Shot in a single day in 1954, this documentary of a possession ritual of the Hauka cult, in which Nigerien migrants outside Accra enter a trance state to imitate the military ceremonies of their British colonial occupiers, proved to be incredibly controversial, offending representatives of the colonial powers who saw their institutions mocked, as well as African intellectuals who believed it furthered racist clichés. Yet this undeniably intense, disturbing film became an instant classic that reached beyond ethnographic circles to influence the cinematic revolutions of the fifties, as well as other arts, inspiring Jean Genet’s play The Blacks and several classic theater productions by Peter Brook. As for Jean Rouch, he considered the film to be an incendiary indictment of those in power, whether white or black, as well as the catalyst for his concept of ciné-transe, in which the camera is recognized as a provocateur, playing its part in causing the trance shared by “actors,” filmmakers, and viewers.
French with English subtitles
France, Ghana, 1956
DCP, DVD, Blu-Ray
$150 (when booked together with MAMMY WATER, $200 for both films)