Gleaners and I The
THE GLEANERS AND I
G as in gleaning -
To glean is to gather after the harvest.
A gleaner is one who gleans.
In times past only women gleaned.
Millet's Glaneuses were in all dictionaries.
The original painting is at the Orsay.
Gleaning, that's the old way.
My mother'd say, '' Pick everything up so nothing gets wasted''.
But sadly we no longer do
because machines are so efficient nowadays.
But before, I used to glean
together with my neighbors,
for wheat, and rice too.
I would put my big apron on
and we'd go gleaning ears of wheat,
lovely ears we would find.
A whole day in the sun, with gnats and mosquitoes biting,
it wasn't too nice,
but we liked it.
Evenings, we were exhausted. Once home with our bags and our aprons
we'd have a good time laughing and drinking coffee together.
I was born in that farmhouse, and I'll die there too.
- But not quite yet! - OK, thank you very much.
Thanks very much, all of you.
I'm mixed up, you've confused me now.
Yes, I've always gleaned.
I remember, with my grandmother and my brothers and sisters.
Before, during the war, they had to glean, they were starving.
They pounded the grain to make flour,
We no longer pick these days, we no longer glean to eat.
There are still a few gleaners of corn around.
Gleaning might be extinct
but stooping has not vanished from our sated society
Urban and rural gleaners all stoop to pick up
There's no shame,just worries
Yeah, food, grub
It's bad, sad, man
To bend down is not to beg
But when I see them sway My heart hurts!
Eating that scrap-crap
They've got to live on shit-bits
They've got to frisk for tidbits
Left on the street, leftovers
Rough stuff with no owners
Picking up trash like the streetsweeper
Zero for us, for them much better
They got to roam around to kill the hunger
It's always been the same pain will always be the same game.
In the towns today as in the fields yesterday
gleaners still humbly stoop to glean.
But men have now joined with women
What strikes me is that each gleans on his own.
Whereas in paintings
they were always in clusters, rarely alone.
But there's a famous one
painted byJules Breton at the museum in Arras.
We took the road north.
Lots of big trucks, but I'll come back to that,
and we arrived in the town of Arras,
we saw its square,
we saw its museum,
and Breton's Woman Gleaning.
There is another woman gleaning in this film, that's me.
I'm happy to drop the ears of wheat and pick up my camera.
These new small cameras,
they are digital, fantastic.
Their effects are stroboscopic
and even hyper-realistic.
No, it's not O rage,
no, it's not O despair,
it's not Old age, my enemy,
it might even be Old age, my friend but still, my hair
and my hands keep telling me that the end is near.
OK, right now, we are driving towards Beauce,
renowned for its wheat. The harvest being over
we'll focus on potato gleaning instead.
Destalking the fields makes furrows
and ridges ready for the grubbing machine.
Once the grubbing is over,
we can glean the whole field.
- Hello. - Hello Mrs. Buard.
Since this morning, I've collected a full 250 lbs alone.
And these are good ones you eat with herring.
Lots of restaurants buy them.
Some people are quite pleased when the machine malfunctions.
There are lots left here.
The tractor ploughs too deep and gets stuck.
They free it by lifting the machine and they miss potatoes there.
So gleaners have a field day?
Oh yes definitely.
The owners don't give a damn
so long as there's nothing left.
They won't have to treat.
You still must sort them.
In supermarkets, the firm ones are sold
in containers of 5 1 /2 to 1 1 pounds,
and these have to be of a specific caliber,
of a specific size.
So we dump anything bigger.
The potato harvest averages 4,500 tons per season.
But 25 tons are rejected
We reject all the outsized, green ones, and stones,
the cut or damaged ones.
Because they're unsellable.
To the trade, we sell potatoes
within a range of 2 to 4 inches
and anything bigger is automatically thrown away.
Potatoes remain a staple foodstuff for many
and because large quantities of potatoes are dumped,
the practice of gleaning has reappeared.
In general people wait nearby
and follow the trailers.
We followed the trailers but didn't see anyone
except a man who might have known,
not through a newspaper though for they never announce
dumping here tomorrow, there next week.
Potatoes left in the open like that
soon become green and dangerous to eat.
Sometimes the children give the signal.
Hey, we found a big one here!
C'mon, catch it!
Wednesday, potatoes again
Saturday, potatoes again
Sunday, potatoes au gratin
Look, I've picked up more or less
200 or 300 pounds.
You find very large ones in the leftovers.
The damaged ones we leave.
Some are too small, we take the large ones rather.
The heart, I want the heart!
