ming movie reviews

in about 100 words or less

Les Maîtres Fous (1955)

France 35m, Colour
Director: Jean Rouch

Les Maîtres FousThe Mad Masters is an ethnographic film which “documented” the annual ceremony performed by the male members of the Hauka, a religious sect established in 1927 in response to colonialism and the impact of modern technology on their traditional West African culture. Foaming from their mouths, strutting around wildly against the flame of a torch, drinking the blood of a sacrificed dog, dipping their hands in boiling water, the film depicts rites of possession in which the participants reenact elements of colonialism and in doing so, reclaim them. More than a document of the event, the film was also meant to engage the viewer as an active participant, and as such, represented an important departure from earlier ethnographic film and traditional anthropological method which sought an objective understanding of culture. Looking back at the crisis from within the discipline, in which Anthropology itself questioned the validity of its own methods, Les Maîtres Fous, though initially denounced as offensive and even racist, is an early and important example of this paradigmatic shift (Klaus Ming January 2015).

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This entry was posted on 01/24/2015 by in 1001 List, 1950s, All and tagged .
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