Revered avant-garde director Deren (Meshes of the Afternoon) had — with personal and professional partner Teiji Ito — amassed rare footage of Haitian voodoo (also spelled as vodou, or voudoun) over a four-year span and then published a 1953 book on the subject. Decades later, Ito and his wife Cherel shaped the archival trove into a same-titled hourlong documentary feature which goes beyond common (mis)perceptions to illuminate thriving cultural traditions.
Les maîtres fous [The Mad Masters]
Jean Rouch, 1957, France, 28m, DCP
Rouch is his own cinematographer and narrator for a 1953 day in the life of Accra, West Africa; the Hauka rituals he records show citizens giving themselves over to occupation by spirits — and, by overt implication, British Colonial forces. A cinema vérité proponent, Rouch invites consideration as to whether possessions herein were staged; the short drew flak and censure from both Africans and Brits, and can still shock with the writhing physicality on display.