Jean Rouch’s narration unfolds the epic battle of the Sorko fishermen against the hippopotamuses in the Niger river, each year from February to April. Before their departure, a ceremony takes place: a woman possessed by the river spirit dances and the fishermen are washed with the magical water so that they are shown to be courageous. Upon their return, the fishermen wear their clothes inside out in show of defeat: they’ve lost the battle on the Great River.
Jean Rouch is one of the most important anthropologists and representatives of ethnographic cinema, who also contributed greatly to the evolution of the French New Wave and cinéma vérité. With his richly varied work, the greater part of which was filmed in Africa, he broadened the ethnographic documentary’s horizons and set the foundation for the creation of ethnofiction, which blurred the boundaries between documentary and fiction.