white. 28 minutes. Two prizes at the Venice Festival, 1963.
Rose and Landry discuss the contrast between ancestral traditions and Western civilization.
Produced by CNRS/CFE. Assistants: Roger Rosfelder, Louis Civatte, and Moustapha Alassane. 28 minutes.
Traditional millet agriculture in Niger and problems in agronomic research.
Monsieur Albert, prophète, or Albert Atcho
(Mr. Albert, Prophet, or Albert Atcho)
Produced by Argos Films and CNRS. Edited by Jean Ravel. 26 minutes.
Life in a community of Harrist followers of the prophet Alberto Atcho in the village of Bregbo in the Ivory Coast.
Les veuves de quinze ans
(The Fifteen-Year-Old Widows)
A sketch for The Adolescents or La fleur de l'age (The Age of Awakening)
Alternative title: Marie-France et Véronique (Marie-France and Véronique)
Produced by Films de la Pléiade. Cinematography by Jacques Lang. Sound by Michel Fano. Edited by Claudine Bouché. 25 minutes.
A coproduction of France, Canada, Japan, and Italy.
One of four film sketches on the problems of adolescents facing the adult world in the 1960s. The three other sketches were directed by Michel Brault, Hiroshi Teshigahara, and Gian Vittorio Baldi.
La Goumbé des jeunes noceurs
(The Goumbé of the Young Revelers)
Produced by CNRS and Films de la Pléiade. 30 minutes.
Synopsis: La Goumbé is a voluntary association of young people from Upper Volta who work in Abidjan, Ivory Coast. The film shows the members of the association at their work, then at a reunion that ends on a dance floor in Treichville. The young people who come to work in Abidjan often form spontaneous associations for mutual help and entertainment, which are called "Goumbés" in Ivory Coast, after the name of a square drum that serves as the rhythmic base to their dance. During a general meeting, the secretary of the association reads the statutes, and it is these statutes that serve as both the backdrop and the commentary of the film.
Thus the professional activities of the principal members of the office are exposed: the president is the head of the valets at the Hotel Ivory, the vice president is a clerk for the express transport services, the high commissioner is a guard in the port, and so on.
Next, the association is composed of musicians and dancers. The tambourine player is a tailor, the singer-composer is a button sewer in a clothing-manufacturing business, and the leading lady, Nathalie, is a mother and homemaker. A section of young soccer players, "the alliance," is associated with the Goumbé and plays every Sunday morning. Every week the dancers practice to invent new dance steps. Once a month, the musicians must compose new songs for the Goumbé. Also every month, a parade of the Goumbé takes place in the streets of Treichville.
Twice a week, the members meet to pay their dues and eventually to decide the allocation of the funds, be it for the purchase of new instruments, or to come to the aid of a member in need.
The grand reunion takes place on Saturday evenings and Sunday afternoons in a street of Treichville. Chairs and benches block off the street; an electronic sound system permits the singer Sibiki to make himself heard and to present successive dancers. All the members of the association are dressed the same way: white shirt and black pants, and the dances begin. In the beginning the dancers follow the rhythm of the drums, and then, when they are inspired, they become the leaders of the orchestra, which follows their dance step.
Gare du nord
(North Train Station)
Produced by Les Films de Losange. Cinematography by Étienne Becker. Edited by Jacqueline Raynal.
Cast: Nadine Ballot (Odile), Barbet Schroeder (Jean-Pierre), Gilles Qucant (the desperate one). 20 minutes.
This film was shot in real time: a young woman argues with her husband about the sadness in their lives and decides to leave him. In the street, she encounters a stranger who invites her to run away with him, but she refuses. He commits suicide. One of six sketches for the film Paris vu par . . . ; the other sketches are directed by Jean-Daniel Pollet, Jean Douchet, Jean-Luc Godard, Eric Rohmer, and Claude Charbrol.
Batteries Dogon, éléments pour une étude des rythmes, or Tambours de pierre
(Dogon Drums, Elements of a Study in Rhythm, or Stone Drums)
Produced by CNRS/CFE. Codirector: Gilbert Rouget. With Germaine Dieterlen. 26 minutes.
The young goat herders from the cliff of Bandiagara practice on the stone drums of their ancestors. An ethnomusicological film experiment describing the subtle plays of the right and left hand of Dogon drummers.
Sigui 66: Année zéro
(Sigui 66: Year Zero)
With Germaine Dieterlen. 15 minutes. Double System sound.
Synopsis: The head Hogon of Arou, religious chief of all the Dogon of the Bandiagara Cliffs, Mali, announces the beginning of the Sigui ceremonies for the next year. At the village of Yougo, where the ceremonies will begin, the old ones discuss the forewarning signs and the messages that they will send to the young people on the plain and to those who work in Ghana and the Ivory Coast. Thus we begin a series of eight documents (1966–1973) that concentrate on the sixty-year-cycle Sigui ceremonies among the Dogon. The film summarizes the myth that gave birth to the Sigui: the little natural children of the Pale Fox, God's first creation, who then revolted against him, live in the caves and grottoes. When God sends down the anvil of the first blacksmith and the science of agriculture, the anvil falls to earth, hollowing out an enormous lake, and then bounces back to wedge itself in the Mandingo mountains, where it now stands in the form of a stone needle. One of the little dwarfs from the grotto on which the anvil fell dies shortly thereafter. This calls for the first Sigui, the ritual for the first dead man during which the sacred language, sigi so, is spoken for the first time. The Dogon, having come from the Mandingo mountains to the Bandiagara cliff in the fifteenth century, have "transported" their ritual landscape with them. At Yougo Dogorou, a needle of stone is called "the anvil," and in the caves located beneath, little effigies represent the dwarfs and the first Sigui.
Similar to those at Songo, the paintings under the great cliff overhangs represent the Pale Fox and his children. Near Sangha, in the shelter of a rock overhang, an ancient construction near the "sleeping millstones" has a triangular opening: it is here that the Dogon watch the rising of Sirius and his "companion." When the time comes, that is, every sixty years, they commemorate what happened here, with the ancestor teaching men the ritual language of the Sigui: sigi so.
In 1966 the Hogon of Arou, chief religious figure of the Dogon, who does not have the right to leave his sanctuary, confirms to us that the Sigui will indeed take place the following year: they have already brought him the millet beer.
Now the Sigui can begin its seven-year circumnavigation, which we follow with aerial views: the anvil of Yougo, the sacred village of Tyogou, the cave of Bongo, the village of Amani at the foot of the perpendicular cliff, the spring of Idyeli and its nearby dune, the plateau village of Yame, and finally the circumcision huts at Songo. There, facing the wind that brought the Sigui on its wings, a painting represents the entire Sigui cycle. It will be re-commemorated in sixty years, in 2027.
Produced by CNRS/CFE. 15 minutes.
Daouda Sorko, fisherman from the village of Simiri, Niger, is a high priest of the cult of Dongo, the thunder spirit. Daouda recounts the myth to Damouré Zika of the origin of the seven Torou spirits, the principal deities of Songhay mythology, and in particular the way in which Dongo has become the most feared divinity, the master of the sky, responsible for thunder and rain.
Faran Maka fonda
(Faran Maka's Path)
Produced by CNRS/CFE. 90 minutes.
Damouré Zika joins Daouda Sorko on the initiation path of the Sorko fisherman from the Niger River.
Sigui no. 1: L'enclume de Yougo
(The Anvil of Yougo)
Produced by CNRS/CFE. Codirectors: Gilbert Rouget and Germaine Dieterlen. 38 minutes.
