d. 18 February, 2004, Birni N’Konni, Niger
When Jean Rouch travelled to Niger in 1954 to screen Bataille sur le grand fleuve for its protagonists, the group of hippopotamus hunters who had never before seen a film did not naively marvel at the attraction, but instead criticised Rouch’s use of music over the hunt, reasoning that, as he quotes, “the hippo has such sensitive ears that even under water they would hear the music and take off…during the hunt you hear nothing at all, or there’s no hunt.” (1) He had decided to use the music “under the influence of the tradition of the western,” but now responded by throwing out cinematic norms and opening his work to improvisation in response to the voice of his subjects. The experience was, as Rouch later said, a revelation, “no doubt the most important moment of my career.”
Rouch was an ethnographer, a filmmaker, and only sometimes a maker of ethnographic films. While he saw himself as a difficult fit in both fields—“For ethnographers I am a filmmaker, and for filmmakers I am an ethnographer”—his approach fueled potent critiques of Western epistemological certainties and of filmmaking practice. Finding himself uncomfortable in a discipline that postulated that the European was able to enter into and understand the culture of the “other”, who in turn was not able to understand the European, Rouch addressed this imbalance by switching medium from written academic discourse to the sounds and images of a filmmaking model that did not elide the presence of the (European) observer. The generosity of this solution offered a ground for the transformation of anthropology, toward a reciprocity between those who study and those who are studied, and in the process Rouch’s mobile, improvisational practice informed the development of new models for both documentary and fiction filmmaking. (2)
Despite his unavoidable association with the colonial enterprise, his work earned high praise for its openness to difference from Gilles Deleuze: “No one has done so much to put the West to flight, to flee himself, to break with a cinema of ethnology and say Moi, un Noir, at a time when blacks play roles in American series or those of hip Parisians.” (3) Of course Rouch was not without his critics, some as formidable as the Senegalese writer and filmmaker Sembène Ousmane, who accused him of filming Africans as if they were insects. But while charges of pursuing a dispassionately objective, and thus depoliticised, view of a colonised people rang true when directed at Western scientific approximations to Africa in general, and especially those of an ethnographic discipline deeply implicated in the colonial project, upon viewing Rouch’s work—with its openness to the feedback of its subjects, their engagement in the filmmaking process, and the use of the camera to “provoke” rather than passively record—it is difficult to avoid recognising in it a powerful critique of European assumptions about Africa and Africans. (4)
Rouch locates his own origin aboard the Pourquoi-Pas?, a research ship captained by the polar explorer Jean-Baptiste Charcot, employer of Rouch père, a marine meteorologist. After the journey a biologist shipmate introduced his sister to M. Rouch, resulting in a marriage and the Paris birth of Jean on May 31, 1917. The family moved often when he was young, living for a time in Casablanca and for another in Rochefort, across from Pierre Loti, world traveler and writer of novels set in such places as Morocco, Japan and Senegal. Rouch’s early years, then, were not lacking in images of the exotic, and he recounts that when his father brought him to the cinema for the first time he saw Nanook of the North (1922), the most important work of his most important precursor, Robert Flaherty, and recalls the intensity of the impression it made on him: “I was delighted to fall asleep each night curled up in my bed like the little dogs in Nanook’s igloo.” Rouch’s narration of his own intellectual origins as a series of influential encounters with other cultures culminates appropriately with surrealism’s exploration of the “other” within the European self. In 1930 the family moved to Paris, and Rouch fondly compares its avant-garde-inflected ambience in the pre-War decade to the late-60s American counterculture, specifically as seen in D. A. Pennebaker’s 1967 Monterey Pop. But where the latter gradually faded into subservience to corporate monoculture, Rouch’s surrealist Paris was more violently extinguished by the occupation: “suddenly all had disappeared, it hit us right in the face and after that it was never the same.”
