As he’s done so often in a career that exceeds 150 films, prolific ethnologist, cinema-verite pioneer and now vigorous octogenarian Jean Rouch returns once again to the southwestern region of the Republic of Niger for whimsical, ritual-filled “Dream Is Stronger Than Death.” Pic will be in demand by fests that spotlight ethnographic and environmental issues, with quality TV berths to follow.
Described as “three dreams of friendship and Dionysian adventures,” pic opens with longtime Rouch associate Damoure Zika returning in a black Jaguar to a Niamey he barely recognizes. This prompts a ritual sacrifice to protect the capital city. In the second “dream,” Aeschylus’ “The Persians” is performed in an outdoor setting by a multicultural troupe that adapts the play to local languages and customs. Finally, two other Rouch cronies, Lam Ibrahim Dia and Tallou Mouzourane, tell a tale involving mystical white cows. Though difficult for outsiders to follow, intertwined tales speak clearly of Rouch’s lifelong affection for region and peoples. Tech credits are smooth, with the nimble 16mm camera (Rouch’s preferred format) soaking up the action, and the personal commentary he once dubbed the “audiovisual counter-gift” enhancing the experience.