Synopsis: The first year of the sixty-year-cycle ceremony of Sigui among the Dogon of the Bandiagara cliffs. After having prepared the beer, the costumes, and ornaments, the men shave and put on the ritual costumes of Sigui and enter the public square dancing. Afterward they will "carry the Sigui" to the other villages. The film is a journal of the discovery of the Sigui by Germaine Dieterlen, Gilbert Rouget, and me. We only know about this ceremony through the investigations of Marcel Griaule, carried out between 1921 and 1936, that is, twenty years after the celebration of the Sigui at the beginning of the century. One year before the Sigui, we went to see the village of Yougo Dogorou: the village was completely empty. The men had gone to work in Ivory Coast; only the women and children were there. Under a toguna, a men's shelter, the old men welcome us, receive the message from the Hogon of Arou, and give us authorization to come back the following year.
In January 1967, when we return, the village is overcrowded. The men and boys are shaved; the young girls and young women have taken their jewels to the blacksmith, who has set up his forge in a grotto so that he can remake the jewelry to fit the men who are supposed to wear it. On the little public square, the drum begins to sound; the three calls of the drum summon the dancers. They are wearing black trousers and high white headpieces; they hold in one hand the dono (a cup-shaped staff-seat), in the other hand a flyswatter and a gourd for drinking the millet beer. Some of them carry the Sigui "satchels" that we saw painted on the cliff overhangs at Songo. They enter into the square by strict order of age. Those who participated in the 1907 Sigui are at the head—the old men we had seen a year earlier dance just like all the rest—and then, behind them, the entire generation of old men, young men, boys, and little tots. The procession performs the dance of the serpent. The front of the procession turns back on itself until the entire square is filled. From time to time an old man shouts the words of the Sigui in the secret language, sigi so. Then the men raise their staffs and cry out the call of the fox. Along the narrow little streets of the village, they go to visit the terraces of the old olubaru. The new olubaru are there, wearing cross-chestbands made of cowrie shells. Their hair is adorned with pearls, and their cane seats are decorated with carving. Behind them, a woman wearing a cloth over her head holds the gourd of the Yasigine: she represents the twin sister of the fox, the sister of the Sigui. They will dance all day long. The next day the dances start up again in the afternoon, following the same scenario.
They have to pass under a wall of thorns that the old men hold above them. It's a veritable rite of passage. The third day, in the morning, the dancers gather again on the public square, then they leave along the steep roads of the cliff, in a procession to carry the Sigui to the next village, Yougo Na.
The Sigui has begun. It will not return to this place until seven years later.
Yenendi de Boukoki
(Rain Dance at Boukoki)
Produced by CNRS/CFE. 25 minutes.
Rituals of rainmaking in the seventh month of the dry season at Boukoki, Niger.
Yenendi de Ganghel
(Rain Dance at Ganghel)
Produced by CNRS/CFE. 35 minutes.
In August, lightning struck a small fishing village near Niamey. The Zima priests and Sorko fisherman then organized a Yenendi, a ceremony of purification.
Sigui (68) no. 2: Les danseurs de Tyogou
(The Dancers of Tyogou)
Produced by CNRS/CFE. With Germaine Dieterlen. 26 minutes.
Synopsis: The second year of the sixty-year cycle of Sigui ceremonies among the Dogon of the Bandiagara cliffs. At Tyogou, a mountainside village, the men prepare the hats and costumes of the Sigui. Then they go in procession toward the sites of the ancient villages to dance again at the village square and drink millet beer. The following day, they decorate the cave of the masks, where the new large mask will be placed at the conclusion of the ceremony. Tyogou faces the spike of the Yougo, which dominates the gardens surrounding a semipermanent lake. For several days the visitors bring bundles of wood to Tyogou, for the preparation of millet beer. Beneath the toguna, the men's shelter, which overlooks the gardens, the final preparations are being made: the men and youths embroider the Sigui headpieces, they finish carving the cane-seats and paint them red (with sorrel dye or with koranic ink), and then they are shaved. Here all the men will wear chestbands with cowrie shells, which they have just finished decorating. In the afternoon, after three calls of the drum, all the men gather near this toguna. They go single file, preceded by the old men and the musicians, to scale the cliff that faces the village, to the site of the original village of Tyogou. There, on the site of the ancient village, they sing the songs of the Sigui. Then, by strict order of age, they enter the square, doing the dance of the serpent. On the square there are large vessels filled with millet beer. When the square is full, when the men have punctuated the cries of sigi so with the cry of the fox, they sit down on their cane-seats and drink beer. After this ceremonial drinking bout, the men dance in pairs, face-to-face. The old men separate rivals so as to avoid introducing an element of competition into this ritual. The dance is the essential element of this year's ritual.
The next morning, we visit the cave of the masks. We have not seen a mask in Yougo. Here the mask is in front of the cavern: it is carved in the form of the great serpent whose tail is adorned with a bird's head. It is sitting on the ground: it is unpainted. In the cave we see the three previous masks: the one from 1908, the one for 1848, and the one for 1788. The chief of the masks explains the origin of these masks to Amadigné.
In the afternoon, there is a gathering near the toguna of Upper Tyogou, with the olubaru coming behind the first old men. Then, after crossing the village, the procession penetrates into the square, where, for one last time, the dances of the serpent, the face-to-face dances, and the collective dances take place.
On the third day, the Sigui will leave for the village of Koundou.
Un lion nommé "l'Américain"
(A Lion Named "the American")
Produced by CNRS/CFE. 20 minutes.
In the course of projecting The Lion Hunters, a film made about them, the bow lion hunters decide to clear the shame of the lion called "the American," who escaped them in 1965. They relocate his trail (he has a characteristic wound of the paw, caused by a trap). But he is more cunning than the hunters, and it is his female that is killed. The hunters and the director eat the meat of the lion. The radio announces the student revolution of May 1968; the director abandons the chase to return to Paris. Several weeks later, the lion is shamefully killed with a rifle.
Petit à Petit
(Little by Little)
Produced by Films de la Pléiade in collaboration with CNRS and CFE. Scenario improvised by the actors during the filming. Jean Rouch was assisted in direction and cinematography by Philippe Luzuy. Sound by Moussa Amidou. Edited by Josée Matarosso, Dominique Villain.
Cast: Damouré Zika, Lam Ibrahima Dia, Illo Gaoudel, Safi Faye, Ariane Brunneton, Mustafa Alassane, Marie Idrissa, Alborah Maiga, Jacques Chaboud, Michel Delahaye, Sylvie Pierre, Patricia Finally, Zomo and his brothers, Philippe Luzuy, Tallou Mouzourane. Photographs by Daphné.
90 minutes in 16 mm and 35 mm blowup. Another version of 250 minutes also exists in 16 mm.
Synopsis: A fable produced as a sequel of Jaguar, which relates the curious and singular adventures of Damouré and Lam, two businessmen of contemporary Africa, in search of their role model. In the village of Ayorou on the banks of the Niger, Damouré, a jovial and malicious man, runs an import-export business called "Petit à Petit." His town partners are Lam, an ex-herdsman with a taciturn nature who cruises the bush in a Land Rover to keep watch on his flocks, and Illo, the fisherman. Having learned that they are going to build a seven-story building in Niamey, the capital of Niger, Damouré calls a meeting of his associates. They decide that they have to go one better: they'll build an even higher building. Damouré flies to Paris to find out how people live in multistory buildings. Perplexed, skeptical, and amused in turn, he discovers the curious ways of living, being, and thinking of the Parisian tribe. He regularly sends "Parisian postcards" to his associates in Niger, until the day when they receive a postcard that states that the Parisians eat only unslaughtered chickens—an unthinkable act in Moslem lands—and they suspect that Damouré has gone crazy and send Lam on a mission to bring him home. After having studied multistory houses of France, Italy, and the United States, Lam, too, falls into the trap of the capital. Faced with the difficulty of getting around in Paris, and since Lam is afraid of the metro, they decide to buy "a car that does not exist, but that is reminiscent of the Land Rover"—a Bugatti convertible.
