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The director and journalist makes a hard-hitting film about the evolution of the farming world over the last 40 years, reminding us that in France, one farmer commits suicide every day.
It all starts with a dream of grandeur. After returning from Wyoming, where he discovered American farming practices, Pierre (played by Guillaume Canet) takes over the Grands Bois farm. It is 1979, the young man is 25 years old, and he has no shortage of ideas for developing the family farm. Pierre played the game of extensive agriculture to the hilt. He stopped raising sheep and switched to goats, extended his outbuildings and invested in new equipment.
For about fifteen years, things went quite well, even if the secret hopes of a fortune quickly faded away. But for some time now, things have not been going well. No matter how hard he worked, the debts kept piling up. It doesn’t matter whether it’s the fall in demand for goats, overproduction, or globalisation. The selling price of a goat has been falling steadily for several years, until it has flirted with the break-even point. Below this limit, Pierre is losing money, despite all his efforts. A situation that puts his family in danger.
A personal story
In the Name of the Earth is a film that smells of life. And for good reason: Édouard Bergeon tells his own family story in his first feature film, that of his father who sincerely believed in the promises of mechanised agriculture, extensive breeding and the massive use of phytosanitary products.
An agriculture which, obsessed by the forced march towards ever lower prices, has ended up gradually detaching itself from what makes its essence: the land. This nourishing land no longer carries much weight in the face of profitability requirements and the law of the market. Christian Bergeon, a farmer in the Poitou region of France, paid the price: the director’s father committed suicide by ingesting pesticides, strangled financially.
An ode to the land
In a sober and fair direction, which deliberately avoids stylistic effects and any recourse to pathos, Édouard Bergeon describes the slow descent into hell of the character played by Guillaume Canet. The tragic atmosphere contrasts sharply with the magnificent images of these pastel-coloured agricultural landscapes, which seem to breathe life. The director does not settle scores. He simply presents the facts: every day, on average, a farmer in France takes his own life. His financial situation is almost always the primary cause of the tragedy. Christian Bergeon’s case is unfortunately not unique. It is this social scourge that Édouard Bergeon evokes in a documentary, Les Fils de la terre. Made before Au nom de la terre, it follows the daily life of a family of farmers in the Lot region of France who are in great financial difficulty. With the consequences of climate change, but also of the impoverishment of the soil, the situation of the workers on the land cannot be improved without a radical change in practices.
Au nom de la terre, by Édouard Bergeon, with Guillaume Canet, Veerle Baetens, Anthony Bajon, Rufus, Samir Guesmi, and Yona Kervern, 1h44