He is considered to be one of the founders of cinéma vérité in France. Rouch’s practice as a filmmaker, for over sixty years in Africa, was characterized by the idea of shared anthropology. Cahiers Armand Gatti 5 et 6 PDF there a better definition for a filmmaker? Jean Rouch began his long association with African subjects in 1941, when he arrived in Niamey as a French colonial hydrology engineer to supervise a construction project in Niger.
There he met Damouré Zika, the son of a Songhai traditional healer and fisherman, near the town of Ayorou, on the Niger River. Shortly afterwards he returned to France to participate in the Resistance. After the war, he did a brief stint as a journalist with Agence France-Presse before returning to Africa where he became an influential anthropologist and sometimes controversial filmmaker. Damouré Zika and Rouch became friends. In 1950, Rouch started to use Zika as the central character of his films, registering the traditions, culture, and ecology of the people of the Niger River valley. Songhai, Zarma, and Sorko, peoples living along the Niger River.
During the 1950s, Rouch began to produce longer ethnographic films. In 1954 he filmed Damouré Zika in Jaguar, as a young Songhai man traveling for work to the Gold Coast. Still, many of the ethnographic films produced in the colonial era by Jean Rouch and others were rejected by African filmmakers because in their view they distorted African realities. He is considered as one of the pioneers of Nouvelle Vague, of visual anthropology and the father of ethnofiction.
With Jean-Michel Arnold he founded the international documentary film festival, the Cinéma du Réel, at the Pompidou Centre in Paris in 1978. He died in a car accident in February 2004, 16 kilometres from the town of Birni-N’Konni, Niger. In her 2017 essay « How the Art World, and Art Schools, Are Ripe for Sexual Abuse, » contemporary artist Coco Fusco details an early encounter with Rouch: « I was sexually accosted by the renowned ethnographic filmmaker Jean Rouch, who is credited with having invented a better way to look at Africans. Ciné-Ethnography, edited and translated by Steven Feld. La Religion et la Magie Songhay. 2nd revised edition published by Éditions de l’Université de Bruxelles, 1989. Alan Riding at The NY Times, Feb.
Documentary A History of the Non-fiction Film. December 2004, Online 24 mars 2005. Icarus Films: Eight Films by Jean Rouch ». Jean Rouch Talks About His Films to John Marshall and John W. Georgakas, Dan and Udayan Gupta, Judy Janda. The Politics of Visual Anthropology: An Interview with Jean Rouch. The Adventure of the Real: Jean Rouch and the Craft of Ethnographic Cinema.