“YOU LOOK AT US LIKE INSECTS” –
A CONVERSATION BETWEEN FILMMAKERS JEAN ROUCHE AND OUSMANE SEMBÈNE (1965)
This piece may be a conversation between two male filmmakers, but it’s a really provocative confrontation regarding the problematic way that white, Western (specifically European) filmmakers represent African subjects in ethnographic film.
Here, Sembène, a Senegalese filmmaker, criticizes Rouche (a white, French filmmaker) for the way he represents African subjects on film and was quoted saying the famous phrase: “you look at us like insects.” I think this is essential reading for anyone interested in documentary, and particularly the historical tradition of ethnography.
“In cinema, it isn’t enough just to see, you have to analyze. What interests me is what comes before and after we see.”