The listening exercise we did in my intensive French course for adults in Montpellier at the Easy French Language School was very eye opening and sparked a lot of interesting discussion. One of the things I have loved about learning French in France is as I have progressed I have found it easier and easier to follow lots of the amazing documentaries the country produces. I started off watching such films with English subtitles, then with French subtitles and now I am finally starting to watch some without subtitles, with many qualifications of course. Films on a topic I have been introduced to before are a lot easier to follow as my prior knowledge can fill in the gaps of my understanding from the film itself and I will already be acquainted with the relevant vocabulary in my own language so it’s easy to make educated guesses as to what a certain word refers to.
In today’s Intensive French course for adults though we were talking about Demain, a French documentary film made in 2015 by Cyril Dion and Mélanie Laurent. This is an environmental documentary that has gone on to be a hit with critics and done amazingly well at many of the prestigious French movie festivals and award ceremonies including Best Documentary Film at the 2016 César Awards which is the French equivalent to the Baftas or the Oscars, so pretty well renowned.
If you haven’t guessed ‘demain’ means ‘tomorrow’ and is a reference to the films future orientated outlook. What makes this film distinct from many environmental documentaries is that rather than focusing on the doom and gloom of the situation around global climate change they shone the spotlight on the optimistic side of things. They focus on solutions; potential ones that are still in the design phase, ones that are being implemented as we speak and those that are already in place and having a positive impact all around the globe. These solutions are applied in almost all areas of life: agriculture, energy, economy, democracy, education and governance. All the time with the goal of sustainability firmly within their sights.
The Director of Demain Helps Us Learn French
On our French course at the Easy French Language School we were working from an interview with one of the directors of the project; Cyril Dion. Not Celine Dion like me and the other people in my French lesson accidentally kept saying. In the interview, he gave a little bit of the story behind the movie and his approach to it. The origins were quite touching as he began focusing more on climate change and environmental topics after the birth of his first child when the problem became more real for him. He also spoke of his choice to use cinema as the medium for his work as he wanted to touch the greatest number of people possible.
His main objective was to make people more aware of issues involved in this area. That is when he moved on to speak of his original approach of focusing on areas for hope and optimism. He spoke in a very non-judgmental way about how when you only focus on the things that are going wrong people react in a similarly negative way. So, for example, if we talk about the rate at the rate the ice caps are melting with an alarmist tone people will become scared and run away from the problem or deny that it exists at all. It is not the most constructive but if the discussion revolves around things that we can do, that we have the power to impact on then the whole conversation becomes more positive.
From this he jumps straight to a couple of farmers who talk about their farming practices that are completely sustainable; using no petrol and doing everything manually. He also talks about the misconceptions that some people have about permaculture; until I heard it in our French class I had no idea that this type of farming is actually more productive than mechanised farming.
It was an intriguing and uplifting thing to learn about on my French immersion course and certainly gave me the irrepressible desire to watch this film. Pretty much every student who did the same exercise at the Easy French School in Montpellier felt the same way and we all traded tips on where we could find this awesome documentary.