In this contraption, on the Champs Elysées, they seduce Safi, a Senegalese cover girl and courtesan ("I sell it, my ass!" says she), who introduces them to Ariane, a dancer in a nightclub. On a boat ride on the Seine, Lam hires Philippe, a "bum" who is full of energy. The team is complete for returning to Niger.
In Ayorou the building slowly rises. Safi runs a seamstress shop. Ariane is a typist for Petit à Petit. Philippe, the bum, is a herdsman-cowboy, jack-of-all-trades. Damouré is religiously married to Ariane and Safi, who become wives number seven and eight, his favorites.
But soon enough, after the marvel of discovery, and weighed down by heat and boredom, Ariane notices that Marie, the Nigerian typist who earns one-fifth of what she earns, is incurably jealous. Safi is disappointed by her clients, who don't like the new fashions, "à la Sénégalese." Philippe, the bum, who thought he'd find real freedom on the banks of the Niger River, never worked so much in his life and detests the local food.
All three of them leave the country, thus awakening the consciousness of its directors. Damouré and Lam abandon the company and suggest to Illo that they create the "old asses" company.
Rediscovering horse, slingshot, and canoe, Damouré, Lam, and Illo retire to a straw hut on the edge of the river to think about what the "modern, new civilization" should be: a civilization that could not be inspired by the grotesque model they discovered in Paris.
Sigui (69) no. 3: La caverne de Bongo
Produced by CNRS/CFE. With Germaine Dieterlen. 38 minutes.
Synopsis: The third year of the sixty-year Sigui cycle among the Dogon of the Bandiagara cliffs. The olubaru complete their retreat in the cave of Bongo. Around old Anaï, oldest member of the ceremony, who attends his third Sigui, the men shave and divide the salt and the sesame. They adorn the altar that will be the center of the ceremony in red and white. Then, outfitted in cowrie shell cross-chestbands, they make a tour of the fields before drinking the communal beer. Bongo is a plateau village above the plain of Gondo and the mountainside village of Banani. The Sigui has already arrived in Banani; five days later it will be in Bongo. The man responsible for the Sigui is the oldest man in Bongo, Anaï Dolo, who, we learn with surprise, is going to "see" his third Sigui. In 1849 he was in his mother's belly and was born a couple of months after the Sigui of 1849. In 1909 the old men placed him among those who had already seen the Sigui, since he was born just after the Sigui of 1849 and was able to drink the millet beer that had been kept for newborns. In 1969 he is thus 120 years old; he is almost blind, half-deaf, and he stays just in front of his house where the men are preparing their cane-seats, shaving, and sewing their Sigui costumes.
In a cavern on the other side of the little valley that goes toward Dyamini, the olubaru are on a retreat. They have been there for several weeks: someone from the village brings them food and millet beer. Since morning they have been aided by the kabaga, their assistants who carve the bullroarers (strips of wood that hum when spun, whose voice is said to be the "word" of the ancestors). Facing them, in the middle of the field, the old men prepare a mound that represents the altar of Dionou Serou, man's first ancestor, who died and returned to life in the form of a serpent. It is a simple mound of earth, rough-cast in clay and decorated with red and white tiles that represent the scales of the mythical serpent. It is topped with a piece of wood bearing seven notches, and this is crowned with a tuft of red fibers, which also represents the serpent being reborn.
In the evening the big new mask, which has now been painted, is placed in the cave of the circumcision. At sunset, the olubaru make the bullroarers roar and at night, the old men from the four villages that make up the agglomeration of Bongo carry in the four great masks, which they put down before the entrance of the cavern. The next day, when the sun rises, all the men in the village can see these great black, red, and white masks, symbols of the dead serpent; and the red and white masks, symbol of the serpent restored to life.
The men abandon their old clothes and don their Sigui costumes: black trousers gathered at the ankles, cowrie shell bands, earrings, rings, and necklaces from their wives or sisters. In their right hands they hold a flyswatter, in the left a gourd with which they drink the Sigui beer, and a cane-seat. When the men are dressed, they walk all around the field, then sit for a moment on their cane-seats, then get up again: they come to line up just in front of the cave, forming four lines, which represent the four generations to come from the men of the four villages of Bongo. The millet beer is distributed, starting with the oldest—it is the ritual communion of all the men in the village. The men of the four villages march all around the field of lineage, in strict order of age, singing the songs of the Sigui, encouraged by the shouters among the old men, who speak in sigi so. They dance until evening, under the enchanted eyes of the old men who danced the same dances here sixty years ago. At sunset, the old men and the olubaru go back toward the cave. The drums have gathered around the altar of the dead ancestor in the middle of the field of lineage, and big brothers and parents take the youngest boys in their arms to give them a walk around the altar: thus they too will have danced the Sigui. In a nearby cave, they burn the clothes that the men wore before donning their Sigui clothes—the sixty-year clothes.
Three days later, the Sigui that came from Banai will leave for Sangha.
Porto Novo: La danse des reines
(Porto Novo: The Dance of the Queens)
Produced by CNRS/CFE. With Gilbert Rouget. 31 minutes.
Ritual dancing of the queens at the royal palace in Porto Novo, Dahomey.
The technique of synchronous slow-motion filming permits a detailed analysis of the relationship between the dance and the music.
Sigui (70) no. 4: Les clameurs d'Amani
(The Clamor of Amani)
Produced by CNRS/CFE. With Germaine Dieterlen. 36 minutes.
Synopsis: Fourth year of the sixty-year-cycle Sigui ceremony among the Dogon of the Bandiagara cliffs. Questioned by the chief of Bongo, the Pale Fox gives the route of the Sigui to Amani. Preceded by the elders and their drums, the men of Sigui begin their sinuous itinerary across the village before entering the ritual place. In March 1969, the Dogon of Bongo ask us to go through a divination before continuing. We consult the Pale Fox, who at night prints with his paws the news of the following day: "Yes, we may go on to Amani, but we will have great difficulty."
Amani is thirty kilometers from Bongo, in the plain, and it turns out that we have to retrace our route, from which all the bridges have been removed. In Amani, everything is ready when we arrive: the men and little boys are shaved, and the old men are trying to find the route of the Sigui though the village, the route that the Sigui followed sixty years earlier. Since then, men have built houses, and they have to tear down walls so that the Sigui can take the same path. One old man confides in Amadigné that unlike what we have seen in the other villages, in Amani there are no cowrie shell chestbands, except for the olubaru. All the men simply wear women's loincloths, crossed over their chests, black cotton trousers, women's jewelry, and women's scarves holding down their high white headdresses.
The Sigui arrives, following a complicated itinerary that winds around the place where the first men who lived on the cliff would have come out. Then it goes up on the upper public square. The mask that was prepared the year before is there. The paint is already peeling; it is placed near the toguna, in a place forbidden to everyone who is not participating in the Sigui. At the foot of the toguna, an old man exchanges long rejoinders with another old man, in the ritual tongue, sigi so, and begins to tell the myth of the creation of the world.
On the next day, all the men gather on the public square at the eastern end of the village. In procession, they visit all the houses of the dead (former dignitaries) and climb up on the terraces and dance. Then, toward the end of the morning, they come back to the upper public square to sing the songs of the Sigui and to hear the "criers" in the ritual language of sigi so.
