Presented in Special Screenings, Christian Rouaud's documentary Tous au Larzac tells the story of the ten-year combat to save the Larzac plateau in southwestern France. Ten years of delights and disputes, of twists and turns and tears. With victory as the outcome.
One day in October 1971, the French Defence Ministry decided, without prior consultation, to expand the area of the Larzac military base from 7,500 acres to 35,000 acres. The reaction of the local community was immediate and radical: "If they want to take our land and our farms, it'll be over our dead bodies, and we won't be the only ones". The local farmers were quickly joined by the clergy, Occitan independence groups and revolutionaries nostalgic for May 1968. The struggle would last ten years, until the French Presidential elections in May 1981. The high point was the great march that set out from Larzac on 8 November 1978, arriving on 2 December in Paris, where 80,000 people were waiting.
Despite the dramatic nature of the issues, documentary film-maker Christian Rouaud has managed to turn the conflict into a joyful and light-hearted movie. Primarily because the combat is often heart-warming in itself but also because the characters tell the story with a fair amount of truculence and humour. Among them is the then unknown, and younger, José Bové, whose concern at that time was not leadership, but more concrete, even physical action.
What fascinates Christian Rouaud, who in 2007 directed des Lip, l’imagination au pouvoir (LIP: the LIP Factor - Imagination in Power), is the way in which the Larzac protestors were able to stay united. The film-maker has a theory: debate, and the desire to find a solution that suited everybody, in the same way as in the LIP co-operatives. "Where can we find the time to debate ideas today?" asks Christian Rouaud, who would like to see this story inspire the world today. For him, the success of the French protest movements of the 1970s owed everything to "an incredible freedom of invention and a special tone of voice, a combination of pride, impertinence and unlimited imagination".
B. de M.
The film is scheduled for screening at 2pm on Saturday 14 May in the Salle du Soixantième.