Quick Links: 1900 – 1930 | 1931 – 1945
1946 – 1960 | 1961 – 1980 | 1981 – 2004

1900 –1930

31 May 1917

Jean Rouch born in Paris. Rouch family lives in Brittany, Paris, Algeria, and Germany until 1928.


Jean Rouch's father takes him to see his first film, Robert Flaherty's Nanook of the North.


Rouch family moves to Morocco. They live in Casablanca for the next two years.

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1931 –1945


At 17, Jean Rouch attends his first jazz concert —when Louis Armstrong plays at the Salle Pleyel in Paris. It is the beginning of his lifelong passion for jazz.


Rouch Begins his studies at l'École des Ponts et Chaussées.


Rouch Begins to frequent the Musée de l'Homme and the Cinémathèque Française.


As part of the war effort, Rouch, together with his friend Jean Sauvy, travels through France blowing up bridges in order to forestall German advances.


While the Nazis occupy France, Jean Rouch completes his last year of schooling at L'Ecole Ponts et Chaussées. Rouch continues to visit the Musée de l'Homme, which becomes a center of the French Resistance.

That same year, Rouch takes Marcel Griaule's course on Ethiopia at the Institute of Ethnology at the University of Paris. He also meets Germaine Dieterlen.


Rouch leaves France for Africa. He works for the French Travaux Publics in the colony of Niger. While in Africa, he meets and befriends Damouré Zika.


Damouré's grandmother, Kalia invites Rouch to witness his first Songhay possession. He is invited to witness other ceremonies, and takes notes, which he sends to Griaule, beginning his lifetime of ethnographic research.

In October, Rouch is censured for political reasons and sent to Dakar. Théodore Monod, director of the Institut Français d'Afrique Noir intervenes and welcomes him to IFAN, encouraging further ethnographic research.


Rouch returns to Paris after having served in the Corps of Engineers of the Free French Army in Africa.

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1946 –1960


Rouch descends the Niger River by boat with Jean Sauvy and Pierre Ponty filming a hippopotamus hunt on the way. After their film tripod is lost to the river, Rouch continues to film, with a handheld camera. They film Au pays des mages noirs/In the Land of the Black Magi (Niger).

Rouch also meets Lam Ibrahima Dia.


Rouch begins his doctoral research in Niger and Mali as a provisional researcher for the Centre National de la Recherche Scientique (CNRS). Rouch continues to film Songhay ritual life.


Rouch films La circoncision/Circumcision (Mali) Initiation à la danse des possédés/Initiation into Possession Dance (Niger)


Rouch Receives the Grand Prix at the Festival du Film Maudit at Biarritz, presided over by Jean Cocteau.


Release of Rouch's film La chasse à l'hippopotamane, from footage taken during the descent of the Niger. Films Cimetière dans la falaise/Cemetery in the Cliffs, with Roger Rosfelder.


Rouch stays for a month among the Dogon, with Griaule and Dieterlen.


Rouch receives his Doctorat de Troisième Cycle aux Lettres. That same year, he marries Jane Margaret George.

Bataille sur le grand fleuve/Battle on the Great River.

Jean-Luc Godard and other pioneers of La Nouvelle Vague explore new ideas about filmmaking and begin to publish their views on film in Cahiers du Cinema. Rouch, Godard, Chabrol, Truffaut, Eric Rohmer and others watch films together at the Cinémathèque Française in Paris.


Rouch publishes Contribution à l'histoire des Songhay, Les Songhay, and Le Niger en Pirogue.

Forms Le Comité du Film Ethnographique (CFE), with Enrico Fulchignoni, Marcel Griaule, Andre Leroi-Gourhan, Henri Langlois and Claude Levi-Strauss.


Rouch begins a six-year study of migration to Africa's Gold Coast.


Rouch releases Les Fils de l'Eau, compiled from five of his shorts, presents Les Maîtres Fous at the Musée de l'Homme, which prompts African and French spectators to call for its destruction. The film is banned in Britain and the Gold Coast, but receives the Grand Prix at the Venice Biennale.


Rouch films Moi, Un Noir with Oumarou Ganda.


