Foundational Filmmaker: Jean Rouch (Les Mâitres Fous) (Chronicle of a Summer)
Jean Rouch is a filmmaker and anthropologist considered to be the father of ethnofiction. Ethnofiction is a blend of documentary film and fiction in which ethnography is combined in the staging of reality. Natives play their social roles as fictional characters of a fictional film. Rouch’s ethnofiction films explore themes of colonialism and racism.
Jean Rouch is also considered a pioneer of cinema vérité and visual anthropology. Cinema vérité is style of documentary filmmaking in which the filmmaker relays little to no information about the images s/he has captured. The goal of cinema vérité is to capture reality as it is without any censoring or explanations. In cinema vérité, the camera’s presence is always acknowledged.
Jean Rouch’s work mainly took place in Niger, where he filmed possession rituals, social life, migration and the changes that took place from colonialism to independence to the present day. Rouch worked from 1967 to 1974 to produce a series of films documenting the seven-year cycle of the Dogon Sigui rituals that occurs every 60 years.
Rouch is best known for the documentary film Chronicle of a Summer, which he worked with French sociologist Edgar Morin. The film offers a perspective in the way ordinary individuals were navigating their lives during a particularly complicated time in French history.