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Eight Films by Jean Rouch
Directed by Jean Rouch
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film stillJean Rouch was an inspiration for the French New Wave, and a revolutionary force in ethnography and the study of Africa. Beginning in 1955 with his most controversial film THE MAD MASTERS, through 1969’s darkly comic LITTLE BY LITTLE, these films represent the most sustained flourishing of Rouch’s practice of “shared anthropology,” a process of collaboration with his subjects.

Astonishing on their own terms, now restored and released for the first time, EIGHT FILMS BY JEAN ROUCH is essential for anyone interested in better understanding the development of ethnography and the cross-currents of colonialism and post-colonial social change in Africa, as well as documentary film practice, film history, and world cinema as a whole.

Included in this box set are eight newly restored films on four discs, a 24-page booklet with two essays about Rouch and his methodology, and a new documentary about Rouch, his films, and his influence on African cinema, JEAN ROUCH, THE ADVENTUROUS FILMMAKER. 


MAMMY WATER (1955, 19 min)

An exploration of the spiritual traditions of a fishing village on the Gulf of Guinea. When the catch is bad, villagers must honor the water spirits, or Mammy Water, with a ceremony.

THE MAD MASTERS (1956, 29 min)

A possession ritual of the Hauka religious sect using the delirious techniques of "cine-trance" also doubles as a theatrical protest against Ghana’s colonial rulers. The most controversial and also the most widely celebrated work by Jean Rouch.

"One of the most profound explorations of the African view of the colonial world." —Senses of Cinema 

MOI, UN NOIR (1958, 74 min)

A complex portrait of Nigerian migrants in Abidjan, the Ivory Coast. Winner of the prestigious Prix Louis Delluc in 1958, MOI, UN NOIR marked Jean Rouch's break with traditional ethnography, and his embrace of the collaborative and improvisatory strategies he called "shared ethnography" and "ethnofiction."

"The most daring of films and the humblest." —Jean-Luc Godard

"MOI, UN NOIR was as much psychodrama as ethnographic film, even while raising the question of moi's identity." —Artforum

Moi Un Noir
Moi, un noir


THE HUMAN PYRAMID (1961, 93 min)

At a Lycée on the Ivory coast, Rouch meets with white colonial French high-school students and their black African classmates (all non-actors) and persuades them to improvise a drama.

"Groundbreaking metafiction." The New Yorker

THE LION HUNTERS (1965, 81 min)

Documentation of the lion hunt performed by the gow hunters of the Songhay people, shot on the border between Niger and Mali over a period of seven years. 

"A must-see."Chicago Reader

Little by Little
Little by Little



JAGUAR (1967, 93 min)

Three young Songhay men from Niger journey to the Gold Coast (modern day Ghana). After filming the trip in mid-1950s, the four reunited a few years later to record the sound, remembering dialogue and making up commentary.

"Exuberant in its spontaneous good humor."Ethnographic Film

LITTLE BY LITTLE (1969, 96 min)

Jean Rouch’s Nigerian collaborators travel to France to perform a reverse ethnography of late-1960’s Parisian life.

"A truly mesmerizing, frequently hilarious, and provocative masterpiece."Indiewire

"Attacks the logic of mainstream cinema, subverting expectations about what film is and can be." —Film Comment




THE PUNISHMENT (1962, 64 min)

An aimless young woman is sent home from school with nothing to do. Drifting through the streets of Paris, she comes across a variety of people.

"Extraordinary and extraordinarily rare movie about public misogyny." The New Yorker


A new documentary about Jean Rouch and his African films.

The Punishment
The Punishment

"A terrific boxed set." —The New Yorker

"Rouch has remained a cinephile secret for decades... Much of his work has been unavailable in the U.S. — until now." —IndieWire

"Rouch's films can be considered a race toward presence, spurred on by the dream of capturing life as it happens." Film Comment

"The works of Jean Rouch will continue to be screened, contested, and re-interpreted for many generations to come." Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute

“Rouch’s poetic approach, observation, and participation entailed long-term commitment." Australian Journal of Anthropology

"His films give voice to the subjective experience of modernity for the young men of West Africa, in particular—the freedoms and the exploitation of city life and the unexorcized horrors of colonial subjugation." New Left Review

604 minutes / Color
French / English subtitles
Release: 2017

For individual consumers (home video)

This DVD is sold for private, home use only.

For colleges, universities, government agencies, hospitals and corporations

This DVD is sold with a license for institutional use and Public Performance rights.

Subject areas:
Africa, African Studies, Anthropology, Cinema Studies, Cultural Anthropology, France, Race and Racism, Racism, Box Sets

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