I was glad.
I immediately filmed them up close,
and set about filming perilously with one hand
my other hand gleaning heart-shaped potatoes.
Then I took a few home with me.
I looked at them again, filmed them again.
Then it dawned upon me: the Good Heart Charity Meals.
Why not organize an expedition
on the day the potatoes
are to be dumped?
When I think of all the food gone bad that's enough to make me mad
If you've been kicked out and you're down and out
Then you need food for nought
I take a few for me and my kids,
and we collect together.
I've joined the Charity Meals because I was unemployed.
I still am but I expect to start on a trial job soon
and meanwhile, I'd rather help people than do nothing,
help people in dire straits.
I'm a single mother.
I get food from the Red Cross and the Charity Meals.
When I see all this go to waste
and that some people have nothing to eat,
it's really disgraceful.
On that day they collected almost 7 00 lbs.
At least that's something.
A little later, almost on the same spot,
we saw a man approaching.
I went over to him and asked him
how much he thought there was.
Almost a ton if you add all the mounds together,
a ton of potatoes wasted.
Same thing with cauliflowers,
fruit and vegetables in other regions,
but here it's potato country, and we take what we find.
We're better off working in the fields than shoplifting.
It's the same for all of us, I'm not alone.
We get by as best we can.
We do potatoes, we look in trash cans,
that keeps me going for now.
It's a hard life, that's all.
The year 2K is upon us, great, heh?
OK, I'm on my way with my 7 0 lbs,
and there are several tons left, which could be picked,
but people don't know where to come to. There you are.
They are hoboes in caravans.
We are gypsies, we travel around. They're different from us.
It needs to be cut up for the scrap merchant to come.
We don't have the necessary tools. No electricity,just candles.
What do you do for water?
Water? That's all we have. It's over there.
That's our tap.
- What if it freezes? - If it freezes...
we pad around the pipe, or we let it drip
to stop it freezing when it gets really cold,
like last year, when it got to -7 0F on the ground.
You get used to it.
You seem to like beer?
I'd drink anything.
How many beers is that?
I drink a pack a day.
- What? - Yeah, a pack of 2 4 a day.
2 4 or even 3 2.
Tell me what happened to you.
Did you have a house before?
Yeah, I had a job.
I worked impossible hours,
21 or 22 hours a day.
- Truck driving? - Yeah.
- A trucker? - Yes.
I drove long vehicles.
Then one day the police breathalyzed me and then...
that's how I lost my job.
Then my wife left me, she took my three kids with her,
and I was in free-fall after that.
Yes, and I haven't seen my kids for almost 2 years.
They're 500 miles away from me.
I can't go and see them.
I don't have a car or a license.
- It's terrible. - Yes it is.
I think of them every single day.
- Here's Guilene. - She'll tell you everything.
Did you know that once they're through picking potatoes,
you're allowed to take leftovers? - No.
You didn't know?
- It's not allowed. - Yes it is!
I have something very important to say:
Why has the Mayor put us here, I've been here four years,
and now he wants us to go.
He says he was fed up with us gypsies,
but I want to stay here.
I had an apartment but it cost too much.
Her first trailer cost her $3 50
and the latest one,
where I am housed at the moment, $3 5.
when I was working in a cafe as a cleaning woman,
that's how we met.
So long as there's welfare money left, OK, but after...
we have to get by somehow.
Then we have to beg
and forage through the trash.
We find food in the garbage.
We're badly off. We do find good food. Which could still be
sold in shops. But they have to change their shelves.
We take advantage of that, it's a lucky draw.
But we have to comb all the garbage cans everywhere
to recover stuff.
See for yourself.
For the soup!
My bunch of flowers!
- Another cucumber. - Sure, there's plenty.
That comes from the trash.
The expiry date is 1 1 -29, two days ago.
- One day ago. - Right.
That's still valid for seven or eight days, a week or so.
I've got fish which I found there.
It's good until 1 2-2 4.
We found it in the trash.
We're not afraid to get our hands dirty. You can wash hands.
Hey, guys, the new appetizer
is lamb kidney in a chicory root sauce
with a potato fritter
and an aniseed and nut soup
and mushroom mousse with truffle oil.
As I watched all this cooking,
I asked the chef if there were lots of leftovers, and
what he did with them.
Nothing should be wasted.
With the leftover lentils, we make a lentil soup,
we mince the greenery into a gratin,
the meat bones we use for stock
the fish bones for sauce.
We don't throw anything away.
You have to be economical.
If I had to buy all the herbs I pick daily on the hills...
