The Human Pyramid

Directed by Jean Rouch

93 minutes / Color
French / English subtitles
Release: 2017
Copyright: 1961

Included in boxset Eight Films by Jean Rouch.

At the Lycée Français of Abidjan, Ivory Coast, Rouch worked with students there who willingly enacted a story about the arrival of a new white girl, Nadine, and her effect on the interactions of and interracial relationships between the white colonial French and Black African classmates, all non-actors. Fomenting a dramatic situation instead of repeating one, Rouch extended the experiments he had undertaken in Chronicle of a Summer, including having on-camera student participants view rushes of the film midway through the story. The docu-drama shows how working together to make the film changes their attitude towards each other.

"Seminal; this groundbreaking metafiction by the French ethnographic filmmaker Jean Rouch is as much a political experiment as an artistic one. Rouch has a keen eye for the landscape and an avid tenderness for his performers."The New Yorker

"Somewhere between a Richard Linklater-esque hangout movie and a high-pressure debate club that touches on everything from religious justifications for slavery in America to expressions of implicit racism unique to the grammar of French ... Created a template for how a film could conduct a complex internal dialogue using only the terms of its own fascination with beauty, romance, and young bodies."The A.V. Club

"I want the racists to talk like racists. For a film on robbery, I'd ask someone to steal. But even if it's a fake theft, I'd be an accomplice, even if I'm filming." —Jean Rouch, La Pyramide Humaine

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A film by Jean Rouch

Select Accolades

  • Honorable Mention, 1962 Montevideo Film Festival
  • Official Selection, 1961 Mannheim Film Festival
  • Official Selection, 1961 XIXth Montréal Film Festival


Newly restored! Eight of the legendary filmmaker’s key works in a 4-disc boxset, with a 24-page booklet and bonus film about Rouch in Africa. 

Jean Rouch | 2017 | 604 minutes | Color | French | English subtitles

Jean Rouch's essential and controversial work is a classic of ethnographic cinema.

Jean Rouch | 2012 | 28 minutes | Color | English

In this landmark documentary, Jean Rouch collaborates with his subjects to produce a complex portrait of Nigerien migrants in Abidjan, Cote D'Ivoire.

Jean Rouch | 2012 | 70 minutes | Color | English; French | English subtitles