Filmmaker Provocateur: Jean Rouch

3/10/13 to 4/16/13

Much of the extraordinary life work of the French filmmaker and anthropologist Jean Rouch (1917–2004) focused on Africa, where for over sixty years he made ethnographic films in a radical style that continued to evolve. A pioneer of cinema verité and an influence on the French New Wave, Rouch experimented with improvisation, introducing fiction to documentary, and collaborating with his subjects. Rouch brought a deep sense of social justice to depicting contemporary life, whether Parisians in his seminal Chronicle of a Summer or the rituals and dreams of West Africans in his ethno-fictions Moi, un noir and Jaguar.

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Past Films

  • Chronicle of a Summer

    • Tuesday, April 16 7 pm

    Jean Rouch, Edgar Morin (France, 1960–61). This landmark documentary influenced the French New Wave, and much of documentary filmmaking. Rouch asks passing Parisians, “Are you happy?” with fascinating results. With a short portrait of Rouch, Une brève histoire de cinema. (107 mins)

  • Madame L'eau

    • Sunday, April 14 3 pm

    Jean Rouch (Netherlands/France/Niger, 1993). Archival Print! This act of collaborative mythmaking follows three African friends (the heroes of both Jaguar and Little by Little) on a rollercoaster ride from drought-stricken Niger to inundated Holland and back again. With Mozambique short Makwayela. (128 mins)

  • The Human Pyramid

    • Wednesday, April 10 7 pm

    Jean Rouch (France/Ivory Coast, 1959–61). Rouch worked with students in Abidjan, Ivory Coast to enact a story about the arrival of a new white girl, and her effect on the interactions of black and white students. Followed by Manthia Diawara's invaluable introduction to Rouch, Rouch in Reverse. (140 mins)

  • Little by Little

    • Sunday, April 7 3 pm

    Jean Rouch (France/Niger, 1970). This follow-up to Jaguar finds our African protagonists in Paris, where they collect information on the curious habits of Parisian residents, in an often comical performance of reverse ethnography. “A truly mesmerizing, frequently hilarious, and provocative masterpiece” (Eric Kohn). With short Tourou and Bitti: The Drums of the Past. (100 mins)

  • Jaguar

    • Wednesday, April 3 7 pm

    Jean Rouch (France/Niger/Ghana, 1955–67). A "bandit" tax collector, a cattle herder, and a fisherman migrate south from Niger to find their fortunes in Ghana in what Rouch described as “a postcard in the service of the imaginary." With Rouch's best-known film, Les maîtres fous. (116 mins)

  • The Lion Hunters

    • Sunday, March 24 3 pm

    Jean Rouch (France/Niger, 1965). A chronicle of the technological aspects of lion hunting, filmed in northern Niger and Mali. “A fascinating account” (Jonathan Rosenbaum). With Ghana short Mammy Water. (95 mins)

  • Moi, un noir

    • Sunday, March 10 3 pm

    Jean Rouch (France/Ivory Coast, 1958). In this playful yet enlightening portrait of the immigrant experience, Rouch enlists a modern-day griot who narrates his and his friends' everyday experiences in the Ivory Coast during the last period of French colonialism. With experimental short narrative Gare du Nord. (88 mins)