Apr 25th 2021

Cinéma Direct Action: 1960s Student Activism in Francophone Documentary

@ Block Museum Online


Opening Sunday, April 25th, from 12PM - 11PM

On view through Saturday, May 1st

“Cinéma Direct Action: 1960s Student Activism in Francophone Documentary” presents two feature films from the early years of the “cinéma vérité” and “direct cinema” movements, offering alternative visions for filming student activism in Côte d’Ivoire and Canada.

Starting at 12 PM Central Time on April 25, The Human Pyramid and Acadia, Acadia?!? will stream for free on the Block’s Eventive page for a period of one week.

On Wednesday, April 28 at 12 pm CST, Block Cinema will host a discussion about the films with Tamara Tasevska (Northwestern doctoral candidate in French and Francophone Studies), Scott Durham (Associate Professor of French and Comparative Literature at Northwestern), and Nora Alter (Professor of Film and Media Arts at Temple University and author of The Essay Film After Fact and Fiction).


PRE-ORDER TICKETS FOR ACADIA: https://watch.eventive.org/…/play/605cf6eddfe4e9005c2cd6cd

The conversation will take place over Zoom at

The meeting passcode is 100631.


This program, curated by Northwestern doctoral candidate Tamara Tasevska, brings together two Francophone filmmakers, Jean Rouch and Pierre Perrault, who pioneered innovative documentary forms that reflected a younger generation’s demands for radical change in the 1960s. In The Human Pyramid (1961), French cinéaste Jean Rouch collaborates with young black and white lycée students in Ivory Coast, challenging segregation through a hybrid of documentary and fiction. Acadia, l’Acadia?!? (1971), co-directed by Pierre Perrault and Rouch collaborator Michel Brault, follows the student-led struggle for Francophone recognition in New Brunswick, Canada, encouraging its young protagonists to interrogate one another’s beliefs, attitudes, and activist practices through a combination of commentary and fly-on-the-wall observation. Both films wed the observational traditions of ethnography with the subjectivity of art film to imagine cinema as an act of world-making within contested communities: in Rouch’s words, “the camera will not be an obstacle [to] expression, but the indispensable witness that will motivate it.”


Jean Rouch, 1961, France, Côte d’Ivoire, 90 min, French with English subtitles

In Rouch’s docufiction hybrid The Human Pyramid, Black African and white French students at a high school in the post-independence Ivory Coast attempt to dismantle the racial segregation they experience outside the classroom, through a combination of interviews, conversations, and fictionalized scenes. While the film is one of Rouch’s enduring efforts, its director imagined it more as a means to an end: as he explained, “whether a film was born or not, more important is what happened around the camera.”

Pierre Perrault and Michel Brault, 1971, Canada, 117 min, English and French with English subtitles

Acadia, l’Acadia?!? follows the student-led fight for Francophone recognition in New Brunswick in 1968, a struggle framed by radical political movements both national and global. Indeed, upon its release in 1971, film critic Henri Chapier hailed Acadia, Acadia?!? as “the first film in world cinema to deal with the international uprising of youth, without compromise and without clichés.” While rooted in the ideals of a specific time and place, the film’s lively, affectionate depiction of youth in revolt remains startlingly relevant today. Censored for broadcast by the CBC due to its overt partisanship, Acadia, l’Acadia?!? appears here in its original, full-length French language version.

Co-presented by the Block Museum of Art with the Department of French and Italian at Northwestern University.

Online, free and open to all.

Official Website

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