In the afternoon, once the village is in the shadow of the cliff, everyone gathers on the other public square. One of the oldest men makes all the men sit on their cane-seats and tells them the story of the creation of the world in sigi so. From time to time the men punctuate his speech with long fox cries. These criers are essential because they represent the creation of the world and the rebirth of the newly dead. Next, still led by the same old man, the men dance and sing (in everyday language) the songs of the Sigui. The next day, in long lines, the men of Amani go to "carry" the Sigui to another village at the foot of the cliff. The mask that was painted last year is leaning against a rock. On top of the mask is a chicken that has been sacrificed.
The old men climb up a rock facing the village and begin an interminable dialogue in sigi so with the old men of the other village, who will transmit the word.
Yenendi de Yantala
(Rain Dance at Yantala)
Produced by CNRS/CFE. 68 minutes.
In May 1969 at Yantala, a district of Niamey, the priests call upon Dongo and his brothers to ask them to make more rain and less thunder than in preceding years. The spirits are reticent about appearing (several possessions fail) and reserved in their response. The year will be a bad one.
Yenendi de Simiri
(Rain Dance at Simiri)
Produced by CNRS/CFE. 30 minutes.
After three years of drought, the peasants of the Simiri region, Niger, interrogate the deities of the sky responsible for the causes of their misfortune. The deities respond evasively and accuse them of abandoning their old customs.
(The Architects of Ayorou)
Produced by CNRS/CFE. 30 minutes.
For several years, the young people of these villages have constructed a new habitat on the island, appealing to mutual aid; they utilize ancient techniques of "banco" masonry and waterproof coatings, while they are inspired by the architecture of the modern cities.
Sigui (71) no. 5: La dune d'Idyeli
(The Dune of Idyeli)
Produced by CNRS/CFE. With Germaine Dieterlen. 54 minutes.
Synopsis: The fifth year of the sixty-year cycle of Sigui ceremonies among the Dogon of the Bandiagara cliffs. The night before the festival, all the men climb on a dune facing the cliff. They bury themselves in all kinds of burrows, and without drinking or eating, they stay there until the beginning of the afternoon of the next day. Then they descend and purify themselves at the village spring, put on women's clothes, and, doing the serpent's dance, enter the village square, where large jars of communal beer await them. The third day they carry the Sigui to the plateau villages. Idyeli is located near a permanent spring at the base of the cliff and at the foot of the dune that borders the plain of Gondo. The men devote themselves to the same preparations of costumes and staffs as in the other village. In the evening all the men leave the village, and the bullroarers sound. The next morning the village is empty. They are all on top of the dune facing the village. When we climb up there we see nothing. They are all buried in the burrows they have dug for themselves. They are like infants in the placenta of their mother. They will stay there for almost fifteen hours without drinking or eating.
Around four in the afternoon, when the sun begins to go down, an old man comes from the village. The olubaru take up their bullroarers and, in broad daylight, spin them around. The bullroarers have three voices, and the language of the bullroarers tells the men to come out of their holes: this is birth.
In a long single file, by strict order of age and accompanied by the bullroarers up to the entrance, the Sigui procession goes toward the permanent spring. There the newborns wash themselves. After washing, their wives help them to re-don their women's clothes. They put on makeup, wear bracelets and necklaces, and by strict order of age, they enter into the public square doing the dance of the serpent and, in the evening, drink the communal beer.
The next morning, the young children begin to play the drum. The young girls and the women bring out big jugs of millet beer to refill the ones that will be used this day. Around four o'clock, when the village is in the shadow of the cliff, the procession enters the village, dances, and drinks the beer. The next afternoon, the Sigui will leave Idyeli and go back up to the plateau for good, without returning to the villages of the plain.
Tourou et Bitti: Les tambours d'avant
(Tourou and Bitti: The Drums of the Past)
Produced by CNRS/CFE. Assisted by Lam Ibrahima Dia and Tallou Mouzourane. Sound by Moussa Amidou. 12 minutes.
Synopsis: The drums of the past. This shooting script was planned to show the most important moment of a possession ritual, during the course of which men from the village of Simiri demand that the spirits of the wilderness protect the coming harvests from locusts. The orchestra is composed of archaic drums, tourou and bitti, which are played on that occasion.
On March 15, 1971, the fisherman Sorko Daouda asked me to come to Simiri, in the Zermaganda, to film a possession dance in which the black spirits of the bush were to be asked to protect the future crops against locusts.
Despite the efforts of the priest, Zima Sido, the father of Daouda, and despite the use of the ancient drums turouo and bitti, there was no possession in the first three days.
At the end of the fourth day, nothing had happened, and the director decided to film a few scenes of this beautiful music, which is threatened with extinction.
We see the outside of the priest Zima's terrain, then the sacrificial goat; then we penetrate into the dance arena where old Sambou is dancing without great conviction. The camera follows him and approaches the orchestra. Suddenly the drums stop beating. But the director continues filming. The lute resumes its solo; its player has "seen the spirit." Immediately Sambou enters into trance. He is possessed by the spirit Kure ("the butcher," "the hyena"). Then it is old Tusinyé Wasi's turn. She is possessed by the spirit Hadyo. Next we see the priests consulting the spirits, and the demand for a sacrifice. The film ends with a general view of the terrain, already invaded by darkness.
Upon seeing this film again, it seemed that the filming itself unleashed and accelerated the possession. And I would not be surprised to learn from the priests of Simiri, when I next show them this film, that it was my ciné-trance that played the role of the essential catalyst that evening.
Funérailles à Bongo: Le vieil Anaï, 1848–1971
(Funeral at Bongo: Old Anaï, 1848–1971)
Produced by SERDDAV–CNRS/CFE. Codirector: Germaine Dieterlen. 70 minutes.
Synopsis: The oldest member of the village of Bongo, Mali, who died at the age of 122, was the head of the mask society. The men arrive from the neighboring village to devote their attention to sham fights with flintlock rifles, lances, and bows. The large Bongo mask, prepared during the 1969 Sigui, was set up in front of the cave of the masks. After having recited the ritual mottoes of old Anaï, the men and women from Bongo dance and weep. When the Sigui took place in Bongo in 1969, the oldest man who presided at the ceremony, Anaï Dolo, was attending his third Sigui: he was 120 years old. A year later we went to see him at the entrance of his house. He was sitting on planks of acacia wood. He never went out of this yard; he always stayed in the same temperature. He had rediscovered the placenta, the belly of his mother. Everyone who went into the house greeted him and told him what they had come for.
The introduction of the film is a sequence filmed in 1970. Anaï Dolo died the following year.
Upon our return in 1972, one of the great trees in the field had fallen because when an old man dies, a great tree falls all by itself. His grandson counts the knots on a rope calendar that mark five-day weeks. Six lunar months have passed since his death. The funeral may begin. Anaï's house is decorated with cloth hangings, the large cloths in which the cadavers of the lineage chiefs are wrapped when they are taken to the funerary cave. Two flags of Mali and one French flag float above the terrace. In the middle is a statue that represents Anaï Dolo dressed in his festive clothes. He himself will preside over the funeral. The Mali and French flags recall that Anaï Dolo was wounded during the conquest of 1895. In the morning, his sons and nephews recount what happened in the war against the French, how Anaï Dolo was wounded by the French on the bank of the river Gona. The grandson of Anaï repairs the old flintlock that Anaï used during the war. On the first day, in the field just at the foot of the terrace where the effigy of Anaï Dolo stands, the men of Bongo and hunters and warriors from other villages will reenact the old war: with flintlocks and gunpowder that they made themselves, they act out the attacks. The family of Anaï Dolo represents the Dogon. His grandson shoots off the rifle and falls to the ground: Anaï is wounded. A nephew, armed with a dagger and gun and wearing a jacket adorned with magic charms against war weapons, dances. All around him the other Dogon represent the French army. After several volleys of shots, the Dogon are defeated. The men in the center cover themselves with dust, and everyone, men and women, gathers around them to sing the songs of courage, courage of the conquerors and courage of the conquered. Then everyone regroups on the village square, before the statue of Anaï Dolo.
