On the Tracks of the Pale Fox (researches in the Dogon country 1931-1983)

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The birth of French ethnology among the Bandiagara cliffs in Mali, with the participation or Germaine Dieterlen and Jean Rouch.


This afternoon Sarah invited Gaëlle to her place. In her room, where there is such a mess, Sarah tells her pal a story that occured to her while drawing: the tale of a brown rabbit hunter who made friends with lions. It’s the beginning of a six-film series for children.


It relates the intellectual adventure of Marcel Griaule, the founder of ethnographic research in France.
In 1931, during a reconnaissance expedition from Dakar to Djibouti, GRIAULE DISCOVERED THE ASTONISHING DOGON CIVILIZATION on the cliffs of Bandiagara (modern Mali).
Fascinated by the mystery of the masks and the very rich ritual life, he devoted himlself to the study of the Dogon, helped by several collaborators. With each new trip, he deepened his knowledge of this extraordinarily complex religion. He was the first to describe the African imaginary. When in 1956 he died in Paris, the Dogon paid him an exceptionnal honour: they celebrated his funeral in Sanga according to the traditional rites and buried a dummy in the cliff near the dam Griaule had built. After this evocation of the past, the film relates the ongoing research in Dogon country.
Associated with Griaule since 1937, GERMAINE DIETERLEN, his closest collaborator, still today continues one of the most thorought investigations ever undertaken on an African system of thought. Since 1951, JEAN ROUCH tirelessly films the great Dogon rituals.
WE WILL FIND THEM BOTH AT SANGA IN JANUARY 1983. Together they Begin a new film relating the bieginning of the world. On the Bandiagara cliff time unfolds outside of time, punctuated by the by the maladjusted acts of the PALE FOX, THE MYTHOLOGICAL HERO. The inventor of agriculture and funerary rituals, this rebel son of God turned into a four footed creature, is also the master of disorder, indispensable for the course of the world; Mythical time is in the present tense.
THE SIGUI RITUAL, celebrated every 60 years in commemoration of the revelation of the verb and death to en, took place in 1967, witnessed by Germaine Dieterlen and Jean Rouch. The next will take place in 2017. Or never again.


1984. 16 mm., colour, 48′. *


Direction: Luc de Heusch
Camera: Michel Baudour
Sound: Jean-Paul Ramdonck
Editing: Denise Vindevogel
Production : CBA, GRAPHOUI, Luc de Heusch, RTBF (Brussels), CNRS (Paris), FOBRA (Brussels)