Les Maîtres Fous / The Mad Masters

Director: Jean Rouch
Country: France
Year: 1954
Running Time: 52 min.
Language: French


This controversial documentary examines the Hauku religious cult practices in Ghana and Niger from the 1920s to the 1950s.

About the Director

Jean Rouch

jean_rouchBiography: Jean Rouch was a French filmmaker and anthropologist. He is considered to be one of the founders of cinéma-vérité in France. Rouch’s practice as a filmmaker for over sixty years in Africa, was characterized by the idea of shared anthropology. He began his long association with African subjects in 1941 after working as civil engineer supervising a construction project in Niger. When he arrived in  Niamey as a French colonial hydrology engineer, he became interested in Zarma and Songhai ethnology and began to film local people and their rituals. By 1950, Rouch had made the first films set in Niger with au pays des mages noirs (1947), l’initiation à la danse des possédés (1948) and Les magiciens de Wanzarbé (1949), all of which documented the spirit possession rituals of the Songhai, Zarma, and Sorko peoples living along the Niger river. His best known film is Chronique d’un été (1961), which he filmed with sociologist Edgar Morin and in which he portrays the social life of contemporary France. Throughout his career, he used his camera to report on life in Africa. Over the course of five decades, he made almost 120 films. Rouch died in an automobile accident in February 2004.

Films Shown in AFF, Inc. Programs: 
Les Maitres Fous [The Mad Masters] (1998).

Au pays des mages noirs [In the Land of the Black Magi] (1947);
Initiation a la danse des possédés [Initiation into Possession Dance] (1949);
La Circoncision [The Circumcision] (1949);
Cimetière dans la falaise (1950);
Bataille sur le grand fleuve [Battle on the Great River] (1951);
Les Fils de l’eau (1953);
Les Maîtres Fous [The Mad Masters] (1954);
Jaguar (1955);
Mammy Water (1955);
Baby Ghana (1957);
Moi, un noir (1958);
La Pyramide humane (1959-1961);
Chronique d’un été (Chronicle of a Summer) (1960);
Gare du nord (1964);
La Chasse au lion à l’arc [The Lion Hunters] (1965);
Sigui année zero (1966);
Les veuves de 15 ans [The 15-Year-Old Widows] (1966);
Sigui: l’enclume de Yougo (1967);
Sigui 1968: Les danseurs de Togo (1968);
Sigui (1969);
La caverne de Bongo (1969);
Petit à petit [Little by Little] (1969);
Sigui 1970: Les clameurs d’Amani (1970);
Sigui 1971: La dune d’Idyeli (1971);
Tourou et Bitti, les tambours d’avant [Tourou and Bitti: The Drums of the Past] (1971);
Sigui 1972: Les pagnes de lame (1972);
Sigui 1973: L’auvent de la circonsion (1973);
Cocorico M. Poulet (1974);
Babatu (1976);
Ciné-portrait de Margaret Mead (1977);
Makwayela (1977);
Bougo, les funérailles du vieil Anaï (1979);
Dionysos (1984);
Liberté, égalité, fraternité et puis après [Freedom, Equality, Fraternity–And Then What?] (1990);
Le rêve plus fort que la mort (2002-Bernard Surge).