During the days that follow, they will wash out the impurity of death. The women in the family are shaved; the statue of Anaï is brought down from his terrace. The great Sigui mask, which has been brought out in front of the cave of the masks, is taken back inside. The pey cloths are taken down from the terraces. The funeral gifts brought by relatives and friends from other villages are divided up: cotton, millet grain, tamarind fruit. The storehouses are filled, and what is left is shared. Then the women go to wash all the covers: "to wash the impurity of death."
In the evening the old men gather on the public square and recite, in the darkness, the tegué: the mottoes of the ancestors. They tell of the creation of the world, the animals of the bush, the histories of the villages, the history of the Dogon, the list of the principal altars of the Dogon, and they tell of the working life of Anaï Dolo.
Then they must ask the Pale Fox, on the divination tables, whether the time has come for the dances in the public square: When may they return to work in the bush? Will the next market be favorable? When can the men dance and drink on the public square?
The next day, the seers, who are Anaï's grandsons, receive favorable responses to all of the questions that were asked. The following day, gunshots resound in the streets of the village, and the men gather and begin a long combat with rifle shots against death. The horn blowers call them to the western gate. The next day, on the terrace of the hunters' altar, another statue has been taken down. This statue represents the first ancestor, Dyongou Sérou, wrapped in pey cloth and lying on a bier made of horns, recalling the bier of antelope horns that was used in the burial of the first dead man. The women weep for this ancestor from the beginning of the world, and the men shoot off their guns in his honor. On the public square, a cow has been sacrificed to recall the price that God demanded of men when he tricked them and introduced death into their world. The statue of Dyongou Sérou, carried on its bier, enters the public square and dances the dance of death. The men and women dance the dances of burial. The young men, armed with rifles, go up in the western mountains and fire off gunshots to chase death away. They leap around the cow and fire hails of shots. When the shot is good, the women applaud them, crying out "you-you," and when it does not go off, the women make fun of them. One of the old men, a grandson of Anaï, takes up a bow and shoots at a target. In doing this, he is shooting the sun, shooting the fox, shooting to make life be reborn. After one last volley of shots, the warriors go to visit every part of the village and then gather one last time to sing a song of courage. The next morning, the great-grandson of Anaï Dolo climbs up on the cliff; he is the one who will be the nani, Anaï Dolo's correspondent. He is the one who will be entrusted with the rituals that must accompany his dead grandfather up to the moment when he reaches the home of the dead, in the land of Banga.
Sigui (72) no. 6: Les pagnes de Yamé
(The Loincloths of Yamé)
Produced by CNRS/CFE. With Germaine Dieterlen. 50 minutes.
Synopsis: The sixth year of the sixty-year Sigui cycle among the Dogon of the Bandiagara cliffs. Presentation of the village; preparation of wooden cross-seats. In the bush, the men put on their clothes, then enter the village to drink millet beer. The dignitaries symbolically carry the Sigui toward the west, where it will remain for the following year. Yamé is a typical plateau village because of its three toguna (men's huts). Near the toguna of the rising sun, in a straw hut, the dignitaries end their retreat. This hut will be burned during the night. Near the toguna of the setting sun, all the men gather at the eastern entrance to the village: they undress, shave themselves, and dress in their wives' clothing. Often their trousers are covered by women's skirts; they wear jewelry; they are "mothers," and it is the year of mothering. Only the olubaru wear cowrie-adorned chestbands and carry highly decorated seat-staves. An old man accompanied by drums goes to look for the procession, which stops at the entrance to the village, and the oldest man tells the myth in sigi so. The men are turned toward the east, the priest makes them turn to the west, and then they turn back to the east. This means that the Sigui has arrived at its limit. It should continue to the west, but the entire zone that would now be entered is Islamized. It is thus the real end of the Sigui. The procession is organized in strict order by age, and the men file into the village, up to the toguna of the setting sun. They dance, sit on their cane-seats, and drink the beer. The old men thank those who have given their participation in support of the Sigui. Before leaving, the men go to place their cane-seats on the wooden roof of the men's hut. The next day, in the afternoon, the drum calls the men. They arrive slowly and dance in front of the toguna of the west. They sit not on their cane-seats but directly on the ground. They drink millet beer in their gourds and prepare to leave. They go in small groups, to "carry" the Sigui to a few villages where all the inhabitants are not Islamized.
Produced by CNRS/CFE. 72 minutes.
An analytic essay about the relationship between dance and music at the center of a possession ceremony (certain sequences are made in synchronous slow-motion sound). Two women possessed by Kirey, a lightning divinity, are present during the seven days of initiation.
L'enterrement du Hogon
(The Burial of Hogon)
Produced by CNRS/CFE. 18 minutes.
The Hogon of Sanga, Mali, masterful high priest of the community of Ogal, who died during the night, is ritually interred. The front of his house is decorated with the coverings of the dead, and all of the men of the village conduct a sham fight. The totemic priests, shrouded in burial coverings, make a tour of the village altar; then, after having sprinkled the cadaver with millet grains, it is given to the gravedigger, who carries it in a dancing procession toward the village graveyard.
(The Foot Giraffe)
Produced by SCOA. 20 minutes.
An advertising film for the Peugeot 403 featuring a football match between a giraffe and the car.
Rhythme de travail
Produced by CNRS/CFE. 12 minutes.
Extracts from three films: some young women pound millet while improvising a song (from Architects of Ayourou); Simiri, during the rainy season, a farmer weeds his field while singing; at the end of a possession ritual, an expert dances for his own pleasure (from Yenendi de Yantala).
(To Fix the Shed)
Produced by CNRS/CFE. 90 minutes.
The inhabitants of the lower section of Yantala open a new sanctuary dedicated to Dongo, the thunder spirit. It is the prisoner of Dongo, Zatao, who plants the ritual posts for the new shed and gives the men advice for the new rainy season.
Produced by SCOA. 25 minutes.
A SCOA advertising film with Damouré Zika and Lam Ibrahima Dia. The adventures of a VW that is a phantom, able to go everywhere and anywhere at once.
Le Dama d'Ambara
(The Dama for Ambara)
Produced by SERDDAV–CNRS/CFE. Codirector: Germaine Dieterlen.
Synopsis: In 1972 Ambara Dolo died. He had been a collaborator in the missions of Marcel Griaule and Germaine Dieterlen since 1931. Two years later his Dama took place. Dama is the festival that takes place every five years to celebrate the end of mourning for those who have died during that period. The film follows the three main days of this ceremony. The commentary carefully follows the text of Griaule's thesis. In the course of the festival, the men of the society of the masks abandon the five-year-old masks and make new ones.
The new masks of upper Ogol come out of the bush, file into the village, and enter the hut of the masks. On the second day, the masks of lower Ogol come out in turn. They are joined by the masks of upper Ogol, and one after the other, they leap across a rocky chasm. The oldest men carry the cane seats on which the dead men sat to drink the communal beer for the Sigui in 1909 and 1969.
On the third day, the masks go up to the terrace of the dead and dance there, to charm the wandering souls. The masks lead the souls into the public square, where they dance out the myth and the creation of the world.
