Bushman Speaks into the Phonograph {Buschmann spricht in den Phonographen} (1908/1984) – Rudolf Pöch *

56 secs., b&w, originally silent, but approximately post-synchronised in 1984 with a recording made simultaneously on an Archiv-Phonograph

Source :  Filmarchiv Austria, also available in several different forms on the web, for example, here.

This film was shot by Rudolf Pöch in 1908 in what is now northern Botswana whilst he was simultaneously making an audio recording on a phonograph of Kubi, a sixty-year old San man, telling a story about the behaviour of elephants at a nearby waterhole. Much later, in 1984, the image and the audio recording were approximately synchronised by Dietrich Schüller of the Austrian Sound Archive, Vienna.

In its original silent form, this sequence forms part of a 30-minute body of rushes that Pöch shot in southern Africa, mostly otherwise consisting of sequences of dancing and technical processes.

Text : Schüller (1987)

Santos, Silvino (1886-1970)*

Silvino Santos ,appropriately dressed for filming in Amazonia, in hunting gear and a jaguar skin hat, in what was probably a publicity photograph for No Paiz das Amazonas (1922).

Silvino Simoẽs dos Santos e Silva was a pioneer figure in the history of Brazilian documentary film-making, most remembered for the films that he made in Brazilian Amazonia and the neighbouring Putumayo region of what was then Peru.

Of the many films that Santos made in the Amazon region, a large number, perhaps the majority, are lost. Of those that have survived, by far the best known is No Paiz das Amazonas, first released in 1922 on the occasion of the celebration of the centenary of Brazilian independence. This offered an epic and unprecedentedly comprehensive overview of a region that was still largely unknown to most of the urban population of Brazil.

It is a film that has many ethnographic qualities in that although its principal purpose was to celebrate the natural resources of the region and the potential that it held for economic development, it also focuses in a sympathetic manner on the everyday activities of the workers involved in extractive industries (rubber-tapping, Brazil nut collection etc), ranching, fishing and hunting.

There are also three sequences on indigenous groups. Two of these were then still living under relatively traditional circumstances, the recently ‘pacified’ Parintintin of the Madeira River region and the Witoto of what was then Peruvian Putumayo (in a political settlement in the 1920s, this region became part of modern Colombia). The third was the Sateré-Mawé, a group that had undergone a much greater degree of change as a result of contact with the national society and whose territory lies on the right bank of the Amazon, downstream from Manaus.

Also frequently cited among Silvino Santos’s films is No Rastro do El Dorado, released in 1926. This film follows the expedition led by the amateur US geographer Hamilton Rice in its progress up the Rio Branco and Uraricoera Rivers in Roraima, in the far north of Brazil, in what would prove to be a vain attempt to reach the headwaters of the Orinoco via a tributary of the Uraricoera, the Parima River.

However, this is not only a much less complex film, but it is also of only limited ethnographic interest in that it is primarily concerned with the logistics of the expedition, its scientific and technical objectives, and the natural environment. Although it refers to the expedition’s contacts with a number of indigenous groups, these sequences are all very brief and mostly consist merely of the encounter itself rather than offering an account of the way of life of the indigenous groups in any more general sense.

Biographical background

Silvino Santos was born into a well-to-do family in  northern Portugal in 1886 but as he showed only limited academic aptitude, in 1899, when he was fourteen, his father allowed him to go to Brazil where the family had  business interests. At first, Santos lived in Belém do Pará on the Atlantic Coast, where he worked in a bookshop. At the same time, he became an assistant to the painter and photographer, Leonel Rocha. At some point, Santos appears to have travelled with Rocha to Iquitos in Perú.

In 1910, Santos moved to Manaus, the capital of Brazilian Amazonia and the commercial centre of the rubber boom that was still then in full flood.  Initially, he worked in his brother’s retail business, but after only a year, he set up his own photography studio. It was through his photographic work that he came into contact with Carlos Rey de Castro, the Peruvian consul in Manaus. Rey de Castro commissioned Santos to travel to the Putumayo region and over two months, August to October 1912, to take photographs during a tour of inspection of the rubber collecting stations of the notorious Casa Arana.

On board his steamer, The Liberal, Julio César Arana, extreme left, entertains the US consul, Stuart Fuller (in white suit) and the UK consult George Michell (in starched collar). To the right of Michell, is Carlos Rey de Castro, the Peruvian consul in Manaus who recruited Silvino Santos, and on the extreme right, the steamer captain, Ubaldo Lores (photographs by Silvino Santos, in Chirif et al. 2013, pp.55, 102).