Arrested in 1940 on a false suspicion of trying to flee to England, then released under surveillance and travel restrictions, he found an escape through a job in Africa with the colonial public works, thanks to his studies at the Ponts et Chaussées, the grand école for road and bridge engineering. In October 1941 he left for Niger, where he was put in charge of ten thousand forced laborers on road construction, and employed as his assistant a new friend, his future filmmaking collaborator and sometime star Damouré Zika. In August of 1942 ten workers were killed by lightning, and when Rouch wondered what a culturally appropriate response might be, Damouré mentioned that his grandmother was a priestess of the thunder génie (spirit). On their request she arranged a possession ceremony, a spectacle that prompted Rouch to consider filmmaking: “I decided I needed to make cinema. Like Fred Astaire, there is no other way to show a possession dance.”
Rouch was eventually expelled from Niger, accused of Gaullist sympathies by the Vichyist colonial administrator. After the war he returned to Africa to explore the Niger River headwaters with two colleagues, Pierre Ponty and Jean Sauvy. Together they submitted travel articles under the nom de plume Jean Pierjean and made two films, a now-lost fiction short called La Chevelure magique (1946) and an early hippopotamus-hunt film called Au pays des mages noirs (1947). After another return to Paris, Rouch’s next trip to Africa was a four-thousand mile journey on horseback in 1948-49, during which he filmed Les Magiciens de Wanzerbé, La Circoncision and Initiation à la danse des possédés. The latter two were shown that same year by Jean Cocteau at the Festival du Film Maudit and made Rouch a pioneer in the use of the hand-held sixteen-millimeter camera.
Rouch’s next trip included his first visit to the Falaise de Bandiagara, the now-famous Dogon region in Mali, where he made Les Cimetière dans la falaise (1952). During this trip he also filmed the definitive version of the hippo-hunt film, Bataille sur le grand fleuve (1952), which he would show to the hunters in 1954. The feedback at that screening resulted in another important development: Damouré had become somewhat of a local film star after being shown playing on the edge of the Niger River with a baby hippo, subsequently enjoying, as Rouch puts it, “considerable success with the women of the place,” and suggested they make another film, this time a fiction feature starring himself and two friends as migrants to the Gold Coast.
The film is Jaguar (shot in 1954-55, first screened in 1967), and in it Lam Ibrahim, a chauffer, and Damouré, a medic, play a shepherd and a wandering gallant, respectively, and later provide an improvised voiceover, while Illo Gaoudel remains true to his real occupation as a fisherman. Jaguar, along with Les Maîtres fous (1955) and Moi, un Noir (1958), is Rouch’s most thorough examination of the African experience under the colonial regime, and an early example of his concept of provocation, the practice in which the camera’s presence is intended to cause those being filmed to react, thus creating, rather than merely recording, events.
Rouch made well over a hundred films, and since an excellent and comprehensive examination of them exists elsewhere, I will only discuss those most important to his impact on anthropology and the cinema, returning first to the more classically ethnographic films. (5)
The Ethnographic Films
In his first films, those of the late-1940s and early-1950s, even though Rouch is not the experimentalist he would later become, he shows in his camerawork a sensibility that far exceeds the plain style of scientific documentation. He used a sixteen-millimeter Bell & Howell camera that had to be rewound after each twenty-second-maximum shot, an apparent limitation that Rouch considered a great advantage, since it gave him a few seconds to reflect on the next shot, change angle or distance, and thus obtain more complete and cinematically rich coverage. He uses the frame to hide and reveal details to cause surprise, straying often from the classical anthropologist’s implied contract of epistemological certainty into something more akin to a surrealist poetics. In Cimetières dans la falaise, for example, a tight shot of a man’s bare feet and slender, sinewy legs negotiating a dry, rocky mountain path is held until he walks into the distance enough for us to see he is carrying, antlike, a giant bundle on his head.
