After Jean Rouch

by Caterina Sartori

In 2017 the RAI Film Festival celebrated the 100th anniversary of Jean Rouch’s birth with a special event at Arnolfini gallery in Bristol; the screening of one of Rouch’s most renowned films, Moi, un noir, was followed by a round-table discussion with two eminent “Rouchologists”, Jean-Paul Colleyn and Paul Stoller. Additionally, Paul Henley, the 2017 Festival Director and the driving force behind the event, delivered an exhaustive introductory lecture on Rouch’s work and life.

The foundational and ongoing influence of Rouch’s work on visual anthropology and ethnographic film is unmistakable. It remains unsurpassed to this day, it has been extensively written about and the sold-out 2017 RAI-FF centenary celebration is testament to an ongoing interest in the man and his oeuvre.

However, there’s arguably one aspect of Rouch’s legacy that has remained under celebrated over the years. Whilst his concept of “shared anthropology”, founded on the close and ongoing relation with a network of collaborators, is well known, it is rarer to find a serious engagement with the work that Rouch’s collaborators created as artists and cultural producers in their own right.

In Adventures of the Real, Paul Henley devotes an entire chapter to discussing the concept and praxis of Rouch’s shared anthropology, not shying away from a critical appraisal of its limitations and blind spots. Here we learn of Damouré Zika, Lam Ibrahim Dia, Tallou Mouzourane, Moussa Hamidou, Moustapha Alassane, Oumarou Ganda and Safi Faye, who worked closely with Rouch on the production of his most famous films both in front and behind the camera. It is clear that Rouch’s films would not exist without them, and that the professional relation and friendship that tied them to Rouch marked their lives in important ways.

Why then has it not been important for the discipline that so consistently sees in Rouch its founding father, to interrogate itself about the trajectories of his collaborators after his departure? This is especially surprising if we consider how incredibly central figures such as Moustapha Alassane, Oumarou Ganda and Safi Faye have been in the development of African cinema; it might become less surprising once we consider the questions, criticisms and ambivalence with which African filmmakers have approached Rouch’s work and his involvement in filmmaking on the continent.

These critical engagements, which have come for example from Ousmane Sembène, Oumarou Ganda, Manthia Diawara, often manage to both deliver strong criticism and highlight the limits of Rouch’s approach, whilst at the same time recognising the influence, novelty and importance of his contribution. Behind the memorable one-liners, such as Sembène’s “You look at us like insects” and Ganda’s “Every time I make a film, I kill Jean Rouch”, lie much more articulated positions that confirm at the very least that Rouch’s influence cannot easily be bypassed or ignored – but that it cannot escape confrontation with its most direct heirs either.

Contributions to literature such as Steven Ungar’s article Whose voice? Who’s Film?: Jean Rouch, Oumarou Ganda and Moi, un noir” in Building Bridges: The Cinema of Jean Rouch  engage with this complex legacy in relation to Rouch’s collaborators. However, a debate that takes as its starting point a shared knowledge of the films that emerge from that milieu is much rarer – and any debate where the films are not seen risks remaining confined to the margins.

It is with this in mind that we decided to programme two films directed by Safi Faye within the 16th RAI Film Festival 2019. Safi Faye acted for Jean Rouch in Petit à Petit, and later went on to study ethnology and cinematography in Paris. Two of her films were screened in Cannes and she is considered one of the founding figures of African cinema, and in particular of Senegalese cinema. For a number of reasons her films are difficult to find and see, and we hope that this rare opportunity to engage directly with her work, screened on a cinema screen and framed by conversations and discussions, will stimulate new debates within the discipline and expand our understanding of what ethnographic and anthropologically informed film is, has been and can be, after and beyond Jean Rouch.

\end of part I

(Caterina Sartori
RAI Film Officer
18/12/2018)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Felicia Hughes-Freeland

Felicia Hughes-Freeland did her PhD at SOAS and trained in documentary filmmaking at NFTS. Since 2011 she has been working as an independent researcher and writer, is Research Associate at SOAS, and editorial board member of the online journal, AnthroVision. She has served on the RAI film committee, also selecting or judging at every RAI film festival, since 1988. Her research on Indonesian performance, television and cinema is know internationally, including books and films such as Tayuban: Dancing the Spirit in Java (1996); Ritual, Performance, Media (Routledge 1998), Recasting Ritual (with MM Crain, Routledge 1998); Embodied Communities: Dance Traditions and Change in Java (Berghahn Books 2010); and My Name is Ratu Kidul, a collaborative film with the Indonesian artists Seruni Bodjawati and Wara Anindyah (2015).

Barley Norton

Reader in Ethnomusicology and Director of the Asian Music Unit (AsMU) in the Music Department, Goldsmiths, University of London.

At Goldsmiths, he set up the filmmaking course “Ethnographic Film and Music Research” as part of the MA in Music. His publications include the film Hanoi Eclipse: The Music of Dai Lam Linh, (DER 2010), the monograph Songs for the Spirits: Music and Mediums in Modern Vietnam (Illinois 2009), and two coedited books Music as Heritage (Routledge 2018) and Music and Protest in 1968 (Cambridge 2013), which won the American Musicology Society’s 2014 Ruth A. Solie Award.