This tour of inspection involved the British and US consuls in Iquitos as well as Rey de Castro and the owner of the company himself, Julio César Arana. It was taking place in response to the denunciation of the Casa Arana in London, where the company was registered and many of its leading investors were based.

In 1910, following allegations in the British press that Casa Arana was holding indigenous workers in conditions of slavery and that it was responsible, directly or indirectly, for tens of thousands of indigenous deaths, the British government had sent an official  envoy, Roger Casement, to inspect.

In his report, published in March 1911, Casement had confirmed the truth of these allegations, as had a parliamentary committee report in June 1912, based on a broad range of witness statements, including by both Casement and Arana. The purpose of the consular tour to be recorded by Santos was to prove that Casement’s original report had been exaggerated and that in any case, conditions had improved.

Photographs taken by Silvino Santos during the consular inspection of the operations of the Casa Arana in the Putumayo, August -October 1912 (from Chirif et al. 2013, pp.113, 140).

In accordance with the tour’s aims, Santos’s photographs show the indigenous people to be in a generally reasonable state of health, without any evidence of coercion. The photographs themselves are technically competent though aesthetically limited in that they consist largely of subjects standing in a line before the camera or of distant shots of indigenous dancing.

Arana was seemingly pleased with the results, however, because he then commissioned Santos to make a film about his operations in the Putumayo, probably for the same purpose, i.e. to demonstrate the probity of his operations to his British investors.  He was sufficiently convinced of the potential value of such a film that he paid for Santos to go to Paris to buy the equipment from Pathé and tropically adapted stock from Lumière, and most importantly, to train as a film-maker.

Santos returned to the Putumayo in August 1913, married Arana’s step-daughter Anna María Schermuly, an orphan of German descent, and over the following two months shot the film commissioned by his new father-in-law.

What happened to this material is surrounded by legend. The most commonly repeated story is that it was lost at sea when the ship carrying the negatives sank in the Pacific on the way from Iquitos to Lima (via the Panama Canal, as was then a common practice ), or in some accounts, on the way from Lima to the US to be developed. Some even claim that it was on its way to Europe, while others suggest it was on the way back. Moreover, it is often alleged  that the German navy was responsible for the sinking: in some versions of the story, it involved bombardment, in others a torpedo. But neither  seems likely at that stage of the First World War, certainly not in the Pacific theatre, if indeed the war had even begun by the time that Santos was sending off his negatives.

What is certain is that Santos returned to the Putumayo several times over the ensuing years (which is hardly surprising since his wife came from Iquitos and his father-in-law continued his operations there with impunity) and he appears to have shot a considerable amount of further footage there.

In July 1916, according to the catalogue of the Cinemateca Brasileira, the local press in Manaus contained reviews of Índios Witotos do Rio Putumayo, a film by directed by Santos and produced by none other than Julio César AranaBut it is not clear whether this was based on the footage supposedly lost at sea, or on some part of the footage shot in 1913 that had not been dispatched on that fateful journey, or possibly on entirely new footage. Unfortunately, however, this film too is lost, and neither technical details nor its content are described in the catalogue.

The following year, 1917, again according to the Cinemateca Brasileira catalogue, Santos shot another film in the Putumayo, though it was not until 1919 that it was actually released as Scenas Amazônicas. This appears to have been a very substantial film: the catalogue reports that it was organised into “four long parts” with a duration of 2.5 hours. This too is lost but the catalogue reports that in the last part, it features “Indians in a savage state, completely naked, just as they are in nature”.

This film was produced Amazônia Cine-Film, a company set up by a group of Manaus businessmen. Santos himself was a partner, as well as technical director. In the years 1918-20, he made a number of films in and around Manaus for the company on a variety of mostly local topics :  the botanical garden, a football match, the inauguration of a bank, a flag ceremony in a local barracks, the arrival of a transatlantic liner, local family scenes, an eclipse. Sadly, these too are all lost.

But he also went further afield. Santos’s most significant project for Amazônia Cine-Film was a film entitled Amazonas, O Maior Rio do Mundo. To make this film, he travelled from the mouth of the Amazon to Iquitos, with a further trip to the Putumayo to film “the Indians in their ceremonies”. All told, he is reported to have shot five hours of footage which he then cut into a six-part film.

