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The Lion Hunters

The Lion Hunters

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Shot on the border between Niger and Mali over a period of seven years, THE LION HUNTERS is Jean Rouch's documentation of the lion hunt performed by the gow hunters of the Songhay people.

Opening on the Niger River, the film travels north to 'the bush that is farther than far ': the desert region populated by the Fulani cattle herders, who have requested the help of the gow in eliminating a lion, nicknamed 'The American' for his cruel cunning, who has been killing their cows.

As the Songhay society's designated hunters, the gow have developed a series of elaborate rituals to precede the hunt. We see them fashioning their bow and arrows from tree branches, and preparing the Boto poison with which they will coat the arrows, a process accompanied by an astonishing series of dances and incantations.

The gow lay traps, and test the poison on a hyena and a civet cat, but even these measures are not enough to prepare us for their confrontation with the ferocious 'American.'

Rouch has said that he made the film 'to try to give the audience a feeling of what I myself felt as I was learning the way of the lion hunt'. THE LION HUNTERS portrays the immediacy of the hunt, but it also explores the complex social organization that underlies it, and the difficult questions entailed by its representation.

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