Rouch’s voiceover, even in the more classical documentary films, is not an unequivocal supplier of objective information. At times he poetically intones the long, complex formal titles of characters or spirits, at others he straddles the line between European “objectivity” and the privileging of African knowledge. In La Chasse au lion à l’arc (1965), as a group of men head into the bush to make poison for arrowheads, Rouch reports that “one goes out into the bush, because it is in the bush that bad things are made” (“On part en brousse, car c’est en brousse où, se fabrique les choses mauvaises”), reporting African knowledge in direct discourse. At other moments the voice yields to the images. In Mammy Water (1955), after a ritual sacrifice is held to appease the angry ocean spirits, fishermen return to shore with a copious catch, young boys play in the gentle waves of a now-tranquil ocean, and the voice declines to comment as the images are left to communicate the relaxed joy of the moment.
By the early-1950s Rouch held the research position at the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS) that would permit him the time and resources to continue to make films for the rest of his life, which he began to do in ways that would profoundly impact on how both anthropology and fiction filmmaking were practiced. A first event was Les Maîtres fous, a 1955 short that documents the hauka possession ceremony that took place annually near Accra, Gold Coast (soon to become Ghana). The participants are Nigerien immigrants seen at various labours as the film opens. During the ceremony however, they take on different identities, most importantly those of the British colonial authorities, a mimicry that Rouch interprets in the voiceover as a subversive carnivalisation of the colonial hierarchy. According to Rouch the film was universally rejected when first shown, by African intellectuals for perpetuating racist exoticism and by his mentor Marcel Griaule and many other Europeans because colonial subjects are shown mimicking their masters. But in the ensuing years the film has been recognised as an anthropological classic and is now widely considered to be one of the most profound explorations of an African view of the colonial world. (6)
Another suggestion at the 1954 screening of Bataille sur le grand fleuve resulted in the filming, between 1958 and 1965, of La Chasse au lion à l’arc, which documents the craft of the Gow lion hunters of western Niger. As the filming progressed, with each return Rouch showed it to the hunters and considered their suggestions. The result is a rich narrative, framed by Rouch’s voiceover as a legend told to local children about their ancestors. The action takes place in a dry zone sparsely populated by Peul herders who normally coexist peacefully with lions. But according to Rouch’s voiceover, when a lion “breaks this contract and begins to kill their cattle for the pleasure of killing,” the Peul call on the Gow hunters. Shown are the various stages of preparation for the hunt—making the bows, forging the arrowheads, coating them with poison, ritual preparations and visits to the diviners—providing a fascinating window on traditional beliefs and technologies. When the hunt begins, the artifice of a rather classical story arc creates suspense and a stirring climax in which a wounded lioness attacks one of the herders before she is killed by a hunter’s arrow through the heart. Rouch stopped the camera at this moment, which he instead narrates by voiceover and the direct sound track recorded by Damouré, who is later shown treating the injured man.
In 1971 Rouch made Les Tambours d’avant: Tourou et Bitti, a successful experiment with the long-take, and the model film of the ciné-trance, in which the camera-person becomes involved, or entranced, in the events to the degree that he or she achieves a sort of Dionysian fusion with the event filmed, in turn provoking the participants to respond to the camera. Rouch himself considers this to be his only fully accomplished ciné-trance film. In the middle of his attempt to capture a possession ritual in one shot, the musicians suddenly stop playing, seemingly giving up hope that the génies will appear. But when Rouch keeps the camera rolling it causes, according to him, the musicians to suppose that he could see the génies through his camera, and to resume playing, which in turn causes the dancers to enter into a trance. The successful long-take, and especially the hitch in the middle, are used by Rouch to exemplify the idea of provocation and its ideal circular instance in the ciné-trance.
Shared Anthropology, Ethno-Fiction and Cinéma-Vérité
As mentioned above, at Damouré’s suggestion Rouch filmed Jaguar (1967), which openly introduced fiction into his ethnography and inaugurated the most fruitful period of his filmmaking career, the sequence of Moi, un Noir (1958), La pyramide humaine (1961) and Chronique d’un été (Chronicle of a Summer, 1961). Since Jaguar was an on-the-road film about migration it dealt not only with traditional cultures, but with the multi-directional exoticism of colonial encounters, and marked Rouch’s full commitment to the concept of “shared anthropology,” the idea of not only sharing the product of research with its subjects, but of also involving them fully in its creation. The three principal actors in Jaguar—Damouré, Lam and Illo—make suggestions, perform, and later improvise the voiceover commentary.