Silvino Santos at the Salto de Teotónio, Madeira River. This image has been dated to 1918 but it is probably later since he appears to be using a Mitchell Standard camera, a model launched in 1921.

Not only did Amazonas cover the Putumayo but it also included a number of sequences on topics that also crop up in his subsequent film, No Paiz das Amazonas, including fishing, Brazil nut collecting and rubber tapping. But after it had been edited, though before it had entered distribution, the master copy of Amazonas was stolen and sold to the French distributor Gaumont, who then screened it all over Europe under a different title and without authorial attribution for almost a decade.

Although no copy of this pirated version of the film has yet been located, on the basis of some subtitles that have turned up in Germany as well as various contemporary reviews in France, Italy and Britain, some scholars now believe that various parts of Amazonas may have been recycled and included in No Paiz das Amazonas.

But whether all the footage shot for Amazonas was lost, or only a part, the theft was sufficient to bankrupt Amazônia Cine-Film. It was at this point, in 1920, that Santos first came to be employed by João Gonçalves de Araújo, a leading Manaus businessman of Portuguese origin, who since the collapse of the rubber price had diversified into many other fields.  It was Araújo who commissioned Santos, in conjunction with Araújo’s son, Agesilau, to make No Paiz das Amazonas.

Around 1923, Santos went to Rio de Janeiro to promote the film, remaining there about a year. During this time, again in collaboration with Agesilau de Araújo, Santos shot a film about the city, emphasising its modernity and sophistication. The film was given the title, Terra Encantada. Only some fragments have survived, though these were reconstituted into new films in the 1970s.

On his return to Manaus in 1924, Santos made a number of further films in and around the city before setting off in August on the  Rio Branco expedition of Hamilton Rice during which he would shoot the material for No Rastro do El Dorado. This would prove to be Santos’s last major film, though he remained an employee of the J. G. de Araújo company for the rest of his working life.

Silvino Santos in his improvised ‘laboratory’ during the shooting of No Rastro do El Dorado, 1924-25. Photograph by A. Hamilton Rice.

In 1927, Santos moved back to Portugal in the company of the Araújo family and spent several years with them there. Whilst in Portugal he shot some  footage about the Araújo family as well as various other local events. A selection of this footage was gathered together into Terra Portuguesa: O Minho, with Agesilau de Araújo credited as a co-director. This was released in 1934 when Santos returned to Brazil.

Santos appears not to have gone back into full-time film-making at this point and to have held various managerial positions in the Araújo company.  But alongside this more conventional employment, he continued to make films about the company’s activities as well as about the Araújo family.

Between 1948 and 1957, Santos made his last film, which was the only film that he made in colour. Produced by Agesilau de Araújo, this film chronicled the construction of Santa Maria da Vila Amazônia, a new town which lies downstream from Manaus, towards the mouth of the Amazon. This was built on land bought by the Araújo company after it had been expropriated from Japanese settlers following the Second World War. A highly deteriorated copy is reported by the Cinemateca Brasileira to exist in Manaus.

By this time, Santos was a largely forgotten figure in Brazilian cinema circles. It was only in October 1969, shortly before his death in May of the following year, that his major contribution to Brazilian cinema history was finally recognised in the form a personal homage during the course of a new film festival in Manaus.

It was also in 1969 that he wrote an as-yet unpublished account of his extraordinarily varied life as a film-maker in Amazonia.

TextsSantos 1969, Chirif et al. 2013,  Martins 2013a, Martins 2013b, Oliveira 2014, Stoco 2016, Stoco 2017, Paiva 2018.

Ribeiro, Darcy (1922-1997)

Darcy Ribeiro with Xiyra and her son Beren, two of the principal Kaapor subjects of the first film that Ribeiro made with Heinz Förthmann, Os Índios “Urubus” (1950). Photograph by Heinz Förthmann. Acervo Museu do Índio.

Darcy Ribeiro was one of the leading Brazilian anthropologists of the twentieth century and also an eminent public intellectual.

Early in his career, he carried out fieldwork with many different indigenous groups across the country while working for the Seção de Estudos of Serviço de Proteção aos ĺndios (SPI). He then moved on to a distinguished career in education and politics while publishing a number of important works on broad anthropological, indigenist and historical themes. He also published four novels.

