Thursday, August 1, 2013


Several years ago I attended a talk by Werner Herzog at UCLA. He showed clips from his films, one of which has haunted me ever since.

From widipedia: "Wodaabe – Herdsmen of the Sun (German: Wodaabe - Die Hirten der Sonne) is a 1989 documentary film by Werner Herzog. The film explores the social rituals and cultural celebrations of the Saharan nomadic Wodaabe tribe. Particular focus is given to the Gerewol celebration, which features an elaborate male beauty contest to win wives."

The male ideal for the Wodaabe focuses on tallness, white teeth, and eye whites: thus they roll their eyes and expose their teeth to full advantage. Above is the four-minute clip in question.

The full-length documentary is below.

BONUS: Lost Sounds and Soundtracks: The Uncollected Werner Herzog. In particular, check out the apparently impossible to find "Tsintskaro" used in Nosferatu (1979). Performed by Vocal Ensemble Gordela. From the Melodiya label's album Georgian Folk Songs (1969).


  1. Fascinating. The added music on the first clip is eerie. It's apparently a recording made in 1904 by the last castrato of the Vatican.

    It seems the ritual is more of a hook-up thing than getting wives, though, at least according to the BBC:

    "Each judge chooses her champion and may take him as her lover - even if both already have partners - and the winners are celebrated for years to come. Nor is the potential for match-making limited to judges and winners.

    'You dance Gerewol to try to win a lover, even if it means stealing someone's wife,' says contestant Djao, who met second wife Tembe at a previous Gerewol. 'You can marry her, or have a fling with her.'

    She, too, is on the look-out. 'I've spotted three men here that I like.'"

    Wonder if that's a modern development?

  2. That is the oddest thing I've seen in quite some time. Sort of a cross between Fellini and John Waters.

  3. What's also weird is later in the film they interview the women and they are as just as jaded, or purport to be, and sullen as any Valley Girl and/or hipster. "Boring," they sum up the guys. "I don't see anyone that at all catches my eye"..."Well, maybe one..." They are all graceful and beautiful, men and women, and so are their clothes!...


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