The Ethnographic film committee (Comité du film ethnographique - CFE), an association founded at the Musée de l’Homme at the initiative of Jean Rouch in 1952, aims to develop the ties between cinema and the science of humans and societies and to promote documentaries through a festival and other events in France and abroad.

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The Ethnographic film committee’s founding missions are to “assemble, preserve and disseminate existing films of interest from an ethnographic standpoint and to produce new ethnographic films,” with the collaboration of French ethnographers and filmmakers like Marc Allégret, Roger Caillois, Germaine Dieterlen, René Clément, Pierre Ichac, André Leroi-Gourhan, Claude Lévi-Strauss, Edgar Morin, Alain Resnais, Jean Rouch, and others.

For thirty years, the committee has been France’s main promoter of this film genre, helping it to gain recognition among both research institutes (CNRS, Musée de l’Homme, universities, etc.) and film organizations (French Cinémathèque, CNC, festivals, etc.).

Founded and located at the Musée de l’Homme, the committee’s activities were originally developed under the direction of the ethnologist and filmmaker Jean Rouch, who acted as Secretary General from 1952 to 2004. In 1953, the committee began programming films at the museum’s projection room, giving people the chance to discover the major currents and trends in ethnological filmmaking internationally. In May 1955, the first Ethnography film week (Semaine du film ethnographique) was organized. Dissemination of these films was a priority for the association, prompting it in 1982 to create a yearly festival at the Musée de l’Homme, the Ethnographic film festival (Bilan du Film ethnographique), which was renamed in 2008 in honour of its founder the Jean Rouch International Film Festival (Festival international Jean Rouch).

Every year, the programme includes: an international competition for recently produced documentaries with a focus on human societies through the prism of their social and cultural realities and their relationship with the environment; special sessions and retrospectives with showings of heritage documentaries from the collections; and projections at other venues around France. The film committee, with its long history, constitutes an important resource with a major archival collection on ethnological films and the work of Jean Rouch.

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Francoise Foucault - Cofondatrice du Comité du film ethnographique © CFE