Cinéma Direct Action: 1960s Student Activism in Francophone Documentary: Block Museum - Northwestern University
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Cinéma Direct Action: 1960s Student Activism in Francophone Documentary

Film still from "The Human Pyramid" by Jean Rouch, courtesy of Icarus Films
Film still from "The Human Pyramid" by Jean Rouch, courtesy of Icarus Films
12 PM

Event Details

Date & Time:

Sun April 25, 2021 - Sat May 1, 2021
12 PM


The Block Museum of Art
40 Arts Circle Drive
Evanston, IL 60208


Open to the public


“Cinéma Direct Action: 1960s Student Activism in Francophone Documentary” presents two feature films from the early years of the “cinéma vérité” and “direct cinema” movements, offering alternative visions for filming student activism in Côte d'Ivoire and Canada. 

Starting at 12 PM Central Time on April 25, The Human Pyramid and Acadia, Acadia?!? will stream for free on the Block’s Eventive page for a period of one week. 



Live conversation on 4/28:

On Wednesday, April 28 at 12 pm CST, Block Cinema will host a discussion about the films with Tamara Tasevska (Northwestern doctoral candidate in French and Francophone Studies), Scott Durham (Associate Professor of French and Comparative Literature at Northwestern), and Nora Alter (Professor of Film and Media Arts at Temple University and author of The Essay Film After Fact and Fiction). 

The conversation will take place over Zoom, no RSVP needed. 

Join conversation

The meeting passcode is 100631. 

About the program:

This program, curated by Northwestern doctoral candidate Tamara Tasevska, brings together two Francophone filmmakers, Jean Rouch and Pierre Perrault, who pioneered innovative documentary forms that reflected a younger generation’s demands for radical change in the 1960s. In The Human Pyramid (1961), French cinéaste Jean Rouch collaborates with young Black and white lycée students in Ivory Coast, challenging segregation through a hybrid of documentary and fiction. Acadia, Acadia?!? (1971), co-directed by Pierre Perrault and Rouch collaborator Michel Brault, follows the student-led struggle for Francophone recognition in New Brunswick, Canada, encouraging its young protagonists to interrogate one another’s beliefs, attitudes, and activist practices through a combination of commentary and fly-on-the-wall observation. Both films wed the observational traditions of ethnography with the subjectivity of art film to imagine cinema as an act of world-making within contested communities: in Rouch’s words, “the camera will not be an obstacle [to] expression, but the indispensable witness that will motivate it.”

About the films:

La Pyramide Humaine [The Human Pyramid]

Jean Rouch, 1961, France, Côte d’Ivoire, 90 min, French with English subtitles

In Rouch’s docufiction hybrid The Human Pyramid, Black African and white French students at a high school in the post-independence Ivory Coast attempt to dismantle the racial segregation they experience outside the classroom, through a combination of interviews, conversations, and fictionalized scenes. While the film is one of Rouch’s enduring efforts, its director imagined it more as a means to an end: as he explained, “whether a film was born or not, more important is what happened around the camera.”


L’Acadie, l’Acadie?!? [Acadia, Acadia?!?]

Pierre Perrault and Michel Brault, 1971, Canada, 117 min, English and French with English subtitles

Acadia, l’Acadia?!? follows the student-led fight for Francophone recognition in New Brunswick in 1968, a struggle framed by radical political movements both national and global. Indeed, upon its release in 1971, film critic Henri Chapier hailed Acadia, Acadia?!? as “the first film in world cinema to deal with the international uprising of youth, without compromise and without clichés.” While rooted in the ideals of a specific time and place, the film’s lively, affectionate depiction of youth in revolt remains startlingly relevant today. Censored for broadcast by the CBC due to its overt partisanship, Acadia, l’Acadia?!? appears here in its original, full-length French language version. 

Co-presented by the Block Museum of Art with the Department of French and Italian at Northwestern University.


Contact The Block Museum of Art for more information: (847) 491-4000 or email us at