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Rouch's gang by Verhey, Joost

Jean Rouch was a universally-acclaimed filmmaker, anthropologist, civil engineer, explorer, and storyteller. He died 18 february 2004 in Birni N'Konni, Niger (car accident). In 1991, Jean Rouch started work on his new feature film Madame l'Eau. The documentary ROUCH'S GANG follows the film crew and provides a look behind the scenes as Jean Rouch and his four friends from Niger make their film. Most of Rouch's fiction films were shot with four African friends; Damoure Zika, Lam Ibrahim Dia and Tallou Mouzourane as actors and Moussa Hamidou as sound man. Their creative bond is the theme of ROUCH'S GANG.

About Jean Rouch
Jean Rouch's position in film is paradoxical: he is one of the most important post-war French film-makers, while also being one of the least known. This is because he realizes his films outside the commercial circuit. He has made more than 140 films, many of which have an anthropological character. As starting points he uses: reconstruction, fiction and provocation. Examples are Jaguar (1954/67), Moi un Noir (1957), Chronique d'un Ete(1961), and Corcorico, Monsieur Poulet(1974). With these films Rouch had a significant influence on the early period of the Nouvelle Vague. Rouch was inspired by the work of Flaherty, Vertov and Rossellini. He has raised the improvisational approach with non-professional actors to an art form. Together with Jean Michel Arnold he is the creator of the festival " Cin?ma du R?el" at the Georges Pompidou Center.

Quote Jean Rouch
"Personally, I am violently opposed to film crews. My reasons are several. The sound engineer must fully understand the language of the people he is recording. It is thus indispensable that he belong to the ethnic group being filmed and that he also be trained in the minutiae of his job. Besides, with the present techniques used in direct cinema, the film maker must be the cameraman. And the ethnologist alone, in my mind, is the one who knows when, where, and how to film, i.e. to do the production. Finally, and this is doubtless the decisive argument, the ethnologist should spend quite a long time in the field before undertaking the least bit of film making. This period of reflection, of learning, of mutual understanding might be extremely long, but such a stay is incompatible with the schedules and salaries of a team of technicians."

African interest
Jean Rouch's interest in Africa began during World War II when, in 1941, he was sent to the French colony of Niger as an engineer from L'Ecole des Ponts et Chauss?es. In 1947 he filmed his first piece in Africa: In the Land of Black Magi. Over the next several decades, Rouch continued filming in Africa while concurrently working as a research director for the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique and founding the Comit? du film ethnographique at the Musée de l'Homme in Paris.

Cinema V?rit?
In 1960 Rouch labeled his filming style cinema vérité. Inspired by filmmakers such as Robert Flaherty (Nanook of the North) and Dziga Vertov (Man with a Movie Camera), Rouch was an innovative and important figure in the French post-WWII film scene, working alongside French directors of the New Wave, serving as President of the Cin?math?que fran?aise, founding the Comit? du film ethnographique, and inspiring the Direct Cinema movement in the U.S.

Political interest
As early as the 1940's, Rouch used filmmaking as a means to promote cross-cultural dialogue as well as a rethinking of the relationship between "the West" and "the Rest". For over sixty years, Rouch continued to cultivate that dialogue and the result is a body of work that can perhaps best be described as an antidote for visual apathy. Because much of his work requires a reconfiguration of our viewing habits, it compels us to address certain misconceptions and prejudices (be they aesthetic or cultural) that we are perhaps unaware we are housing.

Festival screenings & awards

  • Margaret Mead Film Festival
  • IWF International Film Festival
  • ICAES Film Festival
  • Director
    Verhey, Joost
    Copyright Holder
    MM Filmprodukties
    70 min.
    Year of release

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