A small bunch of savory like this is $1 .50
and we use about 20 of them every day.
We'd be spending a fortune on herbs.
Anyway, I love picking them.
That nice inventive and thrifty chef
offers a gourmet menu for $1 00.
Edouard Loubet is the youngest French chef
to have earned 2 stars in the Michelin guide,
now called the Red Guide.
Surprisingly enough, Edouard is also a born gleaner,
or rather a born picker.
With his hat on, in his shirt sleeves, he looks like a Provencal figurine.
Don't tread on the apples!
We take what the farmers leave behind
or we pick the ripe fruit on the trees.
This is the best thing you can use
to make good spirits or good fruit jelly.
I never miss the chance.
How come you, a chef, also pick?
Firstly because my grandparents taught me to
along fields and roads,
and also because
I then know what produce I get and where I get it from.
I don't want refrigerated produce from Italy
which is sold only when someone feels like saying it is ripe.
As we're talking grapes and wine...
Let's go, Isa!
...we might as well go to a wine area.
We're off to Burgundy.
On the road, there are trucks, lots of trucks,
of the kind we loved when we were kids.
We pass them and gaze at them.
Here's a very big one passing us, transporting cars,
and here's another one.
And now we are passing him,
we struggle a little to pass this one.
It's like a child's game.
We're arriving in Burgundy.
Beaune to me is above all the Hospices
and the painting by Van der Weyden,
The Archangel Michael weighs and judges the deeds of the dead.
The ones who are light are to be resurrected,
and the heavy ones are to suffer in hell.
The grape harvest is over, and yet nobody is in sight.
Why is that?
If you want your wine to be ranked as vintage,
the yearly production is limited.
That means you can only produce
a certain quota per plot.
Growing up, I didn't hear much about pickers.
Wine growers have always protected themselves against them,
for if you let people pick in your vines,
how can you be sure they are not
going to pick on a large scale?
These vintage vines have been entirely harvested
and the surplus has been deliberately left on the ground.
They're drying out, lost for everybody.
It's a measure to protect our profession and capital.
What you see here,
is called second generation grapes, verjuice,
or conscripts, depending on the area.
Exactly, like conscripts. Some people pick them.
It's a second harvest and yields a cheaper wine
called wine of the pickings.
- Will it taste of Pommard? - No, not at all.
It makes a table wine, a really cheap table wine.
The vintage wine region is not a good one for picking.
Gleaning, or picking, is forbidden in Burgundy.
It ended 3 or 4 years ago.
It's sad, but that's the way it is.
Gleaning was lovely.
We would see the gleaner, tramping along,
Gathering the relics
Of that which is falling Behind the reaper...
- Do you know? - Du Bellay?
- Right? - It is.
Impressive, you know it by heart!
I took over my father's estate.
From the grape to the bottle,
I am the only master on board.
I have no cellarman, no head cellarman.
With Nadine, we choose the best blends for our Chateau bottles.
- Do you both choose? - We both do.
a keen wine grower,
has another calling, psychotherapy.
I am a practicing therapist, but above all a theoretician,
or rather a philosopher of therapy.
What's your theory?
What distinguishes me, is that I have tried to integrate
into man's psyche,
the Other above the Ego, i.e. I developed an anti-ego philosophy,
a philosophy which shows how man first originates
in the Other.
He copes with his double life?
- Rather well. - He's good, isn't he?
- Rather well. - He's intelligent, I think. And modest.
It keeps me going.
- Isn't it daunting for you? - What is?
That he is a therapist and makes wine too.
I was analyzed so as to learn a little more.
- By him? - No, by Lacan.
- Ages ago. - I was very young.
A long time ago.
We'll be married 50 years
in the year 2000.
Tell me how you met.
At a village dance, where most people meet.
- The kiss! - Right...
No one's interested in that!
I must tell you something,
something the whole world should know about.
I met him, it was like a lightning bolt.
The way he was dressed, I couldn't possibly miss him.
He had a red cap on, honest,
he was back from the Riviera. He looked so...
He had a red cotton cap,
a green shirt,
mustard yellow pants,
rope espadrilles and...
- Yellow ones! - Right.
And a multicolored belt. I couldn't miss him,just couldn't.
How was she dressed?
That I can't remember. Yeah, it's the old story.
But I didn't fall for her right away.
It all came later with me.
How mean of me!
Is it true, Huguette?
- I'm not in his heart. - It's true.
This is Laurent, my son.
A gleaner or a picker, I'm not sure.