Rouch Films La Pyramide humaine/The Human Pyramid in Côte d'Ivoire.Meets Michel Brault at the Third Flaherty Film Seminar. After seeing Brault's film Les Raquetteurs, Rouch asks him to come to Paris to shoot Chronicle of a Summer.


Rouch makes Chronique d'un été/Chronicle of a Summer in Paris, with Edgar Morin.Rouch and Morin name this new style of filmmaking 'cinéma vérité', a translation of Vertov's term, Kino Pravda ('film truth').

At this time he also runs The Institute for Research on Human Sciences (IRSH), at the University of Niamey and becomes Maître de Recherches at CNRS, and publishes his thesis, La religion et la magie Songhay.

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1961 –1980


Films Gare du Nord, a sketch for Paris, Vu Par (Six in Paris), a compilation of shorts by six directors of the French New Wave: Jean Douchet, Jean-Luc Godard, Eric Rohmer, Claude Chabrol, Daniel Pollet, and Jean Rouch.

La Chasse au Lion a l'Arc, about lion hunters on the Mali/Niger border.


Rouch makes Batteries Dogon, an experimental film exploring the relationship between the rhythm of the Dogon drummers and the dance, with Gilbert Rouget and Germaine Dieterlen.


Beginning in 1967, and over the next seven years, Rouch makes a series of films with Germaine Dieterlen which document the seven-year cycle of Dogon Sigui rituals that occur every 60 years.


Rouch contributes a chapter on Ethnographic Film to Ethnologie Générale, La Pléiade collection. He begins filming Petit à Petit, a sequel to Jaguar, with Damouré Zika, Lam Ibrahima Dia, Safi Faye, Mustafa Alassane, and others.

Andre Malraux, French Minister of Culture, fires Henri Langlois from the Cinémathèque Française. Filmmakers, including Rouch, protest violently and Langlois is re-hired. The battle for Langlois's reinstatement is part of the build-up to the student uprising.


Rouch creates the first doctorate in cinema, with Enrico Fulchignoni and Henri Langlois, at the University of Paris, Sorbonne and University of Paris, Nanterre.


Rouch films Cocorico, Monsieur Poulet with Damouré Zika, Lam Ibrahima Dia and Tallou Mouzourane.


Rouch is honored at the First Margaret Mead Film Festival at the Museum of Natural History in New York.

Jean Rouch begins teaching a series of Summer Institutes in the U.S., with John Marshall, Ricky Leacock and others. Students from Hampshire College, Tufts, Amherst, and Harvard attend.

A "Direct Cinema" teaching program in Mozambique is created and organized by Jacques d'Arthuis, with Jean Rouch and several of his students. The first film is made by Mozambican filmmakers in their own country. Moustapha Alassane films Samba le grand.


Rouch, Françoise Foucault and Marielle Delorme organize the Regards Comparés, an ongoing series of screenings of films of same populations by different filmmakers.


Rouch receives the Grand Prix International du Forum Architecture, Communication, and Territoire.

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1981 –2004


Rouch begins a four year stint as a visiting Professor at Harvard.


Rouch is elected Vice-President of UNESCO's International Council of Cinema, TV and Audio-Visual Communication.

Moustapha Diop films Le Médecin de Gafiré. Djingareye Maïga films Aube Noire


Rouch serves as Director of the Cinémathèque Française. He retains the position until 1991.


Publication of The Cinematic Griot: the Ethnography of Jean Rouch, by Paul Stoller.


Nadine Wanono publishes the book Les Dogon with a collection of photographs from Marcel Griaule, Jean Rouch and Michel Renaudeau. Preface by Jean Rouch.


Rouch attends Docfest in New York City. Presents a screening of Chronique and participates in a discussion about vérité filmmaking with Al Maysles and D.A. Pennebaker.


Rouch Travels to New York University to participate in Rouch 2000, a commemoration of his contributions to anthropology and ethnographic film. He also travels to London for Possessing Vision, a major Jean Rouch conference at the ICA.


Rouch Marries Jocelyne Lamothe.


Publication of Ciné-Ethnography, edited and translated by Steven Feld.

18 February 2004

Rouch dies in a car accident near Niamey, Niger, on his way to a celebration of African cinema.

"Rouch decided to stay in Africa"

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