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The Goumbé of the Young Revelers

A film by Jean Rouch

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As West African cities faced explosive growth in the 1960s, young people found themselves displaced, living in urban centers far from their families and home regions.

Enter the goumbés—youth associations combining networking, mutual aid, and a healthy dose of fun.

In this short film by Jean Rouch, we meet the Goumbé of Young Revelers, an Ivory Coast group whose bylaws include requirements for monthly parades, writing songs and coming up with new dance moves. The film deftly moves between club meetings and the daily lives of goumbé members—a longshoreman, a tailor, a clerk—providing a snapshot of life in Abidjan and culminating with a celebratory music and dance filled “meeting.”

“The new English subtitled restoration of Jean Rouch's 1965 GOUMBÉ OF THE YOUNG REVELERS is a valuable film and significant addition to his films available to Anglophone audiences. In the mid 1960s Rouch was full of energy and full of experiments, filming in Cote d'Ivoire, Niger, Mali, and Ghana. Each one of these early sync sound films had unique topics and unique structures, indicating both the diversity of Rouch's interests, and diversity of film styles he was exploring. Many of Rouch's critics land easy and predictable punches about the colonialist persistence of exotic and traditionalist topics. But the films of the mid 60's, like this one, made clear how attentive he was to emergent modernities, youth culture, agency and expression. Even the format here was bold for the time, structuring the first 2/3rd of the film around a speech outlining the group organization, intercut with images of all the protagonists at their everyday jobs, and then the final section around unique forms of emergent performance that mixed instruments in new ways with new musical and dance styles, with multiple references to the jazz and urban diasporic popular musics critical to West African youth cultures in the earliest moments of independence. This film also plays well with Rouch's best known Treichville, Cote d'Ivoire film, the experimental ethnofiction MOI, UN NOIR, exposing another aspect of the expressive power of dreams and realities for urban West Africans in the early 1960s.” —Steven Feld, Editor/translator of  Jean Rouch's Ciné-Ethnography, and Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Anthropology, University of New Mexico

Venice Biennale, 1966

28 minutes / Color
French / English subtitles
Release: 2021
Copyright: 1965

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Subject areas:
Africa, Social Movements, Family Relations, Cultural Studies

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