But I heard Glanum, not gleaning,
that's why I talked about Saint-Remy, where Glanum is.
Because gleaning is very different from picking, you see.
But picking, yes.
What's the difference?
The difference is that you pick fruit that hangs,
that is hanging, but you glean things that sprout.
Like grain. It's different.
Olives and grain.
Figs too, people make jams out of figs.
The fig, you pick.
Look, nature's wonders!
Overripe and beautiful!
That's fruit from heaven!
I half-feel like interfering,
but it is none of my business, it's their fruit.
This one's almost pure alcohol, I'll be tipsy.
Anyway, half the people are stingy.
They won't allow gleaning because they don't feel like being nice.
There's a lot left.
The harvest is over now.
Are these not edible?
Edible, yes, but not good for making candied fruits.
Do you allow people to collect them?
No. I'm not the owner, but up to now, it's never been allowed.
The harvest of the cabbages is over,
only a few are left here and there.
These cabbages can be gleaned
with absolute impunity
by gleaners from Avignon or around.
Here are lovely tomatoes.
The machine couldn't take what's too low.
All these tomatoes,
which are just as red as my bible, the penal code,
all can be gleaned.
And it's not me, it's the penal code that says so,
in article R-26.1 0. Here:
gleaning is allowed from sunup until sundown.
The second requirement
is that gleaning occurs after the harvest.
And here, we can clearly see the harvest is over.
Paging through an old law commentary
I happened upon a decree,
or rather an edict, dated Nov. 2, 1 5 54
which says just the same as the law today.
It allows the poor, the wretched,
the deprived, to enter the fields once harvesting is over.
Old documents talk of the poor, the destitute,
but how are we to consider those who want for nothing
and glean just for fun?
It's as if they needed something too.
If they glean for fun, it's because they have a need for fun.
So if the requirements and the times are adhered to,
they can glean as the poor used to.
Sure. I'll take a walk in the cabbages.
I'll walk my small camera among the colored cabbages
and film other vegetables which catch my eye.
On this type of gleaning, of images, impressions,
there is no legislation,
and gleaning is defined figuratively as a mental activity.
To glean facts, acts and deeds,
to glean information.
And for forgetful me,
it's what I have gleaned that tells where I've been.
From Japan, I brought back in my case souvenirs I had gleaned.
I am back home, the cats are here,
one plant's died, the others haven't.
Then I look at the leak in the ceiling and the mold,
I got used to it.
I like it in the end.
It's like a landscape, an abstract painting,
a Guo Qiang,
There's water dripping,
I open my suitcase.
Amazing, in a department store in Tokyo,
on the top floor,
there were Rembrandt paintings,
Saskia, up close.
And then my hand up close,
I mean, this is my project:
to film with one hand my other hand.
To enter into the horror of it.
I find it extraordinary.
I feel as if I am an animal,
worse, I am an animal I don't know.
And here's Rembrandt's self-portrait,
but it's just the same in fact, always a self-portrait.
we saw in a very small museum
in the former City Hall of Sannois.
We were going
to film nearby, at Herve's, alias VR99.
In the year 2000, his alias will be VR2000.
means retrieving heavy objects people get rid of.
To do so,
town councils and city halls provide
small maps such as this one.
It shows all the streets, the districts and the days
on which one can go and pick them up.
I think the maps show where to dump things rather.
Yes, right, well,
I read the map my own way because
that's where I find my raw material.
I am, among other things, a painter and a retriever.
I prefer night time,
and because I go by bike, I can only carry small things home.
It'll be easier if I show you.
I make images from salvaged material,
frames from wood,
I use food packages, slates,
and then I also recycle
my own packets of cigarette paper,
and what's good about these objects
is that they have a past, they've already had a life,
and they're still very much alive.
All you have to do is give them a second chance.
All you need to do is wander around, locate sites,
and then simply help yourself, like in a real department store.
On site, you find heaps of heavy objects,
it is best to get there quickly,
because the competition is fierce.
Objects go quickly.
They're like presents left on the street, it's like Christmas.
When I was a kid, my grandfather used to salvage things as well.
He made piles.
I've always liked the world of dumps and salvage,
anything that's been sort of discarded by society.
It's like a cavern here.
My own little cavern, that's right.
A place where I combine
I need to accumulate.
It's a shelter as well?
From emptiness. Because it's full here.
I'm moving towards emptiness now, or rather, towards lessness.
As much lessness as possible.
- You're still a long way away! - I am.
Right now, I store up things
because I know I will need to recycle some.
The encounter happens on the street.
