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Under the Black Mask

Belgium, 1959 (MIFF 1961, Programme 35)

Director: J. van Raemdonck

Based on his art, the film interprets the soul of the negro in The Belgian Congo.

The material is divided into three parts: "The Birth of Man" covers the life of man, from birth to death, as it appears in the native sculpture. His growth throughout childhood until his later dominance over the womenfolk; his varying moods of anger, anxiety or pain, are all depicted by the statues and masks he makes for himself. "Styles and Influences" introduces the village crafts of weaving and basket-making; gives numerous examples of the negro's urge to decorate everything around him, including his own skin. "The Power of Kings and Witchdoctors'' shows the various symbols of power, the ornamental sceptre, the axe, the royal throne supported by caryatids. The witchdoctor in special costume and mask-armed with his bag of instruments, fetish statues, magic mirrors - practices his spells, cures and charms. The film is based on various collections of Congo art from European museums, and is, in fact, an armchair tour of negro art, conducted by Famous Belgian art expert, Paul Haeserts. The commentary is in French.

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