In the evening, the masks go back into the huts, where they rest near the paintings that represent them. The "charmed" souls leave the village for the home of the dead.
Cocorico, Monsieur Poulet
(Cockadoodledoo, Mister Chicken)
A Franco-Niger Film, realized with the technical assistance of CNRS/IRSH, Niamey; CNRS/CFE; Musée de l'Homme, Paris; and SCC, Paris. A DALAROU Production (Damouré, Lam, Rouch). Cinematography by Jean Rouch. Sound by Moussa Amidou, Hama Soumana. Editing by Christine Lefort. Music by Tallou Mouzourane. Administrator: Idissa Meiga.
Cast: Damouré Zika, Lam Ibrahima Dia, Tallou Mouzourane, Caludine, Baba Nore, Moussa Illo, the girls d'Abada Goungou, the Niger River, Dyama, Mariama, Bana, Hima Do, and the Citroën 2 CV Cocorico. 90 minutes.
Synopsis: The adventures of three friends conducting their business in the Nigerian bush with their old automobile. Featuring the same team and made in the same spirit as Jaguar and Petit à Petit, this film is an attempt at collective improvisation on a Nigerian fable. The actors in the film started from a true fact: at the time of the shooting, Lam is indeed an itinerant chicken merchant who breezes through the bush markets around Naimey, in Niger, in an old delivery van, accompanied by a single assistant.
The invitation of a third person (Damouré) who, to kill time, wants to go around with his friends, brings trouble to an organization that is already precariously balanced. And if, as often happens in Africa, the catastrophes are attributed to a "she-devil," it is some imaginary being who will finally be the only one able to remedy the evil that has been wrought. With deliberation the authors decided to introduce this element of the imaginary into these scenes of daily life. If the film happens to depict, at the same time, a community of marginal outsiders, it is not by sheer chance. The young intellectuals of the rich countries are no longer the only ones to have a monopoly on restlessness.
La 504 et les foudroyeurs
(The Peugeot 504 and the Lightning Bolts)
Produced by SCOA. 10 minutes.
A SCOA advertising film with Lam and Tallou and a Peugeot 504 in the Bandiagara Cliffs.
Hommage à Marcel Mauss: Taro Okamoto
(Homage to Marcel Mauss: Taro Okamoto)
Produced by CNRS/CFE. 40 minutes.
A ciné-portrait of an anthropological artist. One of the most celebrated artists in Japan, Okamoto studied with Mauss at the School of Advanced Studies in Paris from 1930 to 1939. He tells of the influence the old master had on his art and on the way in which he thinks and lives.
Pam Kuso Kar
(Briser les poteries de Pam) (Breaking Pam's Vases)
Produced by CNRS/CFE. 13 minutes.
In February 1974, Pam Sambo Zima, the oldest of the priests of possession in Niamey, Niger, died at the age of seventy-plus years. In his backyard, the followers from the possession cult symbolically break the dead priest's ritual vases and cry for the deceased while dividing up the clothes of the divinities.
Sigui (73) no. 7: L'auvent de la circoncision
(The Circumcision Shelter)
Produced by CNRS/CFE. With Germaine Dieterlen. 18 minutes.
Synopsis: This film, shot in 1974, is a reconstruction of a simple ceremony of closure that took place in 1973 when it was forbidden to film in Mali. The ritual signaled the seventh and final year of the sixty-year cycle of Sigui ceremonies. The seventh year of the Sigui should theoretically take place in the circumcision shelter in the village of Songo. But as a result of the influence of Islam, the Sigui cannot go beyond the village of Bandiagara. In 1973 it was not possible for us to go back to the cliff of Bandiagara because of the drought. In 1974 we asked three Dogons to reenact the Songo ceremony for this film.
The three olubaru of the village left for Songo carrying millet beer. They arrived at night before the grand pavilion and sacrificed a goat there. They sprinkled its blood on the altar of the ancestors. In the morning, they climbed up on the shelter and "refreshed" the paintings—that is to say, they caressed them, and they told us what these paintings represent. They went to see the sistrums (a type of noisemaker), which were brandished by the young infants who had just been ritually circumcised. Then they visited the paintings of the great shelter: the one representing nommo, the spirit of the sacrificial water, those representing the serpents, the little Pale Fox, the Sigui satchels (bags of words), and those representing the stars. Having said good-bye to the great sign that dominates the shelter of Songo, they left, singing the songs of the Sigui. Then they went directly, on foot, without stopping in any villages, to take a bit of beer to the village of Yougo. There, they said to the old men, "Here is the last of the Sigui beer. The Sigui is over."
Toboy Tobaye (Lapin, petit lapin)
(Toboy Tobaye [Rabbit, Little Rabbit])
Produced by CNRS/CFE. 13 minutes.
Dances of today and yesterday by children disguised as rabbits during the nights of Ramadan (Niger).
Babatou, les trois conseils
(Babatou, Three Pieces of Advice)
Produced by CNRS/CFE. Scenario: Bouhou Hama. Cinematography by Jean Rouch. Sound by Moussa Amidou. Editing by Chrishne Lefort. Music by Dyeliba Badye and Daouda Kante.
Cast: Damouré Zika, Lam Ibrahima Dia, Tallou Mouzourane, Dyama Djingareye, Baba More, Moussa Illo. 90 minutes.
Synopsis: A "ciné-history" about the slave wars of Babatou, conqueror of the Songhay from Gurunsi-land, during the course of the last century. "It was a hundred years ago, which is not like today." Damouré and Lam, two friends who live on the Isle of Firgoun, in the Niger River, are a hunter and a herdsman. Damouré, while training young men to hunt, wants also to prepare them for their future activity as warriors. A peaceful soul, Lam thinks only of his cattle until the day when his wife criticizes him for not going off to make war. His son, Moussa, age seven, also pushes his father to leave: "My friends make fun of me!" Lam decides to leave for the south, to the land of Gurunsi, home of Babatou.
Covered with magic charms, armed with lances, arrows, and sabers, and accompanied by their two servants, with Tallou in the lead, Damouré and Lam leave the Niger. Once they arrive in the camp of Babatou, they volunteer for the next expedition, led by the warrior Gazari. They lay siege to a village. Tallou is wounded; the chief of the village is killed. Gazari suffers an arrow in the eye and dies. Damouré, who fought with the daughter of the chief, burns the village and brings back all the captives. In Babatou's camp there is great joy over the victory and sorrow over the death of Gazari. The strongest captives are enrolled in Babatou's army; the others are sent back or sold. Dyama, the daughter of the chief, becomes Damouré's concubine. After the ritual burial of Gazari the warrior, Damouré becomes the warrior chief.
After three years, Lam allows himself to be caught up in this cruel game and lays hold of his own captive, Maryama. Dyama gives Damouré a son. Maryama is ready to do the same when an old soothsayer, returning from the seventh year campaign, comes to ask who would be willing to give up a captive in return for three pieces of advice. Amid jeers from the other warriors, Lam gives him Maryama. In exchange he receives three maxims: "Never go past a village at sunset; never cross a flooded river; if you get angry in the evening, wait until morning to act."
At the moment when Maryama wants to kill herself for Lam, we learn that the old soothsayer has liberated her. Maryama is free, but Lam has lost her forever. He decides to go back to the country with nothing.
On the way, he meets Moustapha, who does not want to stop at a village at sunset. He is devoured by a lion during the night, and Lam inherits his riches and captives.
Damouré rejoins Lam. But while crossing a flooded river he drowns, despite Lam's warnings. Lam has lost his friend and inherited all of his goods. He gives Dyama to Tallou.