The object beckons me, because it belongs here in a way.
The encounter also happens on the road,
and it happened to us.
On our left, an abandoned factory.
On the other side, a sign '' Finds''.
''Curios'' is common, but '' Finds'' is more inviting.
Hello, how are you?
Turn and face me! He won't.
I spotted some wheat behind that chap,
and behind the robot, I discovered a painting on gleaning.
It contained both
the humble stooping of Millet's Glaneuses
and the proud posture of Breton's Gleaner.
The painter had an old dictionary at hand.
Honest, this is no movie trick,
we really did find these Glaneuses purely by chance.
The painting had beckoned us because it belonged here in this film.
On the road again, off to the Ideal Palace of Bodan Litnanski,
a much visited, much publicized place.
This retired brickmason came from Russia
and started building totem towers
made of scraps he found in dumps
and brought back in his trailer hooked up to his moped.
It's solid stuff, you know, very solid.
I am a brickmason.
I like dolls, they're my system.
Dolls are characters.
What do you think of all this?
- He's an amateur. - Sorry?
He's an amateur.
We can't stop him, we let him.
But your husband is an artist.
An artist, well, maybe...
There's better than that.
- What? - Better, much better than that.
Like Louis Pons, for instance,
who uses junk as an inspiration.
He draws through objects,
he accommodates chance.
All these objects around here
are my dictionary,
People think it's a cluster of junk.
I see it as a cluster of possibilities.
Each object gives a direction, each is a line,
picked up here and there,
and which become
The aim of art is to tidy up
one's inner and exterior worlds.
These are just crayons, children's crayons.
Here we have tins and spools...
This is the tongue of a small bell.
I make sentences from things.
A cricket on a heap of trash.
Cages are interesting too, a bit like boats, like violins
and things whose...
shapes at first are very simple and the same,
but the possible variations are infinite.
These are skirting boards and frames.
There is a... from cars...
a windshield wiper.
But for me they are streaks.
I have to balance the streaks.
That's a statement. Horizontal statements, nothing else.
Again one hand filming the other hand, and more trucks.
I'd like to capture them.
To retain things passing?
No,just to play.
Noirmoutier is an island
renowned for its causeway and its oysters.
People glean there
after rough storms and very low tides.
Storms dislodge oysters from their beds
and wash them ashore.
But they all know that around Christmas time,
we are so busy that we leave it to the gleaners.
They go as soon as
the storm has abated.
A high sea over the beds is a pretty sight
but to profit from the low tide
gleaners need a copy of the Tide Tables.
We come every year for the lowest tide.
They're going to follow the receding sea
and anything they find they pick up.
People collect the oysters that have come loose.
In theory, they keep out of the poles around the beds.
They must keep out.
They are too close.
Here the oyster farmers let them carry on, but...
it degenerates sometimes.
We don't trespass!
The limit must be here, but...
we encroach a little sometimes.
We're not stupid. We see others and do the same.
If they tell us anything, we scram.
It's tolerated but not really allowed.
It's not downright illegal.
There still exists a right to glean,
provided people glean 1 5 yards from the beds.
- 25 yards away. - Is it 25 yards now?
What are people allowed to do?
To collect up to 7 pounds each, nothing more.
- 1 0 yards away minimum. - Right.
1 1 pounds per person.
7 pounds of clams and 1 1 pounds of oysters,
something like that.
1 1 pounds per person, I think.
Three dozen per person
but surely they take more than that.
They pick up small inedible oysters
that were churned by the waves and are full of sand.
People from the mainland eat them,
and then say they get sick.
TheJura region was flooded.
The river Dard barred our route.
I liked it when animals barred my way,
or I just stopped for them.
The Nenon family, in the hills near Apt,
present a special case of picking.
The vineyard they found was wholly abandoned.
That's a fully fledged harvest here!
Yes, the entire vineyard was left unpruned last year.
An entire harvest going to waste.
I spotted this place and I was very intrigued by it.
Could anybody say anything?
- Don't the owners care? - No. After Nov. 1 ,
we are allowed to pick grapes in the vineyards.
If not, they're eaten by wild boars or birds.
- Do wild boars like grapes? - They love grapes.
On that day,
I filmed dancing pruning shears.
I forgot to turn my camera off,
which is why we get the dance of the lens cap.
The cap has stopped its crazy jig.
We're off to see the only owner
who cares for his gleaners.
I warn children about the terrible effects if they eat too much,
but I take for granted that the adults know and I leave them alone.
shows us an old photo of his vines
which used to be Marey's.
