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Harvest (Vendanges)

Director Paul Lacoste

<em>Harvest (Vendanges)</em>

On the surface, this appears to be a documentary about harvesting wine grapes in France. Yet it becomes more of a study of how a small group of seasonally employed people work together, discussing boss-to-employee relations, the underemployed European life, and more as they enjoy the fruits of their labor along the way. (Answers translated as well as possible from French.)

Did you set out to make a film about wine or about work?

In fact, none of the two was not my point of departure. From the beginning, I wanted to talk about my paradoxical feeling: Here are the people alone, yet their activity during the harvest is collective. How it is happening? I see them as they are, but also as a metaphor for our individualistic societies, how being together is difficult, but for me, still indispensable. The wine is the context, and the work a theme. The group is at the heart, but in this respect, the situation is a little bitter.

Are the high unemployment numbers causing more French people to work in vineyards all across the country?

There have always been people to pick the fruit. But the high number of unemployed and working poor rather has the consequence that there are more people with higher levels of education that are paid lower wages. 

Will these seasonal workers ever unionize?

Seasonal workers are linked throughout the year, though corn and potatoes and grapes and so on. There could be a trade union. It’s instead a problem of denying to defend themselves. We are told that it’s so much worse elsewhere. And not all are victims. Some have chosen this lifestyle, with no single boss, and other ultimately prefer nature to society.

Do the people strike you as generally happy, or do they all wish for something more?

That’s the exciting paradox. It’s impossible to determine if they choose their lives or if they suffer through them. Like all of us, right? I do not like films that show the human as a victim or films that don’t show any social problems.

What wine grape are the picking?

The varieties are very specific: mauzac, prunelard, duras, ondenc. The wines from Gaillac, or more precisely the Plageoles area, are probably findable in California. I hope you do!

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