Directors in Focus: Jean Rouch
Little by Little (Petit à Petit)
dir. Jean Rouch, France, 1970, digital, French with English subtitles, 92 min.
Introduction by Jamie Berthe.
By 1969, Jean Rouch had spent more than two decades documenting West Africa as an ethnographer, and in 1961 had co-directed Chronicle of a Summer, an anthropological investigation of Parisian life. In Little by Little, Rouch’s Nigerien collaborators Damouré Zika and Lam Ibrahim travel to Paris and end up performing a reverse ethnography of French culture.
When we re-join Zika and Ibrahim in Ayorou,
Niger, the Little By Little company they had formed at the conclusion of Jaguar has become a large
import-export company. Hearing that a competitor is building a multistory
building in Niamey, the directors of the company decide they must construct
their own in Ayorou. The most cutting of Rouch’s collaborative ethno-fictions, Little by Little playfully
satirizes the history of European-African relations.
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.