There is a mini-museum in the cellar.
An engineer and erudite physiologist,
Marey invented chronophotography.
He was a visionary.
He analyzed movement
before Muybridge and the Lumieres. He is the ancestor of all movie makers,
and we're proud to be family.
Marey was my father's grandfather, which makes him my great-grandfather,
and to be more specific,
my grandfather was Marey's son-in-law, since...
his wife, my grandmother, was Marey's daughter.
She married a man named Bouton
and this estate, which used to be in the Bouton family,
was bought by Marey,
and returned to the Bouton family when his daughter married a Bouton.
The tower you can see over there,
he built with his own two hands
to house his still camera equipment.
He set up wires and waited.
Animals or birds went past, triggering the camera.
That's the hut
with his chronophotographic rifle,
he broke down the flight of birds.
That's Demeny, Marey's assistant,
holding the rifle and the film reel.
I wonder who the boy with a bowler hat is.
Marey's experimental pictures
and film bits,
technical prowess aside, are pure visual delight.
Our train leaves Paris
and happens to slows down
as we pass Ivry waste collection center.
The heart of our topic,
since we're going to Prades, home of our musician Joanna.
She met youngsters who had had a brush with the law
for damaging the trash bins of a supermarket
because the contents had been doused in bleach.
I thought I could film them explaining the case
if I met all the protagonists -
the youngsters gathered on the square,
the manager of the shop,
and the magistrate from the court,
who seemed concerned and polite.
I wanted to know how these homeless
coped with the law.
Should squatting be legalized?
I could work on it, if not for this robe.
But your robe is lovely!
It was a simple case of youngsters vandalizing things.
I found them guilty of violence.
Before bleach was sprayed on?
They'd knock over the trash
and my staff had to clean up after them.
That led me to apply the law
and bleach the trash, which they didn't appreciate.
- We got angry. - But nothing serious.
We knocked over trash cans,
and damaged the wall with graffiti and tomatoes.
They broke the camera.
It was locked, we had to climb a little.
They went over the fence.
They were trespassing on private property.
Appearing in court was itself a penalty
for these youths who want to be free of all rules.
We only stole trash.
The aim isn't to fine them but to remind them of the law.
They all played their part, applying their own logic.
The kids said what they were supposed to.
We filmed them with their dogs. It was picturesque.
I'm not that antisocial.
- May I ask you how old you are? - 22.
Their beauty is poignant when you realize that, for whatever reason,
they get most of their food from trash cans.
In court, I was told
it was a dialogue of the deaf, but not of the dumb.
They seized the chance to have fun.
I said she was mad, she cited me for contempt of court.
We said she was out of her mind, and she would go: Write it down!
Recorder, write down: Out of her mind!
We felt it was a foregone conclusion. It was sickening.
She opted for trial in closed court. I shouted and slammed the door.
They're not through talking about this episode,
and I'm not through thinking about it in my hotel room.
We filmed and continue to film people who hang around trash cans.
They have various reasons for doing so.
Each experiences it differently.
- Hi! - Here he is!
How are you?
Sit down, there's coffee for you.
We had been told: '' He wears
rubber boots. He salvages everything''.
Yes, I live almost 1 00% on things from the trash.
Everybody, rich or poor,
throws food away. Why?
Because we are so stupid with food!
If we're past the sell-by date of a yogurt, people go:
''Oh my God, I can't eat this!
It'll kill me!''
to tell from the smell of it if it's OK or not.
It's quite simple, I've eaten 1 00% trash for 1 0 years now...
for 1 0 or 1 5 years,
I've never been ill.
- You don't have a job? - I do.
I have a job, a salary, a social security number.
So you are not forced to do that?
Salvaging is a matter of ethics for me,
because I find it utterly unacceptable to see
all this waste on the streets.
That proves we're heading for disasters, like the Erika oil spill.
Put the head on the right.
guillemots, razorbill penguins,
all those who were smashed up real good by Total Fina Oil,
those who will get smashed up real good
by this over-consuming society... If they are cleaned,
the birds might still get caught in nets,
it's for them that I'm an activist.
All the rest can die in their apartments,
on their trash, I don't care. Birds first.
Do you always wear boots?
Yes, rubber boots have 2 advantages,
on this hostile ground, they're really good stuff.
There's a psychological aspect too,
with my boots, I'm like the lord of this town.
All these idiots dump away,
I come after them and rake in the chips.
Trash is Beautiful!
An exhibition featuring demonstration trash cans
was organized to teach children
how to sort out the trash.
