Directors in Focus: Jean Rouch
dir. Jean Rouch, France, 1967, digital, French with English subtitles, 110 min.
Introduction by Jamie Berthe.
One of Jean Rouch’s classic ethnofictions, Jaguar follows three young Songhay men from Niger—Lam Ibrahim, Illo Goudel’ize, and the legendary performer Damouré Zika—on a journey to the Gold Coast (modern day Ghana). Drawing from his own fieldwork on intra-African migration, the results of which he published in the 1956 book Migrations au Ghana, Rouch collaborated with his three subjects on an improvisational narrative. The four filmed the trip in mid-1950s, and reunited a few years later to record the sound, the participants remembering dialogue and making up commentary. The result is a playful film that finds three African men performing ethnography of their own culture.
Jamie Berthe is a doctoral candidate in the Department of Media, Culture, and Communication at New York University. Her research interests include ethnographic and documentary film, African cinema, postcolonial studies, French colonial history and cultural politics, and visual culture. Jamie's dissertation – “An Art of Ambivalence: On Jean Rouch, African Cinema, and the Complexities of the (Post)Colonial Encounter” – explores the evolution and legacy of Jean Rouch's film work in relationship to French colonial history and African film.