Hilarious and true to reality. Here’s how Jean Rouch presents Nigeria in a comedy that offers a beautiful perspective of African culture
It is impossible to hold back the laughter watching this movie. Cocorico Monsieur Poulet, a French-Nigerian road movie of “Dalaru”, the pseudonym of the trio Damouré Zika and Lam Ibrahim Dia, the characters, and Jean Rouch, the director. It’s a comedy realized in Niger in 1974 and released in France in 1977.
An endless journey
Even the plot makes you smile. It delas with a man, Lam, and a friend of him, Tallou, who are determined to find and sell chickens on the wheels of their van ironically and rightly called Patient. Indeed, it does not have any seats and breaks, and it is a constant source of problems during the journey, due to its various breakdowns. For this reason, what was supposed to be a nice day trip looking for chickens to sell, becomes an endless journey marked by a series of funny and unexpected events. A third person joins them in their business, Damouré.
One of the most hilarious scenes is repeated three times. Having no documents and insurance, the three men are obligated to change direction every time they come across the police and, every time, they find a river on their path. They cannot obviously leave their van, so we see how, with the help of other citizens, they patiently cross with Patient.
Lam’s van had no brakes, headlights, or documents. Its continual breakdowns constantly modified the planned scenario (…). So we continuously invented and we had no reason to stop except the lack of film or the giggles that made microphones and cameras tremble dangerously.-Jean Rouch
The reality according to Jean Rouch
Jean Rouch affirmed that probably Cocorico Monsieur Poulet was the funniest movie that he has ever made, characterized by various improvisations due to real accidents on set. In some ways the comic side and these spontaneous improvisations reach us and maybe makes the film even more pleasant.
Focusing on the director, he really plays an important role in the history of African cinema. He had a true love for this continent and especially for this country in which he passed various decades, and he showed it. His films testify with passion the reality of Africa in the middle of the 20th century. Rouch is also known for being the Cinéma vérité creator, a style that matches improvisation with a particular use of the camera in order to catch the “truth”. It doesn’t mean that the film shows us the reality, but that within the film we see something resembling reality. He does not alter the truth, he reinvents it.
A true and lovely testimony
Cocorico Monsieur Poulet brings for sure a look on the situation of discontent and precariousness in Niger, but these aspects are overshadowed by the discovery of the lifestyle of this people, the features of the landscapes and the joy that we breath that characterized the documentary. It is far to be a sad and compassionate portrait of Africa as people are used to see. It is quite the opposite. It shows Nigeria roots and culture, Nigerians beliefs and habits, the world of magic present in their society, and the humor of these people. It’s almost an educational film, we discover a different civilization with a different lifestyle through hilarity and lightness. This movie, in addition to be a positive and realist portrait of this country, is also a testimony of Jean Rouch love for this beautiful culture.