Ribeiro also made a significant contribution to the history of ethnographic film in Brazil. This took the form of two films made in collaboration with Heinz Förthmann  when they were colleagues at the SPI. The first, Os Índios “Urubus”, shot in 1950, offered a day-in-the-life portrait of the indigenous group now more commonly known as the Kaapor, while the second, shot in 1953, concerned a Bororo funeral. Sadly, the former now only exists in a highly degraded copy, while the editing of the latter was never completed.

After studying with Herbert Baldus in the Escola Livre de Sociologia e Política, at the Universidade de São Paulo, Ribeiro entered the SPI in 1947 and remained there for ten years. He was named head of the Seçao de Estudos in 1952 and in this capacity, he was instrumental in the creation of the Museu do Índio the following year.

The combination of fieldwork and comparative research that he carried out whilst at the Seção de Estudos laid the groundwork for the publication for which he is probably best known in anthropological circles, namely, Os Índios e a Civilização,  a comprehensive and devastating analysis of the impact on indigenous groups of contact with the national society. This was first published in 1970 but has since gone through multiple editions in several languages and is still frequently cited today.

But following a series of crises within the SPI as a result of severe budgetary cuts, Ribeiro left the organisation in 1957 and moved into matters of educational policy and national politics, eventually becoming Minister of Education in the left-leaning Goulart government. When this was brought down by a military coup in 1964, he went into exile but continued to write broadly on anthropological, indigenist and historical topics while holding various academic posts across Latin America.

After returning to Brazil in 1976, he continued to participate in political and academic matters at the highest national level, though his last publication, Diários Índios, which came out in 1996, the year before he died, was based  on the notes that he wrote while carrying out fieldwork with the Urubu-Kaapor in 1949-51.

In 1992, he was elected to the Academia Brasileira de Letras, arguably the highest academic honour for the Humanities in Brazil. The Academy has published a summary account of his career which can be accessed here.

Texts: Ribeiro 1996a, Ribeiro 1996b. See also Henley 1978, Mendes 2006, Mattos 2011, Pereira Couto 2011.

Reis, Luiz Thomaz (1879-1940)*

Luiz Thomaz Reis as he appears with his Debrie Studio camera in the opening sequence of Ao Redor do Brasil (1933).

The principal contribution of Luiz Thomaz Reis to ethnographic film history is the film  Rituais e festas borôro, which was shot in 1916 and released in 1917, and which Reis shot, directed and probably also edited.

This film constitutes possibly the very first ethnographic documentary in the modern sense in that it was based on a comparatively extended shoot of three months, and presents a narrativised account of the Bororo funeral that is its central subject matter, without any of the fictional elements that characterised the work of Robert Flaherty and other early ‘documentary’ makers in his mould.

However, this film, which was made relatively early in Reis’s career as a film-maker, was not typical of his work as a whole. Most of his works were expedition films, shot in the course of Brazilian government expeditions through remote parts of the interior of the country or around the frontiers. These offered very literal, chronologically-structured accounts of the logistics of the journey undertaken by the expedition as well as of the places and people whom the expedition encountered along the way.

Many of these expeditions were led by Colonel and then later General  Cândido Mariano da Silva Rondon, a leading figure in Brazilian public life on account of his role in ‘opening up’ the interior of the country. In accordance with Rondon’s personal interests, many of these expeditions involved contact with indigenous groups, and this is reflected in the films that Reis made about them.  But never again did Reis remain long enough in any one indigenous community to produce a film with anything like the ethnographic complexity of Rituais e festas borôro.

In addition to Rituais e festas borôro, this website includes entries for one of his earliest and most commercially successful films, Os Sertões de Matto-Grosso (1915) and for Ao Redor do Brasil (1933), a compilation of some of his later work. There is also an entry concerning a number of film fragments of ethnographic interest held by the Museu do Índio in Rio de Janeiro, most of which were shot by Reis, here. His other films are discussed more briefly in the tentative outline of his complete filmography offered here.

Biographical background

Luiz Thomaz Reis [right] and Colonel Cândido Rondon [centre] with a group of Paresí beside the Utiariti waterfall. This photograph was probably taken during the shooting of Os Sertões de Matto-Grosso , c. 1914. [Acervo do Museo do Índio/ FUNAI – Brasil, CRNV0614].

Reis’s film-making career began in 1912, when he was appointed to run the Photography and Cinematography Section of the ‘Rondon Commission’. The official name of this body was Commissão de Linhas Telegráficas e Estratégicas do Matto Grosso ao Amazonas, but on account of Rondon’s high personal profile, as well as for brevity, it was, and is, almost invariably referred to in this shorthand form.

