Jean Rouch uses his films to gain a better understanding of Anthropology.

Essay by nadim93University, Bachelor'sC+, May 2003

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Jean Rouch Claims To Be Pursuing A "Shared Anthropology". How Successful Is He?

It is fair to say that Jean Rouch's search for a "shared anthropology" in his films remains a unity of contradictions. In his collection of psychodramas, documentaries and caricature portrayals, Rouch asks some very important questions about cultural trends and human nature and as such it is widely accepted among visual anthropologists that his creative and methodological innovations have a significant influence on document style filming today. To understand if there is any truth to Rouch's claims of pursuing a "shared anthropology", this essay shall be focusing primarily on his films, The Human Pyramid (1960), Chronicle of a Summer (1961) and his classic Les Maîtres Fous (1955).

Before looking at the above films, it is important to understand the background and some of the arguments surrounding the work of Jean Rouch and his relationship with anthropology.

It is a fact that Jean Rouch has made most of his films in Africa, so much so, that he is habitually referred to as the "father of African cinema." Yet, while Rouch and his films are influential in discussions on documentary film, his work- many believe has little purchase in anthropology itself. Apart from his early anthropology in the form of a Ph.D thesis, Rouch wrote little on his filmmaking and its relationship to anthropology. Most information on this relationship has come through interviews available in a variety of film and anthropology journals.

One such example is the: The Cinema of Jean Rouch, which was originally a special issue of Visual Anthropology. Steven Feld writes on "Themes in the Cinema of Jean Rouch" with regard to ethnographic practice. He illustrates to us how Rouch's film making draws on the styles of Robert Flaherty's revelatory cinema and...