At Trash is Beautiful, they like colors,
and children play with bits of junk.
This is just plastic from the street.
Gino Rizzi is in charge of the kids' workshop.
He himself transforms pots of yogurt into flowers
and plastic bottles into mobiles.
Where does play end and art start?
Cartier Foundation for Contemporary Art
The American artist Sze
exhibits mobiles made with lots of bits and pieces.
The kitchen trash has made it to the art world,
where junk is highly-prized and priced.
In any case, museum trash
is small, cute, clean and colorful.
Have those kids ever seen brooms in action,
or shaken hands with a garbage collector?
- How are you? - Fine.
That's neighborhood life.
I live here
at Mr. Charlie Plusquellec's, because he's a friend.
More than a friend,
a protector, a godfather, he's everything to me.
I am so very very happy, very glad, I am here
surrounded by nature.
it's worse than paradise.
Salomon is a little bit like a migrating bird.
He arrives, he moves in,
and then one day, he disappears.
And then he comes back again, and then leaves.
So far he's been back 3 times.
Every day, I come out of here,
I wander around,
looking here and there for throw-aways.
Don't touch anything!
- You hear me? - Yes, Ma'am.
Don't you understand what I said?
Every morning, early, you come across a little something.
It's like a lottery.
Do you need it?
Wait, he might want some.
Want some bread?
I always come here and help myself.
Sometimes you get good cold meats,
sometimes fowl, a bit of everything.
So I'll cook the meat before it goes off.
You're going to eat chicken and rabbit for a month!
No, don't worry.
We always find someone to share with.
We give it to the neighbors, the woman next door especially.
we have 1 , 2, 3,
4 fridges and 2 freezers
that we picked up and fixed.
I patch them up, I fix them,
and when the machine works I sell it or...
I give it away to our neighbors.
Fridges are everywhere on the streets.
Sometimes they work, sometimes not.
The Waste Ground artists of Villeneuve sur Lot
and recycle them as fully furnished, fitted spaces.
Free our comrades!
My neighbor the Lion of Denfert
is made of bronze.
My friend the Lion in Arles is made of stone.
We got there in the early hours.
The people from the fair were still asleep,
and I saw a man looking at the river flow by.
I half-felt like talking to him.
Further on, along the Rhone,
in a blissful orchard
I saw gleaners arrive.
You can tell them
from their boxes, sacks and plastic bags
which don't look anything like the standard containers of the workers.
My name's David, I'm a foreman at the Cape farm.
We often allow
gleaners to come in
after our pickers
provided they remain 1 0 yards behind.
Look, there's still a lot left in the trees.
We just take advantage of this.
I collect them so that they don't go to waste,
and I share them out,
we stew them or whatever.
I want to pick them because there're lots left as you can see.
I don't take damaged ones,
because my children are very particular.
They're used to getting the best.
This one is damaged so I chuck it away.
We gleaners also discard some fruit.
Here's an apple which has got nothing going for it,
it's like an ugly and stupid woman.
It's small and sunburnt.
Commercial value: zero.
We can't prevent people
from providing themselves with apples
once we have finished harvesting.
So we proclaim an official gleaning period,
we take car registrations down,
if it's a moped, we ask for a Xerox of the owner's I D
and we tell them from when to when they can come and collect.
Isn't it a bit over-regulated?
Well, it's either that or nothing at all.
Once people are registered,
they can take 400 pounds, I don't mind, even if it's a whole lot.
Good for them.
In this field of 3 hectares,
at least 1 0 tons will be left unpicked.
That gives the gleaners quite a lot of exercise.
You have to find them behind the trees, under the leaves.
It takes a while to fill up a basket.
Picking is not a piece of cake, it's hard work.
Quite a few have fallen here.
You just have to pick them up.
Robert, a gleaner of many crops, let us follow him.
I'm looking for pine nuts.
You're really thorough!
Right, I really don't let anything go by.
In this greenhouse, the tomato harvest is over.
We pick the remains before they clean the place.
Here, see the tomatoes...
That's nature, it shouldn't be wasted.
It's abandoned. Once the harvest is over,
it's not worth hiring people just for those.
They'd rather let us do it.
Can anybody go in the greenhouses?
No, not the greenhouses. I don't know what the law is.
Greenhouses are a facility to grow vegetables.
Once the harvest is collected,
there's some left, a few tomatoes, grapes, carrots or celery.
If gleaners remain within the law
farmers can't say anything,
can't sue them for anything.
Even on their property?
Even then, precisely,
gleaning is always on private property.
