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This website was initially suggested to me in 2004 by one of my undergraduate professors - Dr. Tanya Elder - at the American University of Paris.  When the site went up in August of that year (thanks to a lot of technical help from Laurent Sauerwein), it was the first of its kind in English and one of the only places online to feature a thorough introduction to Rouch’s work. [Since, DER has published a tribute site to Rouch in English and the Comité du film ethnographique has a great site for French speakers.]  The hope was (and is) that the site could offer anyone interested in Rouch’s films a feel for the kinds of questions that his work raises as well as some insight into why his work has been so important to so many people (Jean-Luc Godard, Francois Truffaut, Manthia Diawara, Paul Stoller, Faye Ginsburg and Ricky Leacock to name just a few!).

When I started this project in 2004, Rouch’s work was largely unavailable and therefore unknown to anglophone audiences outside of very select circles.  Luckily, however, things seem to be changing.  In addition to the interviews and clips you can find on youtube, you can also now purchase several of his better known documentaries and ethno-fictions on DVD (zone 2) at   The French Ministry of Culture has also come out with a box set of Rouch’s films (subtitled in English) and the French National Library (BNF) has recently committed to restoring and housing Rouch’s film collection in their archive in Paris.

As early as the 1940s, Rouch was using filmmaking as a means to promote cross-cultural dialogue and to rethink the relationship between "the west" and "the rest.” For over sixty years, he continued to cultivate that dialogue and the result was a body of work that can perhaps best be described as an antidote for visual apathy.  His films encourage more questions than they answer, they upset the balance, and they work to release us from our own limited and narrow cinematic expectations.

I hope you find the website useful.

Comments and questions are welcome.

-- Jamie Berthe (jamie(AT)maitres-fous(DOT)net)
New York, August 2009

I am currently a PhD student in the Department of Media, Culture, and Communication at New York University and have completed a certificate in Culture and Media through a joint study program with NYU's Department of Anthropology.  My dissertation - "An Art of Ambivalence: On Jean Rouch, African Cinema, and the Complexities of the (Post)Colonial Encounter" - looks at Rouch's relationship to French colonial history and African film.

an ongoing project...