One evening the caravan arrives at the Isle of Firgoun. Lam and Tallou scout ahead and discover a man sleeping at the side of Lam's wife. Lam is ready to kill him, but he remembers the third piece of advice. He will act tomorrow.
The next day is the triumphal entry into the village, despite the tears of Damouré's widow. Lam goes toward his house, and his wife says to him: "You don't recognize your own son. It's been eight years since you left." Lam says, "God is great—it's the third piece of advice." So he leads his son into the village square to give an account of Damouré's death to the notaries, and already Lam encourages his son to take his place and leave to make war.
Suddenly Lam thinks of his tranquility of yesterday, of his character, which has become so nasty, of all the goods he doesn't know what to do with, of his son to whom he could not tell the truth, and of Damouré, his best friend, who is dead.
Jomo et ses frères
(Jomo and His Brothers)
Produced by CFE. Super-8 mm. Blown up to 16 mm. 20 minutes.
Rouch's only film shot in Super-8, edited and enlarged in 16 mm by Vincent Blanchet. Damouré Zika's ten children call their family "Populist China" and refer to their father as "Mao." Their house, situated in the neighborhood of the Gawey fishermen, is named "la familiale Jomo," the name taken from Jomo Kenyatta. They have a rock band called "Gawey Youth," which simulates musical instruments with diverse materials. They dance and sing their "Gawey Youth" hit parade.
At the entrance to the village of Simiri in Zermaganda, a buried stone protects the village: Faba Tondi (the stone of protection). Daouda Sorko, priest and guardian of the stone, recounts how his great-grandfather had used this protection against Tuareg warriors. Responding to his call, Dongo, the thunder spirit, killed four Tuaregs with lightning.
Médecines et médecins
(Medicine and Doctors)
Produced by SERDDAV–CNRS/CFE and Institut de Recherches en Sciences Humaines de Niamey. Codirector: Inoussa Ousseini. 15 minutes.
Retired Niger nurses practice surgery in marketplaces and call on local healers for postoperative care.
Ciné-portrait de Margaret Mead
(Ciné-portrait of Margaret Mead)
Produced by CFE and American Museum of Natural History.
Sound by John Marshall. 35 minutes.
Upon the occasion of the first Margaret Mead Film Festival, an encounter with Margaret in her office, and in the workroom in the museum, where she speaks about her hopes for today's anthropology.
Hommage à Marcel Mauss: Germaine Dieterlen
(Homage to Marcel Mauss: Germaine Dieterlen)
Produced by CNRS/CFE. 20 minutes.
Upon the occasion of a colloquium held in Mali, Germaine Dieterlen recalls the facade of the paintings on the Songo sheds that display the grand myths of the creation of the world among the Dogon. Then, in the refuge cave where the first inhabitants of the village of Bongo established themselves, she provokes a discussion on the architectural remains of ancient human establishments.
Hommage à Marcel Mauss: Paul Lévy
(Homage to Marcel Mauss: Paul Lévy)
Produced by CNRS/CFE. 20 minutes.
Sociologist and theologian Paul Lévy discusses his memories of Marcel Mauss.
Ispahan: Lettre Persane (La Mosquée du Chah à Ispahan
(Ispahan: A Persian Letter [The Chah Mosque at Ispahan])
Produced by CNRS/CFE. 35 minutes.
A ciné-portrait of Iranian filmmaker Farrokh Gaffary, who discusses the dynamic architecture of the Chah mosque and the ambiguous rapport of Islam with filmic representation, with sex, and with death.
Produced by CNRS/CFE. With Jacques d'Arthuys. 20 minutes.
This is a teaching film created as an example of a "shot sequence" (an unbroken take edited in the camera) with the students from the Institute of Cinéma in Mozambique. The workers from a bottle factory have formed a mixed chorus that sings and dances about their work in the gold mines of South Africa. In the Barakalo language (a secret language of the miners), they denounce imperialism and apartheid.
Le griot Badye
(Badye, the Storyteller)
Produced by CNRS/CFE. Coproducer: Inoussa Ousseini. 15 minutes.
A traditional singer employing birdsong as a source for the music he uses to accompany his storytelling.
Simiri Siddo Kuma
Produced by CNRS/CFE. 30 minutes.
Preparations for the funeral of Zima Siddo, who was responsible for the rituals of possession in the Simiri region of Niger. The spirits themselves nominate his successor, Daouda Sorko.
Produced by NAV/CFE. Sound by John Marshall. 40 minutes.
A portrait of a Japanese merchant marine captain who opened the first commercial line between Japan and South Africa. Evokes the racism of this period; discussion of his meeting with Laurence Van Der Post.
Produced by CFE. Codirected with Groupe Cinéma of the University of Leyden. 35 minutes.
A ciné-meeting of Joris Ivens, Henri Storck, and Jean Rouch in the same village where Ivens shot his first fiction film, The Breakers, in 1921.
Sigui synthese: Les cérémonies soixantenaires du Sigui
(Sigui Synthesis: The Sixty-Year Cycle of Sigui Ceremonies)
Produced by CFE/NAV. 120 minutes.
Every sixty years the Dogon of the Bandiagara cliffs commemorate the invention of the word, language, and thus of death. In 1931 Marcel Griaule learned that proceeding from one village to the next, a Sigui ritual had taken place in 1909–1914. He reconstructed these extraordinary ceremonies in a first study of them based on the memory of the participants. Twelve years after the death of Marcel Griaule, we filmed this unique seven-year adventure, discovering from one year to the next the themes that are staged in space and time by an "invisible author." This film is an essay of synthesis from the seven previous Sigui films.
Ciné portrait de Raymond Depardon
(Ciné-portrait of Raymond Depardon)
Produced by CFE. 10 minutes.
A fortuitous meeting, late one afternoon, in the garden of the Tuileries, of one or two cameras, a tape recorder, and three cameramen/directors, Raymond Depardon, Jean Rouch, and Philippe Costantini. Directed by André Lenôtre. Set by Aristide Mayol.
Produced by Les Films de Jeudi. 16 mm and 35 mm. 104 minutes.
Five professors wait for a mysterious candidate, Hugh Gray, in the courtyard of the Sorbonne. He must defend his paradoxical thesis on "the necessity of the cult of nature in industrial societies." During the defense, beautiful young naked women appear as a bacchanalian choir facing the group of professors. After having taken the jury on a voyage outside of time and space, the candidate is proclaimed doctor of letters. Hugh Gray: Dionysius will transform a factory into the pleasure workshop whose workers will build a new prototype of the car "the perfumed panther." At the end of the construction, the workers will take off their everyday workclothes, and the Dionysian feast will begin.
Produced by KWK–CNRS/CFE. 90 minutes.
A benefactor invites a famous forger to his villa in Turin to ask him to execute a painting De Chirico had not completed during his brief stay in Turin in 1911. Walking in the city in search of inspiration, the forger has several meetings. He encounters a group of children who want to go to Egypt in an abandoned submarine on the river of Po. Then he meets a philosopher contemplating the world and reading Nietzsche at the summit of the "Mole Antonelliana." Finally he meets an ambiguous and enigmatic young woman.
Folie ordinaire d'une fille de Cham
(Ordinary Folly of a Girl of Cham)
Produced by CNRS/CFE. Cocollaborators: Philippe Constantini and Daniel Mesguich. 75 minutes.
Essay of ciné-theater based on a play by the Antillian author Julius Amedee Laou with the actresses Jenny Alpha and Sylvue Laporte. The play has been created and staged by Daniel Mesguich. The action takes place in a room at the Hospital Sainte Anne (a psychiatric hospital). A psychiatrist and his interns discover the fantastic delirium of an Antillian woman who has been held there since 1929, and of a nurse-aide that she thinks is her daughter.
