When Jour2Fête, the distributor of “la Ferme des Bertrand”, planned the release of the film 31 months ago, it obviously could not have imagined that it would fail. from the agricultural world in full fury. Chances therefore do wonderful things: finding this documentary that tells the story of fifty years of the life of a farm in Upper Savoie allows the viewer, at the best moment, to grasp all the peculiarities, difficulties and joys of the farmer’s existence. .
In this case on a cattle farm, which director and documentarian Gilles Perret knows well (“Reprise en main”, “De Mémoires d’ouvriers”…). First, because Bertrand has lived in front of the farm since he was a child, and has seen it inherited by three generations of breeders. Especially because he filmed his first documentary there, “Three brothers for life”, in 1997. The farm seems to attract the cameras, and that is the strength of this story.
In 1972, the great journalist of the French Radio and Television Office (ORTF), himself the son of a farmer, filmed some black and white sequences there. Twenty-five years later, Perret joined the three brothers who owned the place to make his documentary. A quarter of a century later, he reintroduced his cameras with a fantastic idea: combining the images from the three films of “La Ferme des Bertrand”, resulting in a unique document covering fifty years of the life of a livestock farm.
A representative operation
The audience, amazed, discovers a surprising evolution: how the approach of the three Savoyard brothers, who have sweated blood and water all their lives, initially a sacrifice, created a permanent and “happy” company, says Gilles Perret, today highly mechanized. and the brothers’ young nephews run it with their mother.
What caused this little miracle? The Bertrand farm is located in the AOP area, from Reblochon: their milk, subject to more rules than in non-protected areas, is sold more expensively. “Bertrands have their limits to best defend the Reblochon designation,” explained the director. But they have to fight to maintain the high standard of AOP, not to find it in the law of the market. Those who demonstrate at the moment they are not lucky enough to be in protected territories. The Bertrands know their own…”
Another strength of the feature film is that it does not shoot, like most documentaries dedicated to this universe, a huge farm or, on the contrary, a small farm committed to “returning to the land”, but a medium-sized and representative property. , in terms of the number of farmers, 80% of those found in France.
“They must be protected”
“We chose another farm, but one that works”, emphasized Gilles Perret. They are not the ones who make the demonstration, but they are very supportive, because they also suffer from contempt and invisibility. We show that they are in technology, in today’s world, but also in respect for the environment, because they are in an agriculture limited by AOPs. Reblochon’s specifications are not far from organic. Cows must spend one hundred and fifty days a year in the pastures…”
Why have those who do not have the opportunity to work in a protected area protest for several days? Gilles Perret understands the issues well: ” There are too many rules : we ask them to produce better, with more standards, but at the same time we open markets through free trade agreements with New Zealand or Brazil. Hence their anger. »
Who has always lived next to the farmers and who has lived together with the farmers, does he see the solutions to the current crisis? “The limits of the place where they live, the climate… Special protection rules must be established according to the working conditions and territories of each person. Regulate, set floor prices for mass distribution, challenge the sacrosanct free market…”
Reconnect with reality
If this film is so timely, it is also in the way of reconnecting urban audiences with the rural world. Showing fifty years of a farm’s life, Perret reminds us how much the farms that operate today owe to the sacrifice of their elders. “That’s not the start nation!” » he smiled.
And he rediscovers the daily life of those who take part: 365 days of work a year — “especially for breeding, cows don’t take a holiday” — family life mixed with farm activities, exhausting but exciting work, the defense of work. the environment, food self-sufficiency, the beauty of working environments, being outdoors, love for animals, etc… Better yet, “la Ferme des Bertrand” reconnects us with a reality that we too tend to. to forget: the farmers are the ones who feed us.
Useful reminders that undoubtedly explain the success of the documentary: even before its release, 50 previews allowed it to accumulate 15,000 tickets. This is what Gilles Perret means: “In these projections I noticed the attachment to the agricultural world, even more so in the most urbanized areas. We all have family ties to farmers…”
Documentary in French by Gilles Perret, on Wednesday. (1:29)