Accepted paper:

The drums, the camera and The man : ciné-transe in Jean Rouch's cinema


Simon Serna (Paris X)

Paper short abstract:

Through the analysis of Jean Rouch's film Tourou et Bitti, I will question the film director's enigmatic proposition for ethnographic cinema: the ciné-transe. Is it possible to reuse this term and turn it into a real tool for ethnographic cinema: a method to capture the invisible on film?

Paper long abstract:

Spirit possession rituals are a recurring theme in Jean Rouch's work. During his filming of the rituals and dances of possession of the Songhay people in the Niger valley, Jean Rouch theorised a new way of filming scenes of possession, in which both the participants and the film-maker take part. Jean Rouch called this enigmatic process the ciné-transe. What is the ciné-transe? How can we understand its use in Rouch's work? Is it possible to turn this notion into a cinematographic tool or method to capture the invisible on film? Jean Rouch created the notion of ciné-transe after shooting his 1972 short film Tourou et Bitti. I will question the notion of ciné-transe through a detailed analysis of this film. In a first approach, I will trace the origin of the notion of ciné-transe in Rouch's earlier works also featuring scenes of spirit possession rituals. I intend to show that Rouch's progression towards his ciné-transe theory came through his gradual discovery of the Songhay culture and of their specific definition of personhood, and through his personal approach of the notion of shared anthropology. Jean Rouch himself never properly defined or theorised the notion of ciné transe. This paper aims to go beyond Rouch's vagueness, and explore the ciné-transe as a potential analysis tool.

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