Leadersheep (Tous au Larzac!): Cannes Review

A farmers-vs.-the French government doc of little interest outside of that country.  

How strange the Festival de Cannes, itself host to such landmark films as "Fog of War" and "Fahrenheit 9/11," chose to foist such a stodgy, old-fashioned doc into the 2011 Official Selection.

With the documentary currently enjoying a renaissance of innovative work and cutting-edge investigations, how strange the Festival de Cannes, itself host to such landmark films as Fog of War and Fahrenheit 9/11, chose to foist such a stodgy, old-fashioned doc as Leadersheep (Tous au Larzac!) into the 2011 Official Selection. No doubt the selection of Christian Rouard’s film has to do with politics, which is to say its portrait of the birth of a political movement of French farmers in the region of Larzac against the expansion of an army base that would have gobbled up their farmland.

However remarkable and heroic this political movement, the eyes glaze over with two hours of talking heads and the occasional intrusion of archival footage or shots of bucolic farms.

While the film makes the claim that the international anti-globalization movement has its roots in these farmers’ struggles against their stubborn government, nothing has been done to make the story of interest of anyone outside of France. Even inside France, that interest may be limited.

The now aging members of this rebellion against forced expulsion from their land recall in far too much detail the organization of the 103 families that fought the government throughout the 1970s and the various strategies employed to gain nationwide attention to and sympathy for their plight.

If tractor parades through the countryside fail to budge obstinate ministers, then why not bring sheep to graze on the Champ-de-Mars in Paris? Which explains the amusing English title of the film. Who knew sheep could be such an effective PR weapon?

The Larzac farmers only won their battle when a new government came in with the election of Francois Mitterrand in 1981. The movement has apparently stayed active in any number of national and international controversies including the introduction GMOs into farming.

This would seem to be a more compelling story than the tale Rouaud chooses to tell — how a group of seemingly disparate and political naïve farmers wound up creating a political movement that has lasted so long. Instead Leadersheep bogs down in the minutia of long ago organizational difficulties, disputes and successes that feel like a back story to a much more interesting film.

Venue: Cannes Film Festival, Out of Competition – Special Screening
Sales: MK2
An Elzevir Films production
Director/screenwriter: Christian Rouaud
Director of photography: Alexis Kavyrchine
Music: Stephane Moucha
Editor: Fabrice Rouard
No rating, 122 minutes