Bateau Givre(Épisode de brise glace)
Produced by CFE/Svenska Filminstitutet. 16 mm and 35 mm. 35 minutes.
Filmed on the Swedish icebreaker Frej, whose mission is to accompany the boats that are prisoners of the ice blocks on the high seas. Shows the daily work on the boat by its crew as Rouch plays with the unaccustomed light and the sounds, such as the buzzing of instruments, and water rubbing against the blade on the ice.
Bac ou mariage
(Diploma or Marriage)
Produced by FEMIS/INA/CNRS. Cocollaborator: Philippe Dussart. 70 minutes.
At the end of the school year, Soukey learns that her father wants to marry her to one of his old and very rich friends, "Uncle Medal," in order to solve his own family financial problems. With her friends she decides to have Uncle Medal seduced. Meanwhile she falls in love with Madou, a young recent university graduate. Suddenly the radio announces that old Uncle Medal has been arrested for corruption ("rapid enrichment"). Everything returns to normal.
Couleur du temps: Berlin Août 1945
(Color of Time: Berlin, August 1945)
Produced by CFE. 10 minutes.
In August 1945 Lieutenant Jean Rouch, commander of the section for Special Forces tank division, discovers Berlin and writes "Color of Time: August 1945," a text published by the revue Fontaine in Paris in 1945. It is his first film scenario, filmed now, forty-three years later, using the original text as the narration for the film.
(An Inspired Promenade)
Produced by CNRS/CFE. 40 minutes.
In the Museum of the Maeght Foundation in St. Paul de Vence, Rouch discovers, with his camera, one of the most beautiful collections of African art and improvises a very personal commentary on the topic.
Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité . . . et puis après
(Liberty, Equality, Fraternity . . . and Then After)
Produced by Mission du Bicentenaire de la Révolution-Sodaperaga/CFE. 60 minutes.
Napoleon Bonaparte, one year after having been named general, imprisoned the Haitian brigade general Toussaint-Louverture. Enclosed in a fort, he will die in 1803 without having been judged. To commemorate the revolution, the Haitians are going to try to reconcile the victim and the executioner by a great voudou ritual in front of Les Invalides.
Produced by CFE. 5 minutes.
A personal cinematographic evocation of the Eiffel Tower by Rouch, following a poem by Charles Baudelaire.
Damouré parle du SIDA
(Damouré Speaks about AIDS)
Produced by Sodaperaga. 10 minutes.
When the male nurse Damouré Zika talks about AIDS with his two friends Lam and Tallou, under the admiring eye of his own wife Lobo, who is a nurse's aide, it is because he believes that AIDS is a "disease of love that can only be conquered by love." And this right to love has only one passport for the moment: the condom, on whose use he gives an incredible demonstration.
Produced by NFI/Sodaperaga/BBC TV/CFE. 120 minutes.
The farmers Damouré, Lam, and Tallou are ruined by drought. They meet a Dutchman who introduces them to the windmill. They decide to construct a Dutch windmill on the banks of the Niger to irrigate their fields. This film is above all the story of the meeting of a Dutchman and three Nigerians, between whites and blacks, between North and South, the simple and the sophisticated, in short the history of the birth of a friendship to whose depth Rouch brings his ciné-eye.
1994 – 1996
Portrait de Germaine
(A Portrait of Germaine)
Produced by CFE. 35 minutes. Double system sound.
Portrait of the anthropologist Germaine Dieterlen.
Moi fatigué debout, moi couché
(Tired Standing Up and Lying Down)
Produced by CFE.
Berlin Film Festival (1997), Montreal Film Festival, Festival du film d'Environment Paris (1997). 90 minutes.
If you dream under an accacia albida tree that is struck by lightning but remains alive, your dreams will become reality, and as BouBou Hama says, "The double of yesterday meets tomorrow." And in this country of backwardness and "nowhere," this is the daily rule of the game of four old friends, Damouré, Lam, Tallou, and Rouch. With the help of Dongo, god of thunder, of Harakoy Dikko, the spirit of water, and their accomplice Gaoberi, "I'm tired standing up and lying down," the tree that speaks everything is possible. Time and space no longer exist; only dream dictates the rules of the game: a cruel game of catastrophes, of drought, floods, magic spells, and "who loses, wins." And the artisan of this adventure, the tree lying down, stands up, the story changes title just like the film, we are tired lying down, or standing up. So let's meet again in our next film, The Incredible Cow.
En une poignée de mains amies
(In One Shake of a Friend's Hands)
Produced by CNRS/CFE.
Locarno Film Festival (1997), Rome Festival (1997). 35 minutes.
Enjoying an old port wine together, I was talking with Manoël about the bridges of Douro, and immediately we were of the same opinion: of all these bridges, the great work of art in the capital of modern architecture is the bridge that Gustave Eiffel had done before building his tower of Paris. In less than five minutes, the project was constructed: Manoël was writing a poem that we will film with our friends Bernard, Jérôme, and François. And our dreams of childhood were made in less than a week by going back and forth to the banks of Douro, on foot, then by car, then in a helicopter, back to where we were following these marvelous clouds, with Manoël and me screaming stanzas of a poem inspired by the wind, the water, and friendship.
Produced by GREC-CNRS/FEMIS.
Venice Film Festival (1997). 18 minutes.
This film, made in one afternoon, is an "inspired promenade," that is to say, the discovery of an exhibition where I improvise text and commentary. We decided with the technical team (cameraman and soundman) to shoot this promenade in five shot sequences of ten minutes apiece. No additional lighting was to be used. The five successive sequences follow the chronological order of the history of cinema as conceived by Henri Langlois thirty years ago. Two weeks later, the Musée was devastated by a fire at Palais de Chaillot. It is thus the final witnesssing, full of emotion and passion, of the last masterwork of Henri Langlois.
Ciné-poèmes sur Paris
(Ciné-poems on Paris)
Produced by CNRS. With Sandro Franchina. 18 minutes.
In 1997 Jean Michel Arnold proposed that Sandro Franchina and I shoot his ciné-poems in Paris. After days and seasons passed, three films were made on the poems Paul Fort wrote from 1901 to 1902: Nocturnes: The Park, Love in Luxembourg: Sunset in Summer, and Sentimental Paris, or The Novel of When We Were Twenty: Bullier. There will be nothing following, but simply this ending, on Saturday, February 21, 1998.
Premier matin du monde
(First Morning of the World)
Produced by CFE. 10 minutes.
Currently being completed.
La vache merveilleuse
(The Incredible Cow)
Produced by CFE.
Currently in production.
Editing has not yet been completed for the following films:
La royale Goumbé, 1957
Festival à Dakar, 1963
Urbanisme Africain, 1963
Tambours et violins de chasseurs, 1964
Alpha Noir, 1965
Yenendi de Gamkallé, 1966
Koli Koli, 1966
Yenendi de Kongou, 1967
Yenendi de Kirkissey, 1967
Yenendi de Goudel, 1967
Yenendi de Gourbi Beri, 1967
Sécheresse à Simiri, 1967–1973
La révolution poétique, 1968
Pierres chantantes d'Ayorou, 1968
Yenendi de Karey Gorou, 1969
Taway Nya-La Mère, 1970
Initiation des femmes, 1975
Souma Kouma, 1975
Fêtes des Gandyibi à Simiri, 1977
Siddo Kuma, 1978
Le renard pâle, 1984
Hassan Fathi, 1983
Cousins cousines, 1985