return to Roya with Cédric Herrou

Cédric Herrou in “Differently”, the documentary series directed by Michel Toesca.


Cutting Cédric Herrou into slices, as if he were Don Dr or Malotru, the company can arouse skepticism or even arouse suspicions of opportunism. The farmer from the Roya valley, above Nice, who has become a leading figure in welcoming migrants, has already been the subject of a documentary, Free, which, in 2018, earned him the chance to climb the staircase of the Palais des Festivals in Cannes. Free was already directed by Michel Toesca, who today signed the six episodes ofOtherwise.

From the first of them, suspicions and doubts are dispelled: firstly because the story of Cédric Herrou, his daily life and his struggles have changed, like the world around them and this new chapter deserves to be explored. ‘be told, as much as the previous one; then because the serial form allows attention to the details, the ups and downs of daily existence.

Otherwise in fact tells the story of the transformation of an ephemeral, floating space – Cédric Herrou’s farm, which became a crossing point and refuge according to the flows triggered by wars and poverty – into an Emmaüs community intended to accommodate a handful of companions during the what they will need to escape from precariousness. On this austere theme (the transformation calls for endless procedures, real estate and land transactions which would not be out of place in a novel by Maupant), a comedy unfolds which is sometimes serious, never entirely serious.

Homemade cable car

This is due to the personality of Cédric Herrou, who often has the effect of an eternal adolescent who will never exhaust the joys of rebellion (he thus delights in pissing off the gendarmes when he pes through Italy – which is forbidden to him – to go and sell his eggs in the city), as well as to the singularity of the couple he forms with his partner Marion Gachet-Dieuzeide, the linchpin of this transition. And finally to the documentary filmmaker who transformed a small misery suffered by the dissident farmer into a visual leitmotif of astonishing strength and accuracy.

Since an unaccommodating neighbor refused him access to the strip of land separating the road from his farm, Cédric Herrou had to build a homemade cable car to raise the materials necessary for and lower the eggs produced by his chicken farm. This device intended to overcome the mountain, to overcome pettiness, becomes the emblem of the militant work of this fluid community.

Among its members, some are just ping through, others settle in, adapt, sometimes flourish. Michel Toesca prefers flexibility to rigor, movement to setting (even if the beauty of the Roya valley often takes over), and Otherwise deserves its title, a fleeting and yet definitive reflection of an adventure that takes place over time.

Otherwise Documentary series produced by Michel Toesca (France 2023, 6 x 30 minutes), free access on SaNoSi. live until December 3.

Thomas Sotinel

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