Cameroun: cases du Cameroun [Cameroon : houses of Cameroon] (1931?) – dir. René Bugniet *

14 mins., b&w, silent – French titles and intertitles

Production : Agence economique des territories africaines.

Source : CNC-Bnf

This film was made by René Bugniet, the official cinematographer of the French colony of Cameroon and consists of a series of shots of the many different house styles across the colony, showing how they vary according to the ethnic group and region.

It is not dated but the final sequence shows the Togo-Cameroon pavilion at the International Colonial Exhibition of 1931 in Paris, so it seems very likely that the film was completed specifically for that exhibition

An intertitle explains that the Togo-Cameroon paviliion was inspired by Bamiléké architecture. There are various exterior shots of the pavilion with citizens walking about, but the film never actually goes inside. In the final sequence, the film cuts from carvings on the poles of pavilion to similar carvings in situ in Cameroon.

[An interesting footnote is that the Togo-Cameroon pavilion is only pavilion that still survives from the Colonial Exhibition, though today it is a Buddhist temple.]

Danses des Habé, Les [Dances of the Habe People] (early 1920s) – J. Lejards (?) *

The Fulani Girl mask – ‘Les Danses des Habé’ – dir. J. Lejards

2 mins., b&w, silent. English inter titles (in the abbreviated Pathé-Baby version).

Source : an English-language version is available on the Stephendelroser playlist

This film is not attributed to any director, but it has clearly been shot on the same occasion as Danses soudanaises. This begins with a screen title crediting the ‘cinégraphie’ to J. Lejards, a Pathé cameraman who worked in various locations in West Africa, as well as later in Cambodia and Andorra.

On the playlist site, Les Danses des Habé is erroneously said to have been shot in Burkina Faso: in fact, it is a very interesting early film of the masked dancing performed by the Dogon (known as Habé or Habbé to their neighbours, and in early ethnographic literature), who live along the Bandiagara Escarpment of what was then the French Soudan and is now Mali.

This film shows the dances that are performed on the occasion of a dama, a ceremony that brings to an end a period of mourning, This is the same ceremony as Jean Rouch would film more than fifty years later for Le Dama d’Ambara (shot in 1974, released in 1980).

Although the Stephendelroser website dates this film to 1913 or 1915,  it seems very unlikely that Pathé cameramen such as Lejards would have been making films on ethnographic topics in West Africa at the height of the First World War.

It seems rather more likely that it would have been shot in the early 1920s, at the same time as Lejards was shooting a number of other films in West Africa, including La Ville de Djenné (1921). Djenné is also in what then the French Soudan, and is only about 200 kms by road from the Bandiagara Escarpment where this film was shot. Even with the transport available at the time, it is easy to imagine Lejards moving from one location to the other.



© 2018 Paul Henley