Soon after Jaguar’s journey commences, the trio marvels at the Somba people’s “primitive” way of life and lack of clothing. Damouré advocates for an open mind justified by religion, since “they were made that way by Allah.” Later, on the warning of a diviner, the three separate. Once in Accra, Damouré finds a job as a labourer, but since he can read and write he is soon promoted to a supervisory position, buys a pair of European sunglasses and plays the master, verbally and physically abusing his African underlings. In a famous sequence, he takes a “jaguar” walk, strutting along a boulevard, proud of having attained a degree of social status. Lam heads for the marketplace at Kumasi, setting up a trinket shop where he too finds some success, while Illo, by contrast, ends up a poorly paid and overworked stevedore at Accra’s port. The trio eventually returns triumphantly to Niger, but they do not let their new status shake up the social structure, instead distributing the prized goods they brought back and returning to their previous occupations.
The harsh economic realities of the colonial world are documented, the gold mining industry is shown in an expository documentary mode, as Damouré provides one of the few explicit criticisms of European colonialism in Rouch’s work, when he summarises the sequence: “That’s how the English have fooled the Africans, they come take their gold and then leave” (“Voilà les Anglais ont couillonné les Africains, ils viennent enlever leur or et puis s’aller”). Jaguar is the first of several ethno-fictions made by Rouch, who considered it an ethnographically superior mode for exploring the human dimension of migration, a model way to access the dreams and fantasies of individual migrants.
Moi, un Noir, like Jaguar, is an improvised film with an improvised voiceover commentary by its protagonists, non-professional actors portraying characters with similar cultural backgrounds. It is set entirely in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, mostly in the poor immigrant quarter of Treichville, and the story is compressed into several days, contrasting the workdays—and the soul-killing conditions of a semi-employed dockworker—with the weekends spent with friends at beaches and bars. In the voiceover the characters assign themselves fantasy identities—“Edward G. Robinson” and “Eddie Constantine, aka Lemmy Caution, U.S. Federal Agent”—that allow them a ludic escape from the limits imposed by their economic conditions. Unlike Jaguar, whose actors were playing at being immigrants, here the principal actor and performer of the voiceover, Oumarou Ganda, is a real-life immigrant labourer. This allows for an exploration of the frustration Ganda feels that even his most modest desires are unattainable, condemned as he is to second-class citizenship even in his relations with the local women, who are attracted to the more wealthy European visitors while the African men suffer, mostly in silence. As part of its strategy of exploring the psychological implications of the immigrant experience, the film features three memorable subjective sequences, one in which the protagonist fantasises about becoming a boxing champion, another in which he seduces the unattainable woman, and another in which he fondly recalls his youth back in Niger. Both Jaguar and Moi, un Noir are playful films, but where the former is joyful, the latter is bitter, a sobering portrait of the immigrant experience.
In La pyramide humaine the experimental dimension of the film is of prime interest, but rather than avant-garde, it is an experiment in provoked observation. The resulting freedom from a script causes the plot and themes to tend more toward dispersion than coherence, but this is no mere proto-reality television, as evident in its serious approach to its weighty themes and its respect for its actor-characters, a racially diverse group of young men and women. Instead of humiliating them as spectacle, Rouch sets about producing productive conflicts around colonial race relations, as he describes in the meeting with the cast that makes up the film’s opening sequence. But these tensions are soon displaced onto Nadine, the young French woman who indiscriminately flirts with her male colleagues, both African and European, thus shifting the conflicts among her suitors away from race and earning rebukes from her more reserved female African counterparts. The openly self-reflexive nature of the film, framed by discussions between Rouch and the cast, foregrounds the presence of the observer and the process of provocation.
