10 Jun 2008

Gleaners and I: A film worth watching

I had very pleasant couple of pints with a couple of my friends last night in the George, London Bridge. It is a nice place to have a pint on a sunny evening, I have been there before with Ian Angus and Nick Hutton. A., had emailed me to go for the pint because he wanted to talk about the global economic crisis. I thought before I went, that it was typical of friends who were squatting to be interested in markets, finance and crisis. Another guy I knew from squatting David, turned up once behind a corridor of books at the British Library, he had if I remember rightly, it was a good few years ago, a degree in economics.

Of course it dawned on me a couple of days ago, my friend used to be a city worker. I think he was a fund manager. He had dropped out of the city on 18th June 1999, after Reclaim the Streets carnival against capitalism brought 6,000 protesters into the financial centre of London.

I have just watched Les Glaneurs et la glaneuse today, which also remind me of my time with the squatters on the Pepys Estate, I was an occasional visitor via another friend Christina, we were both Zen practioneers…now my back is healed I need to get back to zen. Mondays nights at London Bridge if you are interested. If you are not London Bridge for a pint is good. Hate to think how crowded it gets on a Friday night/

The Gleaners and I is a French film about scavengers. In his review, Axmaker notes:

In French dictionaries, next to the definition of "gleaner," is a reproduction of Jean-Francois Millet's famous painting "Les Glaneuses" ("Women Gleaning"). The picture of three women combing a wheat field for grain missed by the reapers captures a traditional activity made archaic with modern farming machinery

In France, peasants would glean the fields after harvest for grains of wheat. The women would collect what was left after the harvest in their big skirts. The film maker Agn├Ęs Varda, wanders across France looking for modern day gleaners. She meets some squatters, young dreadlocked, they pick through the food thrown out by the supermarket. The supermarket manager put bleach on the food, just past its sell by date, to stop them recycling it. He had them arrested. My friends the squatter would go off in an old car and collect the veg thrown out by the market.

Varda interviews and with her tiny hand held camera, interviews dozens of modern day gleaners, ageing sculptures, travellers, students, those who glean to survive and those who do it for fun and ecology.

The Gleaners is an interesting film and makes the point well. In a world based on waste, we need an ethic of collecting what has been discarded. If we use goods wisely, we can all be prosperous. The waste is obscene, potatoes that were too big, too small or the wrong shape, Agnes loved the heart shaped potatoes thrown away. The supermarkets only want uniform veg. In Britain up to a third of food is thrown away and food just past its sell by date is edible, although I am told you have to be careful with eggs, everything else is ok at least for a few days.

The wiki oracle notes:

In The Gleaners and I, Varda films herself combing her newly discovered grey hair, and there are many visuals of her aging hands. She frequently "catches" trucks on the freeway, placing her hand in front of the camera in the ASL sign for "o", with the truck in the center of her hand, then closing in on them as she drives past them.
Much of this footage is woven into the film to show that Varda, as a film maker, is also a gleaner. This concept is made explicit in the French title, Les Glaneurs et la glaneuse, which could be translated as "the gleaners and the gleaneress".

The photo above shows a judge...gleaning is legal in France, as long as it is after the harvest.

Varda is indeed a gleaner, all of us in the field of culture, pick up what has been thrown away and reshape it into new sculptures. Art and ideology are in the best sense the product of gleaning. Varda’s film is part of the solution to global warming and the food crisis. Please take a look.

Various review here

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