Jean Rouch – 100

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The Apricot Tree III International Documentary Film Festival opens with a screening of Chronicle of a Summer in honor of the centennial of Jean Rouch.

Jean Rouch (31 May 1917– 18 February 2004) was a French filmmaker and anthropologist, who was one of the founders of cinéma vérité and ethnographic cinema. Influenced by his discovery of surrealism in his early twenties, many of his films blur the line between fiction and documentary, creating a new style of ethnofiction. Releasing his first film in 1947, Rouch went on to make about 120 films (mostly short) in a career spanning almost 60 years. Right from the beginning of his career Rouch developed a special bond with Africa, depicting and exploring the various rituals and traditions of the continent in many of his films, the content of which often went against postcolonial political correctness. In Niger he is considered the father of the local film industry. His seminal 1958 film Me, a Black not only was a remarkable depiction of the postcolonial black experience, but also pioneered the technique of jump cut later popularized by Jean-Luc Godard. Directors of the French New Wave hailed Rouch as one of their own, as Godard once wrote of him: “In charge of research for the Museum of Man. Is there a better definition for a filmmaker?” Rouch continued to make films both in Africa and Europe up until his death in a car accident in Niger.

Chronicle of a Summer, shot during the summer of 1960 in Paris and Saint Tropez, was the directorial collaboration between filmmaker Jean Rouch and sociologist Edgar Morin, made with the technical and aesthetic support of Québécois director-cameraman Michel Brault. This self-reflexive documentary film begins with a discussion between Rouch and Morin on whether or not it is possible to act sincerely in front of a camera. A cast of real-life individuals are then introduced and are led by the filmmakers to discuss topics on the themes of French society and happiness in the working class. And in some cases these discussions grow into emotional monologues. For its experimental and innovative structure that makes these real life people and their stories relatable and sympathetic as characters of a fiction film, Chronicle of a Summer is widely regarded as one of the most influential films of all time. The term “cinéma vérité” itself, suggested by the film’s publicist and coined by Rouch, was first used in regards to this film, highlighting a connection between film and its context.