In Chronique d’un été (1961, co-directed with Edgar Morin) the camera is turned away from Africa, toward, as Rouch says, his own tribe, the Parisians. The term cinéma-vérité refers to Rouch’s theorisation, not unrelated to that of Dziga Vertov’s kino-pravda (cine-truth), of a reality perceivable only through the movie camera. Not invested in objectivity, cinéma-vérité is based on provocation: instead of hiding the camera, it is thrust into a situation to serve as catalyst to produce a “cine-truth.” The term, however, soon became synonymous with the very different “direct cinema” practice in which an inconspicuous camera is intended to capture objective truth.
Theory notwithstanding, Chronique has little in common with the explosive montage and special effects of Vertov’s avant-garde works like Man with a Movie Camera (1929). Rouch and Morin’s politically charged portrait of working and middle-class Parisians and immigrants is ostensibly set off by a simple question asked of passers-by: “Are you happy?” This man-in-the-street interview scenario has led to some misconception of the meaning of the film’s vérité as objectivity, or even as a simple documentation of the vox populi, but the film quickly takes a turn from random selection to a not-at-all-random documentary on a closed group consisting of the survey team and its acquaintances. (7) Members of this core group are seen in interviews (which often turn into wrenching psychodrama), conversations over dinner, and other activities.
Unlike the more aleatory films Jaguar, Moi un Noir, and Le pyramide humaine, for example, in Chronique the message is far more managed. The conversations tend toward the political: Algeria, Auschwitz and Africa are frequent themes, and the subjects were members of a politically militant group centered around Morin. Like La pyramide humaine, Chronique d’un été frames its own making within itself, showing preparations, reactions to the film, and even the post-screening concerns expressed by Rouch and Morin about its future reception. At the group screening shown near the end of the film the cast’s reactions are both critical and laudatory. This reflexive frame calls into question the notion of documentary objectivity, but it does not at all undermine the film’s politics, which is reflected in the mixing of workers’ stories, concentration camp memories and descriptions of the immigant experience. These ignite some of the most cinematically powerful moments of the film when they clash and contradict each other, demonstrating the nascent fissures between sectors of the European left.
Rouch and the Nouvelle Vague
Rouch’s work greatly contributed to the revitalisation of cinema that, kindled by neorealism’s location shooting and “ready-made” actors, was happening in the late-1950s. He developed—and legitimised—an artisanal, improvisational filmmaking model that employed non-professional actors, portable cameras and synchronous sound, and which had a powerful impact within French filmmaking, especially on certain nouvelle vague auteurs for whom Rouch became first an inspiration and later a marginal colleague. Jean-Luc Godard’s formal freedom in À bout de souffle (1960), Le Petit soldat (1960) and Les Carabiniers (1963), and Jacques Rivette’s extensive use of improvisation in films like Out 1: noli me tangere (1971) and Celine et Julie vont en bateau (1974) are often attributed to Rouch’s influence. Rouch, in turn, began to experiment with fiction film on the streets of Paris, filming the medium-length La Punition in 1960 and the short Gare du Nord in 1964, both of which starred Nadine Bellot, the central female figure in La Pyramide humaine. While these are minor films in Rouch’s oeuvre, they form an important dimension of his career as Paris-set narrative films with only tangential connection to Africa.
La Punition opens with an artfully narrated episode in which the camera films the seventeen-year-old Nadine (and the sound recorder she carries in a shoulder bag) on her way to class. Upon arriving she enters, but the camera waits outside, its gaze adrift on the urban landscape of bare trees and walls. The microphone, however, accompanies Nadine as she enters the building and walks into an already-underway philosophy class. When questioned by the teacher she confesses to daydreaming and is expelled from class, freeing up an afternoon in which, routine interrupted, she will wander Paris and meet and converse with three men. These mostly unscripted encounters are presented generously, including that is, the dead time, awkward silences and stammerings usually cut from both documentary and narrative films. At times the lack of chemistry between the characters makes for forced conversations, in sharp contrast to the relaxed witty voiceovers of Rouch’s African ethno-fictions. When Nadine finally decides to return home, on the way she is approached by a sequence of several men, and finally runs home exasperated. In general La Punition fails to engage, but in spite of its banality it is of interest as an experiment in employing Rouchian improvisation with a Parisian setting and characters.
