Rouch in Reverse

Though not entirely satisfying, Manthia Diawara’s 1995 video documentary about the great innovative French anthropological filmmaker Jean Rouch–which intermittently attempts to practice a “reverse anthropology” on Rouch himself–is an invaluable introduction to one of the greatest living filmmakers. Diawara, a critic and film professor at New York University who hails from Mali, has known Rouch for years and struggles admirably to balance the filmmaker’s unquestionable achievements (including his role as a precursor of and guru to the French New Wave) with his paternalism toward Africans–an attitude that was still progressive 20, 30, and 40 years ago, when most of Rouch’s masterpieces were made, but is harder to rationalize today. Diawara fails to resolve the conflict, but at least he articulates it as honestly as possible. On the same program–which will be introduced by Chicago documentary filmmaker Judy Hoffman, who has worked with Rouch–is a rare early short film by Rouch, In the Land of the Black Magi (1947), codirected by Pierre Ponty and Jean Sauvy. And if you want to see what Rouch in his prime can do as a filmmaker, check out his Jaguar (1967) at Chicago Filmmakers next Friday, same time, same place. Kino-Eye Cinema at Chicago Filmmakers, Friday, January 31, 8:00, 773-384-5533.

–Jonathan Rosenbaum

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): film still.

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