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Last Updated: Thursday, 19 February, 2004, 18:56 GMT
Father of 'cinema verite' dies
French film director Jean Rouch, a pioneer of the "cinema verite" style of documentaries, has been killed in a car crash in Niger at the age of 86.

Rouch's wife and two colleagues were injured in the road accident 600km (375 miles) north of the capital, Niamey, on Wednesday night.

Rouch helped inspire US and French film-makers and was a long-time supporter of African cinema.

He made more than 100 films, including Moi, Un Noir and Jaguar.

Rouch had travelled to the former French colony last week to open a film festival.

"We don't yet know the exact circumstances of the accident," Laurent Clavel, the director of the France-Niger Cultural Centre, told Reuters.

The French ambassador to Niger is travelling to the scene of the crash to escort the director's body back to France.

Blurring boundaries

Born in Paris in 1917, Rouch started making films as an amateur while working as an engineer in Africa during World War II.

From 1941, he travelled throughout West Africa, notably to Senegal, Niger, Mali and Ghana, filming scenes of daily life.

He is said to have started the trend for hand-held camera work early on in his career, after his tripod fell into the Niger River.

Inspired by the anthropologist Marcel Griaule, Rouch developed an ethnographic approach to documentary film-making in the which the subjects are seen to act freely, without any directorial control.

This blurring of the traditional boundaries between director and subject became known as "cinema verite".

It was said to have inspired the 'nouvelle vague', or new wave, style of film-making in France, popularised by directors Francois Truffaut and Jean-Luc Goddard.

Rouch's experiences also led him to play an active role in helping to develop African cinema.

He continued to travel throughout the continent for much of his professional life.

Among the best known of his 120 films were La Pyramide Humaine, Cocorico Monsieur Poulet, Petit a Petit and Madame L'Eau.


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