I Am Tired of Standing, I Lie Down

Top ethnographic helmer Jean Rouch returns to the outback of Nigeria to film three of his old friends dreaming under a tree, in a whimsical fantasy about the power of the imagination. Though "I Am Tired of Standing, I Lie Down" at times comes close to documentary, it goes a lot deeper than standard-issue docus on Africa. Its lack of spectacular shots and ruminating rhythm target it for quality TV, where most of Rouch's 150 films have found their audiences. The trio, Damoure, Lam and Tallou, explain that their country is upside down --- when it rains, for example, the river dries up. Following the example of a talking, practically horizontal Gao-beri tree (which says it is tired of standing up and has decided to lie down), they comically stretch out for a siesta and dream. The tree advises them to call on the god of thunder and the spirit of water to ask for an end to the drought.

When Rouch digs in to film village rain dances and rituals, pic slows down and becomes solidly informational, losing altitude. Most of the rituals, although explained by the villagers, remain incomprehensible to outsiders. But just when the litany of legends gets monotonous, Rouch throws in another bit of magic — ghosts, a flood — to wake up the audience. In the end, the chatty Gao-beri tree gets back on its feet, as do our heroes.

Shot in washed-out, sometimes shaky handheld 16mm, pic piques the imagination more than one’s visual sense. Flashes of scenes from Rouch’s early films are cleverly worked into the plot as the oldsters’ fantasy-memories of “when we were young, in Paris …”

I Am Tired of Standing, I Lie Down

French - Nigerian

  • Production: A Comite du Film Ethnographique/CNRS/Centre Culturel Franco Nigerien/IRSH production. (International sales: Comite du Film Ethnographique, Paris.) Directed, written by Jean Rouch.
  • Crew: Camera (color, 16mm), Rouch; editor, Francoise Beloux; music, Hamidou Godye; sound, Francois Didio. Reviewed at Berlin Film Festival (Forum), Feb. 22, 1997. Running time: 85 MIN.
  • With: With: Damoure Zika, Lam Ibrahim Dia, Tallou Mouzourane.