The Rondon Commission was originally set up in order to build telegraph lines connecting the western frontier of Brazil to Rio de Janeiro and other important cities in the east. But right from the time of  its establishment in 1900, Rondon went out of his way to involve scientists of various kinds in the activities of the Commission, including the anthropologist Edgard Roquette-Pinto, so that they could study  both the natural and social environments  that were being opened up by these new lines of communication.

Rondon also had a very modern sense of the need to use visual media to bring his Commission’s work to the attention, not only of the politicians, but also to the Brazilian public at large. From early on, he had employed photographers for this purpose but by about 1907, he began to feel that the Commission should be making films as well. After some unsatisfactory results using private studios, he decided that the Commission should set up its own film-making unit.

When he was appointed to run the new section of the Commission, Reis seems to have had no previous training or professional experience even as a photographer, let alone as a film-maker. At the time, he was a 2nd lieutenant in the Brazilian army and had been appointed to the Commission in 1910 to work in the Design Section, which was primarily concerned with producing, distributing and archiving documentation associated with the Commission’s activities, including photographs as well as such things as maps, scientific reports and budget statements. Even so, within a short period of time, Reis proved himself to be both a highly accomplished film-maker as well as photographer.

Reis was clearly highly competent in a technical sense, managing to maintain his equipment and develop his films under the most adverse conditions in the field. But he thought of himself not merely as a technical operator, as many cinematographers of his era did, but rather as an artist and he often identifies himself as such in his reports.

Shortly after he was appointed, Reis was sent by Rondon to Europe to buy the equipment necessary to set up the new section. This consisted primarily of two cameras, a Williamson bought in London, and a Debrie Studio, purchased in Paris. Of the two, Reis preferred the Debrie, probably because it could hold a much larger roll of stock, offering around six minutes of shooting, then considered a great deal.

In Ao Redor do Brasil, released in 1933, the opening shot is of Reis himself operating a Debrie Studio,  certainly of the same model and perhaps even the same camera that he had purchased in Paris two decades earlier (see the image at the top of his entry). Shortly afterwards, he appears to have upgraded to the Debrie Parvo L (launched in 1928) since it is this model of camera that appears in the equipment list of the  Inspetoria Especial de Fronteiras, for whom Reis shot his last film in 1938. The Williamson, however,  is still listed as one of the back-up cameras [Lasmar 2011: 312].

Reis’s first major success as a film-maker was Os Sertões de Matto-Grosso, released in 1915 to great popular acclaim. This film follows a number of expeditions led by Rondon in the far west of the country, close to the Bolivian border, through the Serra dos Parecis, which acts as the watershed between the upper Paraguay River and the Amazon Basin.

In the course of the film, the expeditionaries encounter various groups of Paresí and Nambikwara, though these contacts are mostly relatively brief and superficial, so  the ethnographic interest of the material is therefore limited. A prominent feature of all these encounters is Rondon giving away gifts of industrially manufactured goods, often clothes. This would become the pattern for most of Reis’s films thereafter, though none of his later expedition films would have quite the popular impact that this one did.

Frame-grab from Luiz Thomaz Reis’s film Parimã, Fronteiras do Brasil (1929). Colonel Rondon observes the body decoration of a young Trio man in a village close to the northern border with Surinam.

In the early 1920s, Reis accompanied Rondon on a number of different projects, including the relief of drought in the Northeast of Brazil and the suppression of a military revolt in the state of Paraná in the southwest of the country, but the films that he made on those occasions are lost. Later in the decade, he made several films with Rondon when the latter became the Inspector of Frontiers. Extracts from some of these were gathered together in Ao Redor do Brazil.

Thereafter Reis’s film-making activities diminished as the political star of his principal patron, Rondon, was temporarily eclipsed. Inspetoria Especial de Fronteiras, released in 1938, proved to be his last film. This followed Rondon’s successor as Inspector of Frontiers on his visits to the Colombian and Venezuelan borders around the headwaters of the Rio Negro. Whereas Rondon had had a deep suspicion of missionaries, his successor did not, and much of the film, which is very long at 99 minutes, consists of visits to mission stations. There is only a very brief visit to a traditional indigenous village right at the end of the film, seemingly after the main business of inspecting the region has been completed.

Not long afterwards, in 1940, having survived all manner of physical challenges during his many years in the interior of Brazil, Reis lost his life in the most tragically banal circumstances, when he was aged only 61. As he was filming the demolition of an army barracks in Rio de Janeiro, he was struck by falling masonry and died not long afterwards in hospital.

