Director Francis Arthur Fontès immersed himself for a year in the life of two farmers from Ariège

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For 365 days, director Francis Arthur Fontés immersed himself in the life of two farmers from Ariège, Jean-François Arabeyre and Jean-François Denjean, to undo prejudice about this profession. He will screen his 23rd film, “Les 2 Jean-François”, on Saturday July 19, at 10pm, in the town hall square of Auzat.

Can you introduce us to your two characters?

Already what is important to note is that the two breeders are presented by the voice of the medievalist Olivier de Robert. What he says is just beautiful. He compares them to lighthouse keepers.

One has been a farmer since the age of nine. He put it all together himself because his family had no sheep, it was Jean-François Arabeyre, who notably made the show “Love is in the meadow”. But I also wanted to have the opposite view by being interested in someone who has been doing this job for several generations, including Jean-François Denjean, who lives in Hourré. I didn’t know if he would have accepted because he is still “a bear from Ariège”, he had to be tamed. Finally, meeting him by chance, he was ready!

Where did this desire to make this film come from?

I was a little tired of hearing that farmers do nothing with their day, that they only have sheep for prizes and that they don’t care about the animals. I wanted to demonstrate that in these 365 days, immersed with them, they work hard even at night when there are lambs. They are workers. And the crazy thing is that the two Jean-François say the same thing. They started out for the love of animals!

Is there an episode that marked you in particular?

The mowing episode before the summer hike! They don’t shear animals the same way at all. Jean-François Arabeyre pays the professional shearers who did the job in one morning. It was very cool to see. But today they can no longer sell the wool, it is no longer worth anything. Before, they could pay the shearers with the price of the wool. Now it’s the bonuses that allow you to compensate.

Then I went to Jean-François Denjean, who shears his animals the old-fashioned way. He ties them up and puts them on a table. It’s quite a fun method.

The two Jean-François meet after the mountain pasture season to sell their animals
Photo DR

Then you witnessed the transhumance of Jean-François Arabeyre with many candidates from the show “L’amour est dans le pré”.

That’s right, there was also M6 shooting at that time. He has been riding his sheep in Saleix for 35 years. He was very festive! Then I went to Soulcem, at the port of Bouet, where the second breeder has now been riding for 45 years with his parents. There were ten of us in a magnificent setting! Here too I wanted to show two completely different landscapes.

Then Jean-François Denjean stayed up there for three months to watch over his flock. For ten hours every day he sat on a rock and waited. Every Thursday evening, his partner came to bring him food after two hours of climbing. So the rancher locked up the herd every night because of the bear. I found him very anxious at night, always on the alert. As soon as things moved, he lit his lamp.

Just like the anguished Jean-François Arabeyre, he paid for a shepherd. For five years, next to the port of Saleix, the site has been classified as a Natura 2000 area. So Jean-François can hire a shepherd who is reimbursed at 80% to prevent the animals from going to these protected areas.

What do you remember about this experience?

I would say it was this overall experience that marked me. After 14 months, I told Jean-François Arabeyre that I had to stop filming because otherwise we would repeat ourselves. And he said to me: “So you don’t call me anymore, you don’t come to see me anymore?”. “Of course not, we’re friends now!” I said.

Jean François Denjean was more restrained, he had to scratch more, ask questions, but sometimes he came out with incredible phrases. The moment in which I enjoyed the most was when I was upstairs next to him and he said to me: “Francis, you should go up to the pass, it will be nice, we will see the Soucarrane pond”. I had won everything! He wanted the film to be successful. It was one of the first times he was really involved.

What I have also noticed is this strong solidarity between farmers. When one is sick, the others come to take care of his flock.

Do you already have an idea of ​​the next film you would like to direct?

I’m working on street vendors. It will be more difficult because they are all dead. So the film will take place in the form of reconstruction in 1900. And I realized that in the village of Suc, in Val-de-Sos, there were also street vendors. I will meet descendants who have wooden boxes, notebooks from street vendors. I really think there is something to be done! Then the villagers are enthusiastic and want to help me carry out this project.

Before the screening of the film, spectators will be able to enjoy the Pyrenean songs of the Pastous, starting at 9.30pm. Admission is free.

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