Gare du Nord, a long-take short of twenty-minute duration, forms part of the omnibus film Paris vu par. It is less rigorous an experiment than La Punition, but is far more interesting as a narrative film. Its much stronger script,nonetheless, allows room for improvised dialogue, and its two sequences consist mostly of conversations between Nadine Bellot and two different men, the first her husband and the second a stranger. The sequences mirror each other rigorously enough to enter into the genre of the fantastic, with uncanny coincidences and fantasy aspects that recall the short stories written at the time by Julio Cortázar and others.
Rouch continued to make films in Africa and Europe until his death on February 18, 2004 in an auto accident in rural Niger. His practice of questioning the paradigm of unproblematic objectivity by exploring the relationship between observer and observed, often giving as much importance to the presence of the former as to that of the latter, has become central to anthropology and to documentary film.
This article has been peer reviewed
- This and other quotations, along with the biographical information, are from Pierre-André Boutang’s 2004 film Jean Rouch commente à Pierre-André Boutang. Translations mine.
- The anthropologist Paul Stoller analyses not only selected films, but Rouch’s ethnographic monographs, in The Cinematic Griot.
- Gilles Deleuze, Cinema 2: The Time-Image, p. 223.
- The classical mode of documentary, which Bill Nichols calls the expository mode, “emphasizes the impression of objectivity and of well-substantiated judgement.” Rouch’s provocation founds the cinéma-vérité, or “interactive” mode, while the Direct Cinema of Frederick Wiseman and others is referred to as “observational”. See Representing Reality.
- The excellent and comprehensive examination referred to is that of Paul Henley’s extensively researched account of Rouch and his filmmaking practice, The Adventure of the Real.
- Rouch’s interpretation of the ritual as resistance through carnivalisation has been widely accepted, but Henley sees the ritual in a less heroic light, suggesting it is an attempt to seek spiritual aid for more quotidian problems attributed to witchcraft, such as impotence.
- Henley provides an invaluable account of how the film’s internal contradictions came about, describing in great detail the entire process of its making, from its conception to editing and reception, in Chapter 8 of The Adventure of the Real.
La rêve plus fort que la mort (co-director Bernard Surugne, 2002)
Faire-part: Musêe Henri Langlois (1997)
Moi fatigué debout, moi couché (1997)
Madame L’Eau (1998)
Cantate pour duex généraux (1990)
Liberté, égalité, fraternité, et puis après… (1990)
Folie ordinaire d’une fille de Cham (1988)
Boulevards d’Afrique (co-director Tam-Sir, 1988)
Enigma (co-directors Alberto Chiantaretto, Marco Di Castri, Daniele Pianciola, 1987)
Brise-Glace (co-directors Raoul Ruiz, Tille Tömroth, 1987)
“Dionysos” (an episode from Paris vu par…20 ans après, 1984)
Portrait de Raymond Depardon (co-director André Lenôtre, 1983)
Yenendi Gengel (1982)
Le vieil Anaï (co-director Germaine Dieterian, 1979)
Sini Siddo Kuma (1978)
Ciné-portrait de Margaret Mead (1977)
Fête des Gandyi Bi à Simiri (1977)
Hommage à Marcel Mauss: Germaine Dieterien (1977)
Hommage à Marcel Mauss: Marcel Levy (1977)
Ispahan: letter persanne 1977 (1977)
Badye, the Storyteller (co-director Inoussa Ousseini, 1977)
Makwayela (co-director Jacques d’Arthuys, 1977)
