Deep Hearts



Robert Gardner, 1981

Runtime: 58 minutes

Deep Hearts is a film about the Bororo Fulani, a nomadic society located in central Niger Republic and the title is a reference to an important aspect of these people’s thought and demeanor.

The Bororo are immensely beautiful. They are also extremely envious of each other’s looks. This envy accounts for their truly suspicious nature; one which leads quickly to feelings of fear. They are particularly fearful of being ‘devoured’ by both the eyes and mouths of those around them with whom they compete as beautiful creatures. The concept of a ‘deep’ heart is useful to them because it provides a metaphysical space in which to hide their true feelings.

Deep Hearts describes the Gerewol, an occasion during the rainy season when two competing lineages come together to choose the most ‘perfect’ Bororo male. It is something of a physical and moral beauty contest in which the winner, selected by a maiden of the opposing lineage, is acclaimed the ‘bull’. The film is also an attempt to use this ceremony of the Bororo as a way of speaking to the larger question of choice itself, something that confronts all human beings in innumerable ways.

An online exhibition of Gardner’s Bororo Polaroids accompanied by fieldnotes is viewable at

distributed by Documentary Educational Resources