Babatu, les trois conseils: Jean Rouch’s cinéma vérité

Film still of Babatu, les trois conseils © CFE – Comité du film ethnographique / Inoussa Ousseini

In 1976, the French ethnologist and director Jean Rouch, who was fascinated by West Africa, is invited to Cannes to show In Competition Babatu, les trois conseils, a historical film about the conquests of chief Zarma Babatu in the Gurunsi territories. Cannes Classics is offering the chance to see a restored copy of this masterpiece, which influenced the New Wave.

The father of ethnofiction, Jean Rouch, turned to cinema very early on to show African cultures and traditions to a European audience: they were the focus of his filmography. That was how he came to prominence in France with Moi, un noir (I, a Negro). The film follows the adventures of three Nigerians who emigrate to Ivory Coast; it won him the Louis Delluc Prize in 1958. With his camera on his shoulder, the director blended documentary and fiction and created "cinéma direct" (direct cinema) a method for which he is particularly famous.

He brought this love for Africa to Cannes in 1976, showing Babatu, les trois conseils In Competition. The historical feature film tells the warlike, epic tale of chief Zarma Babatu who conquered the Gurunsi lands and grew rich by dealing in slaves. Damouré, Lam, Tallou and other "guest stars" re-enact the adventures of the 19th century warriors.

Alongside the screening of Babatu, les trois conseils at Cannes Classics, the Institut Français is presenting a "Jean Rouch Focus" at the Pavillon des Cinémas du monde. This event will give an overview of the director's career of around forty films, including shorts, feature films, unreleased films and symbolic films. So there are two opportunities to rediscover the work of this filmmaker, who would have celebrated his 100th birthday this year.

Presented by CNC, Inoussa Ousseini, the Comité du film ethnographique and the Fondation Jean Rouch. Digital restoration carried out from the digitisation in 2K of 16mm negatives. Restauration carried out by L21.