“The son of the grocer, the mayor, the village and the world”, the ambition of the documentary in the heart of a rural town


Winter 2016, in the village of Lussas, in Ardèche. The teams of Jean-Marie Barbe, a high defender of creative documentaries and founder of the local festival – the Etats Généraux du documentaire -, are preparing to launch the digital platform by Tënk subscriptions, the first devoted to the genre. This event, which makes the locality a high-magnitude artistic epicenter, is not the only project led by the Ardèche Images association: the construction of an ambitious “documentary village”, a building costing three million euros, mobilizes all energies, including the unwavering support of the farmer mayor, Jean-Paul Roux. The project also attracts the attention of the State, via the visit of the Minister of Culture, then in office, Audrey Azoulay.

Cultural revitalization

Documentary maker Claire Simon, familiar with the festival and the platform’s programmer, has followed this long-term human adventure, between seeking funding in Paris, collective challenges and local developments, to perpetuate a production format unfortunately neglected by television. Ambition that mingles with more local issues, such as the cultural revitalization of countryside neglected by the younger generations, but reinvested by the neo-murals. The result was a series of 20 episodes, The village (2019), including the film The son of the grocer, the mayor, the village and the world is the reduction for the big screen.

Apart from the well-known talent of the director, sympathizer of the odyssey in question, the film looks too much like an activity report or an institutional tape. Lacks a sideways glance that emerges, however, at times when Claire Simon leans, too fleetingly, on the irreducible distance that the inhabitants of Lussas maintain from the cultural animation that takes place on their land, ultimately little concerned by the fact may their hamlet become the center of anything. It is perhaps this indifference, incredibly symptomatic, that the film should also have delved into.

French documentary by Claire Simon (1 h 51). On the Web : www.nourfilms.com.