Christine Bardsley

Film Programme Manager at the British Council.

She joined the British Council in 2001 following stints managing development projects in Bangladesh and heading the British Council office in Gaza. She has curated British film festivals in countries as diverse as India, Armenia, Ukraine and Russia as well as working with international festivals to profile UK work across Europe, Asia and the Americas. Over the last seven years Christine has focused on documentary, developing projects with partners including the Grierson Trust, Sheffield Doc/Fest, Scottish Documentary Institute, Guardian Docs and One World Media. She is also the Documentary Programme Advisor for BFI London Film Festival.

Mandy Rose

Associate Professor in UWE Bristol’s School of Film & Journalism, director of  DCRC, and co-director of i-Docs.

Mandy Rose researches the politics and poetics of emerging documentary. A filmmaker who started out in the London independent film scene in the 1980s, Mandy has led ground-breaking participatory projects including BBC’s “Mass Observation” camcorder project – Video Nation and the Capture Wales digital storytelling project. She is co-investigator of the EPSRC research project – Virtual Realities: Immersive Documentary Encounters. She is co-editor of i-docs: The evolving practices of interactive documentary – Wallflower Press 2017. @CollabDocs

Gabriel Dattatreyan

Lecturer in Anthropology, Goldsmiths, University of London

Ethiraj Gabriel Dattatreyan’s primary interest lies in how various terms deployed to qualitatively describe human migration such as diaspora, transnationality, internal displacement, refugee and so on, are inhabited in the contemporary moment. Through his ethnographic engagements he explores how these terms can be theorized in ways that reveal the growing impact of digital communications technology in reworking how people on the move negotiate and understand their relationships in the world. He works through these theoretical concerns through multiple media with the belief that experimentations in form afford an opportunity to engage broader audiences, involve research interlocutors, and more reflexively engage with ethnography as a way of knowing.

Joint Ph.D. in Anthropology and Education, 2015. University of Pennsylvania

Rossella Schillaci

Independent Filmmaker

Rossella Schillaci has made several anthropological, social and creative documentary films, working on the themes of migration, identities and freedom, participating and obtaining prizes in many national and international festivals, such as Al Jazeera Film Festival, Open City London, RAI Film Festival, Fespaco, Jean Rouch Film Festival, Film de femmes de Creteil, Fipatel, Venice International Film Festival, Torino Film Festival, Bergamo Film Meeting, African Film Festival. Among her latest films, Les enfants en prison was co-produced and broadcast by French television Arte and won the Etoile de la Scam, recognition given to the best documentary films broadcast in France, and Libere has been distributed in more than 60 Italian cinemas.

She obtained a Master in Visual Anthropology and Documentary filmmaking at the Granada Center for Visual Anthropology in the University of Manchester. She is currently doing a PhD in Digital Media within the international program UT Austin | Portugal Digital Media Program.

Peter I. Crawford

Anthropologist, publisher (www.intervention.dk) and filmmaker.

He has been an active member of The Nordic Anthropological Film Association (NAFA) since the late 1970s, having chaired the annual NAFA film selection committee for many years. He is professor of visual anthropology at UiT – The Arctic University of Norway. Since the early 1990s, he has been involved in a long-term ethnographic film project in the Reef Islands (Temotu Province, Solomon Islands) and is currently engaged with colleagues in Norway in a film-based research project on Pata Negra (Iberian ham) in Extremadura, Spain. He has written extensively on visual anthropology and ethnographic filmmaking and has wide experience in teaching the subject both theoretically and practically.

Shawn Sobers

Associate Professor in Lens Media, University of the West of England and convenor of the UWE Photography Research Group.

Professionally Shawn Sobers is a filmmaker, photographer and writer. His work in film and photography is primarily people-based, rooted in personal narratives, hidden histories and untold stories.  As a researcher his work has spanned a wide range of topics, including; community media, creative education, Trans-Atlantic slave trade, disability & walking, and Rastafari culture. He co-founded Firstborn Creatives production company in 1999 with Rob Mitchell, and made programmes for BBC 1, ITV West and Channel 4.  A collection of his work can be found at www.shawnsobers.com.

Jacqueline Maingard

Reader in Film, University of Bristol.

Jacqueline Maingard joined the University of Bristol in 1998, having taught film and television at the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits), Johannesburg for ten years prior to that. She is a graduate of both the Arts and the Social Sciences. I completed a Bachelor of Social Science and qualified as a social worker at the University of Natal, Durban in 1973. I subsequently graduated with a Social Science Honours degree. This was followed by a shift into film studies, first by completing a BA in Dramatic Art at Wits University, then completing an MA by research in 1988 with a dissertation on Community Film in South Africa as a Mode of Emergent Cultural Production. She graduated with a PhD from Wits University in 1998 with a thesis on Strategies of Representation in Anti-apartheid Documentary Film and Video from 1976 to 1995.  She has a wide range of work experience, primarily in education, especially HIgher Education in South Africa and the UK, but also in community-based, Non-Governmental and anti-apartheid organisations in South Africa.