The Chamber and the Men

by Jean Rouch / 24 11 2017

In 1973, Jean Rouch wrote The Chamber and the Men, a seminal text on the complex relations between Cinema and Anthropology. Here we recover the conclusions of this reflection, in an exercise of anticipation of a revolution in the modes of production and of a probable future of the cinema that soon arrived. On the centennial of the birth of the french author, Porto/Post/Doc dedicates a focus on his work, Cinema-truth: 100 years of Jean Rouch, screening five of his major works in restored copies.

Now we are at the close of our story of the place of the camera among man, yesterday and today. And for the moment, the only conclusion that one can draw is that ethnographic film has not yet passed the experimental stage. Although anthropologists have this fabulous tool at their disposal, they still haven't figured out how to make it best serve their needs.

For the moment, no "schools" of ethnographic film exist; there are only tendencies. Personally, I hope this marginal situation will prolong itself so that our young discipline can avoid sclerosis in an iron collar, or in sterile bureaucracy. It is good that there are differences in American, Canadian, Japanese, Brazilian, Australian, British, Dutch, and French ethnographic films. Within the universality of concepts in the scientific approach, we maintain a multiplicity of orientations: if the cine-eyes of all countries are ready to unite, it is not simply to have one point of view. Thus film in the human sciences is, in a certain respect, in the avant-garde of film research. And if one finds similar features in the diversity of recent films, such as the multiplication of shot sequences (I have asked a manufacturer of lightweight cameras to make a one-thousand-foot magazine so that shooting can go for half an hour), it is because our experiences have led us to similar conclusions and thus have given birth to a new cinema language.

And tomorrow? ... Tomorrow will be the time of completely portable color video, video editing, and instant replay ("instant feedback"). Which is to say, the time of the joint dream of Vertov and Flaherty, of a mechanical cine-eye-ear and of a camera that can so totally participate that it will automatically pass into the hands of those who, until now, have always been in front of the lens. At that point, anthropologists will no longer control the monopoly on observation; their culture and they themselves will be observed and recorded. And it is in that way that ethnographic film will help us to "share" anthropology.

Films to be screened:
· La pyramide humaine 
· Les maîtres fous
· Moi, un noir
· Jaguar
· Chronique d'un été

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