Médecines et médecins (co-director Inoussa Ousseini, 1976)
Rhythme de travail (1976)
Souna Kouma (1975)
Sigui synthese: les cérémonies soixantenaires du Sigui (Sigui Synthesis: The Sixty-Year Cycle of Sigui Ceremonies, filmed 1966-1974)
Cocorico! Monsieur Poulet (1974)
La 504 et les foudroyers (1974)
Pam Kuso Kar (1974)
Toboy Tobaye (1974)
L’an 01 (co-directors Jacques Doillon, Alain Resnais, 1973)
Dongo Hori (1973)
Hommage à Marcel Mauss: Tara Okamoto (1973)
L’enterrement du Hogan (co-director Germaine Dieterlen, 1973)
Tanda Singui (1972)
Yenendi de Boukoki (1972)
Architectes Ayorou (1971)
Porto Novo–la danse des reines (1971)
Yenendi di Simiri (1971)
Les Tambours d’avant: Tourou et Bitti (1971)
Mya–la mère (197o)
Yenendi de Yantalla (1970)
Petit à petit (1969)
Pierres chantantes d’Ayorou (1068)
Un lion nommé l’amèricain (1968)
Daudo Sorko (1967)
La goumbe des jeunes noceurs (1967)
Sigui: l’enclume de Yongo (co-directors Germaine Dieterlen, Gilbert Rouget, 1967)
Tourou et Bitti (1967)
Batteries Dogon–elements pour une etude (co-director Gilbert Rouget, 1966)
Dongo Horendi (1966)
Dongo Yenendi (1966)
Fêtes de novembre à Bregho (1966)
Sigui année zero (1966)
“Gare du Nord” (an episode of Paris vu par…, 1965)
Alpha noir (1965)
Festival de Dakar (1965)
Les veuves de quinze ans (1965)
L’Afrique et la recherché scientifique (1965)
Musique et danse des chasseurs Gow 91965)
Tambours de pierre (1965)
“Marie-France et Véronique” (an episode of La Fleur de l’age, ou Les adolescentes, 1964)
Le palmier à huile (1963)
Les cocotiers (1963)
Monsieur Albert prophète (1963)
Rose et Landry (co-director Jacques Godbout, 1963)
La Punition (1962)
Abidjan, port de pêche (1962)
Le mil (1962)
Les pêcheurs du Niger (1962)
Urbanismé africain (1962)
Chronique d’un été (co-director Edgar Morin, 1961)
La pyramide humaine (1961)
Les ballets de Niger (1961)
Moi, un Noir (1958)
Moro Naba (1958)
Sakpata (co-director Gilbert Rouget, 1958)
Baby Ghana (1957)
La Chasse au lion à l’arc (filmed 1958-1965, released 1965, 90 mins.)
Les maîtres fous (1955)
Mammy Water (1955)
Bataille sur le grand fleuve (1952)
Les gens du mil (1951)
Yenendi: les homes qui font la pluie (1951)
Cimetière dans la falaise (1951)
Chasse à l’hippopotame (1950)
Les Magiciens de Wanzerbé (co-directed with Marcel Griaule, 1948)
La Circoncision (1948)
Initiation à la danse des possédés (1948)
Au pays des mages noirs (co-directed with Jean Sauvy and Pierre Ponty, 1947)
Pierre-André Boutang. Jean Rouch raconte à Pierre-André Boutang. DVD: Editions Montparnasse, 2005.
Gilles Deleuze. Cinema 2: The Time-Image. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1989.
Enrico Fulchignoni. Jean Rouch commente—entretiens avec Enrico Fulchignoni. DVD: Editions Montparnasse, 2007.
Paul Henley. The Adventure of the Real: Jean Rouch and the Craft of Ethnographic Cinema. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2009.
Peter Loizos. Innovation in Ethnographic Film. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1993.
Bill Nichols. Representing Reality. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1991.
Paul Stoller. The Cinematic Griot. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1992.
Joram Ten Brink (ed). Building Bridges: The Cinema of Jean Rouch. London: Wallflower Press, 2007.
A website on Rouch from the Comité du Film Ethnographique (in French):
A tribute to Jean Rouch:
“Jean Rouch: Cinéma-Vérité, Chronicle of a Summer and The Human Pyramid”:
“A Tribute to Jean Rouch,” by Paul Stoller in Rouge: