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Best Film for Creative Research Award
Icronos Festival, Bordeaux

To get the colourful episodes of our history out of the textbooks and journals and onto the silver screen - for several days running and all for free! That had been the big gamble taken by the pioneering ICRONOS festival in Bordeaux. On the occasion of their thirteenth festival, entitled “Traces de Vie”, the Best Film for Creative Research Award went to LE DERNIER PAYSAN PRÉHISTORIEN (THE LAST FARMER-CUM-PREHISTORIAN): a film by Sophie Cattoire, focusing on Gilbert Pémendrant, from Meyrals in the Dordogne, showing him up on his farm, named “La Fuste”, and down in his “Bernifal” painted cave.
A wonderful way of recognizing the profession – the work of the scientists and the filmmakers – and a well-chosen name. Sharing the magnificent cave art, its magic and its secrets, thanks to the portrayal of a man who works the land, the King of La Fuste, the Lord of Bernifal… giving him the prestige and the recognition he deserves and treating the subject with careful and respectful attention, for months on end, for years on end… it is indeed creative research that is our driving force when making a documentary.


I used to think that filmmaking was the greatest human adventure ever. I spent the first part of my life as a TV reporter, putting everything I had into my films, without getting much feedback after their release. Thanks to Ferrassie TV, an information and production organization that answered our need for independence and sincerity, I have realized just how much the pleasure of this new, long haul approach – five years of seeing and getting to know each other at La Fuste and at Bernifal – is multiplied tenfold when the film is shared with the public and all the love of the land and the love of men, when they are magnificent and proud, can be put into words.
While fully aware of all the pain and suffering on this earth, the crime, the need to inform to make it cease, I firmly believe that to show what we are and where we come from we need to listen to the beautiful people who never find themselves in the limelight. Listening to them, letting their joie de vivre and their infinite wisdom rub off on us, we begin to perceive the possibility of a better life, here and now, all together. Why shouldn’t we?


We had already understood the message during the preview at the Pôle International de la Préhistoire, which went wonderfully well. It had of course been THE big challenge. People read about us up and down the country in the Sciences et Avenir magazine… then there was the Festival in Amiens and the Special Jury Award at Pech Merle… and now, just recently, LE DERNIER PAYSAN PRÉHISTORIEN has received a particularly symbolic award in Bordeaux. It was given by the ICRONOS Festival that pioneers the multi-faceted, cinematic approach to the history of mankind. The Best Film for Creative Research Award was indeed an honour – and our crowning achievement. Treating such an apparently simple subject with delicacy and finesse, avoiding the clichés - a nice, honest peasant with loads of personality, guardian of a painted cave – inviting every one of us to consider calmly the basic questions: Where are traces of human presence to be found? How can we become familiar with them, understand them? Who do world heritage sites belong to? This was indeed what our research was all about. We chose to adopt a poetic form, calm and composed, since haste and aggressiveness get you nowhere.
Gilbert Pémendrant, before the crowds with a beaming smile and tears in his eyes, is living proof that it is possible to protect these famous “traces” which reveal the imagination of the men who came before us and share them with others. Deep in the woods, you can explore his cave with him. It is the only completely untouched prehistoric cave - and the only one that gets absolutely no publicity.


Straight after the ICRONOS Festival, the filmmakers and their hero headed inland… towards Bretenoux in the Lot, to take part in the “Festival du Film Documentaire Engagé”: a project initiated by a whole team of closely-knit enthusiasts. To start with, Michel Boccara, ethnologist at the CNRS and an expert on the Maya people of Mexico, who publishes articles on his finds as well as producing documentaries: a collection of films revealing simply and sincerely the habits and traditions of the peoples under study. For some years Michel Boccara has been involved in the Territoire du Lot and brought to the screen a large number of local talents: “People who are at once ordinary and extraordinary, like all of us”, he adds. Odette, who has the power of healing and has rid so many of the burning pain of shingles, Jean-Louis, a farmer, who reads landscapes and painted caves like a soothsayer who is still in direct contact with our past, Patrick, a local joiner who has established bridges and even built zomes with all those “boors”, all those hippies who landed here in the 70s, like those in Georges Lautner’s unforgettable film “Quelques messieurs trop tranquilles” – which incidentally was shot here in this canton in the Lot and screened on the opening night of this year’s festival at Bretenoux Cinema – those very same people who treat Mother Nature, Mother Earth, with infinite, new-found respect, taking from her only the bare necessities… without destroying.

These portraits and many more are like a set of “memory cards”, produced by the association “La parole a le geste”, who organized the festival. The films are intimate and sincere, as is the manner in which they are presented to the public. On Sunday October 28, the public were invited to go on an informative walk round the village of Cornac and view the films, sitting comfortably in villagers’ houses beside the “heroes” of the films, in an atmosphere conducive to making acquaintance and exchanging views. So, in this part of the Lot, chatting about these genuine, real-life films is bringing people together more and more.
Our Périgord farmer and prehistorian, Gilbert Pémendrant, was greeted with open arms and he greatly appreciated the simplicity and kindness of these country people who never hit the headlines.


This lovely atmosphere reminded us of the warmth and friendliness we had felt at the Café Associatif in Léguillac-de-Cercles, north of Périgueux, where we were invited to present our film on October 12. A “café associatif” is a place run by voluntary workers (in the present case, Aurore, Jean-Luc and Liliane) where you can join in discussion groups and exchange information in the space of an evening. We all met up at 8.30 pm and said goodnight at 2 o’clock in the morning! The atmosphere was harmonious and peaceful and the stories we heard were, as always, very touching. I will let Jean Lalanne, who was there with us on that occasion, say the final words – that he sent me in this lovely message:

“Thank you for this brilliant and beautiful film, made with patience and love and the complicity of Gilbert. All through the film I was deeply moved. I just wanted to tell you what a precious lesson this is for us all.

Going with you, following you, seeing through your eyes all the scenes you filmed, I believe that each one of us felt more at peace with the world, more alive. Maybe reconciled with the joy of life. I am sure that most of the people who saw your film were as moved as I was and went away with a blissful feeling.

Prehistory, the pictures of rural life on the brink of extinction, the wisdom and cheerfulness of Gilbert… everywhere you took us you pulled at our heartstrings. We grew to love his way of life, the happy moments spent each day despite the hardship.

You taught us to stand still for a few magical moments and see another way of living, encouraging us to look at things we no longer see, the beauty of life, taking our time…

You stopped us in our pointless race against time, in which we forget the fact that we are alive.

You taught us to feel things we no longer feel - care for others, warm-heartedness, complicity. Everything we chose to share with you reflects the lovely person you are.

Thank you for this beautiful experience.

All the best,


It is you who are to be thanked, Jean! It is as if you had watched the film from Gilbert’s angle and, so doing, recognized the person behind the camera. I take it as a compliment and I take pride in this totally sincere creative achievement.


You can see THE LAST FARMER-CUM-PREHISTORIAN on November 23 at the Festival Cinéma et Sciences “A NOUS DE VOIR” in Oullins, near Lyon. On Saturday December 15 the film will be shown at the Salle des Fêtes in Aubas, near Montignac, in the Périgord. More dates will be fixed shortly, in the presence of Gilbert Pémendrant, in Sarlat, Le Buisson-de-Cadouin and Périgueux.
More soon…

Sophie Cattoire

Translated into English by Valerie Saraben

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