Mr. Dessaud, our lawyer in the fields, explained gleaning rights.
Mrs. Espie, our lawyer in the streets, tells us about salvaging rights.
The law on gleaning doesn't apply to these objects.
'' Res derelictae''
are ownerless things,
since the owner's intention has been clearly expressed:
they have deliberately abandoned them.
Only the penal code deals with their status
and says this property can't be stolen since it has no owner.
Those who take the object become its legal owners.
This acquisition is unusual, since it comes from no one.
Once taken, the object belongs to them
Thank you very much.
Yeah. Sidelined beds on the sidewalk
Washed-out machines, tired-out fridges
just bend down and grab your furniture
Yeah. Cookers, cushions, club armchairs
Weary wood chairs and TVsets, Worn-out couches
just bend over,you're made over
Street rehab and TVrap,yeah,yeah!
I've seen lots ofTVs abandoned,
and within a few minutes
somebody was taking out the copper.
It's the copper from the deflector coils.
I looked at the magic screen thinking I began this film
right after the eclipse shown on TV,
continued while the countdown to Y2Kwas shown on TV,
and ended the film on the 1 st of May...
take TVs home, hoping to repair them.
I found 2 small chairs on the street and took them home.
One night when the bulky refuse is thrown out,
I drove around with Francois who had done one of my film scores
and who also sang.
He has dressed in white for 25 years.
Francois is curious, he likes rummaging,
but he didn't find anything that night.
He looked at an empty clock
and he turned it down.
I picked it up and took it home.
A clock without hands is my kind of thing.
You don't see time passing.
I like filming rot, leftovers, waste,
mold and trash.
But I never forget
those who shop in the leftovers and trash when the market is over.
It's past 2 o'clock.
I've done my shopping and I linger on
until the market is over.
I notice a man with a large bag eating on the spot.
I would see him now and then, always with his bag,
The day he was eating parsley
I went over to him.
Do you often eat parsley?
Sometimes yes. Parsley's full of vitamin C and E,
beta carotene, zinc, magnesium, it's excellent.
His answer amazed me.
Over the following weeks, I filmed him
repeatedly, with or without sound, and he talked in snatches.
I pick up food at the markets
and I save money that way.
I'm mostly a vegetarian,
so I find what I need.
I don't make much,
but I still have to eat.
You should see what they get rid of...
From the markets, I get fruit,
sometimes cheese too, but that's rare.
I eat a lot of apples.
And here I can get as many apples as I want.
- How many apples a day do you eat? - 6 or 7.
Is it your staple diet?
I also eat bread.
I get up at 4, I take the train
and I arrive in Paris at 5:45.
Between 6 and 7,
they throw away all of the bread from the day before.
If you spot a trash can near a bakery
it's likely to contain sandwiches, bread,
and all that.
I eat a lot of bread. It's a staple food full of proteins and glucids.
It's strange to be concerned...
- About balanced diets? - Yes.
Since I studied biology,
it's quite normal I should be concerned.
I used to be a teaching assistant.
When people find out I have a Master's degree,
they don't understand why I sell papers to make money.
I sell street papers or magazines.
Most times in front of the train station.
I live in a shelter where 50%
of the people are illiterate.
Immigrants from Mali and Senegal mostly.
I arrived in that shelter 8 years ago,
and I've been teaching them to read and write for 6 years.
I am not part of the school system, I don't get paid for it.
I teach every evening from 6:30 / 7:00
until 8:30 / 9:00.
He arranged and decorated the classroom himself
for the students who may attend whenever they please.
Ac, ec, ic, oc...
And see, for example,
a noc-turnal ac-tivity.
Right, a nocturnal activity.
What does ''nocturnal'' mean?
Success? Success is...
Isn't success like a behavior?
It's to succeed in life.
Somebody who has succeeded.
- Like Celine Dion has? - Right.
But it's more like the will to...
Yes, when you've succeeded, that's success.
A use-ful... in-sect.
I don't know if it is useful but...
but it is an insect.
Meeting that man
is what impressed me the most.
And the time it took to find out about his nocturnal
and voluntary activity in a suburban basement.
The other high point is quite different in kind.
I talked the Museum of Villefranche
into bringing out from its reserves
a painting by Hedouin
which I had seen reproduced in black and white.
Brigitte, the curator, and her assistant,Julie
had to disturb several sleepy paintings
before finding the one I wanted to reveal:
Gleaners Fleeing Before the Storm.
To see them in broad daylight,
with stormy gusts lashing against the canvas,
was true delight.
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