Texts: Rodrigues 1982, Tacca 2005, Lasmar 2011, Lobato 2015, Caiuby Novaes, Cunha and Henley 2017.

Pöch, Rudolf (1870-1921)*

Rudolf Pöch in heroic fieldworker mode during his expedition to New Guinea, 1904-06.

As an ethnographic film-maker, the Austrian anthropologist Rudolf Pöch is best known for the series of short research films that he made during two separate expeditions: to New Guinea in 1904-06, and to southern Africa in 1907-09. However, in 1915, he took his camera to various First World War prison camps and made a series of short films of Russian prisoners-of-war making artefacts and performing dances.

Pöch is celebrated as a pioneer in many standard accounts of ethnographic film history. Although his films are neither very skilled, nor numerous, his work became particularly well-known after 1984, when a short film that he shot in Botswana in 1908 of a San “Bushman” telling a story into the horn of a phonograph was approximately synchronised with the audio recording made simultaneously by the phonograph  This version, which was produced by Dietrich Schüller of the Phonogrammarchiv of the Austrian Academy of Sciences, is now widely available on the web.

However,  in recent years, Pöch’s reputation has darkened considerably. He held strongly raciological views, believing that culture was determined by physiology, and along with his substantial field collections of artefacts, photographs, sound-recordings and films, he also collected human body parts in the hope of being able to prove his theories. This reached a peak during his expedition to southern Africa in 1907-09, after which he shipped back to Vienna some 80 San skeletons, 150 skulls and even the preserved corpses of a San couple. This has led to a more general denunciation of Pöch and all his work, while the southern African human remains have been the subject of a still on-going process of repatriation.

Texts : Spindler 1974, Szilvássy et al. 1980Schüller 1987, Niles 2000, Lange 2013, Rassool 2015.


O’Reilly, Père Patrick (1900-1988)*

Père Patrick O’Reilly in 1964

Père Patrick O’Reilly was a French anthropologist of Irish descent who traced his ancestry to a forebear who moved to France in the late eighteenth century. Having interrupted his studies at the Sorbonne, first for a term of military service, then to study at a seminary of the Marist Fathers, O’Reilly was finally ordained as a priest in 1928. He was then appointed to be the chaplain at the Marist hostel in Paris, which allowed him to complete his studies at the Institut d’Ethnologie, graduating in 1932.

In 1934-35, with the support of both his Marist superiors and Paul Rivet, then the director of the Musée d’Ethnologie du Trocadéro, the predecessor of the Musée de l’Homme, O’Reilly carried out a field research project on the North Solomons island of Bougainville, where Marist missionaries were strongly entrenched. The island then formed part of Australian New Guinea and now is part of the independent state of Papua New Guinea.

The purpose of the field trip was to carry out a general ethnographic study, collect objects for the museum and make a film. For the latter purpose, he took with him a Debrie Parvo camera with a 120m magazine and a lightweight Bell & Howell as a back-up. Initially, he was assisted by a professional operator, Pierre Berkenheimer but he appears to have shot the remainder of the material himself.

The material was later edited into two different films: Bougainville, a silent film of 70 minutes which offered a general ethnographic account of life on the island, and Popoko, île sauvage, aimed at a more popular audience and only 20 minutes in duration but with a soundtrack featuring two songs and some general atmosphere effects recorded on location.

Many years later, in the early 1970s, the CNRS funded the release of a restored, shorter version of Bougainville, with a new voice-over commentary recorded by O’Reilly.

Text : Laracy 2013

Moreau, René (active 1921-1936) *

In his day, René Moreau was a highly renowned cameraman, working with some of the great names of French cinema, including Julien Duvivier (Les Cinq gentlemen maudits – 1931) and Jean Bertin (Vocation – 1928). But alongside these fiction films, he also had a particular commitment to the expedition film genre.

More than 60 of his films, made between 1921 (A travers le Tyrol) and 1936 (Le vieux Montmartre) have been restored by the CNC. In film circles generally, he is particularly remembered for A l’assaut des cimes  (1925) which is about mountaineering expeditions on Mont Blanc. However, from the point of view of ethnographic film-making, he is best known for the films that he shot in 1929-31, during an expedition to Central Africa and the Cameroon that he made in the company of the journalist-explorer, Jean d’Esme.

© 2018 Paul Henley