Review: To The Four Winds
by Fabien Lemercier
- CANNES 2018: Michel Toesca puts his name to a compassionate and very human documentary, painting a portrait of a man who is the ultimate symbol of solidarity with migrants
He raised his chickens and tended to his olive trees on a little farm in the middle of nowhere. Until, that is, modern world history came knocking at his door and he made the decision to play his part, feeding and sheltering the destitute individuals who suddenly began to appear in his farmyard. He appeared on the front page of the New York Times in the summer 2016, then in a duplex in dialogue with the French Prime Minister, but also in police custody on multiple occasions and as well as being hauled up in front of a judge threatened with a few months’ detention in prison. And now here he is, making his entrance at the 71st Cannes Film Festival, as the central character in the documentary To The Four Winds [+see also:
film profile] by Michel Toesca, unveiled in a Special Screening as part of the Official Selection. His name: Cédric Herrou. His home: The Roya Valley, a little French enclave on Italian soil, through which migrants from Ventimiglia have been trying to cross the border since summer 2015.
"If I have to go to prison, I’ll go to prison. I’ve got no children, no family. It’s a risk I’m willing to take so that I can feel free." It’s September 2016 and Cédric Herrou is telling friend and director Michel Toesca how he has been lending a hand to migrants over the past year, putting a roof over their heads and providing them with directions on how to get to Nice, even going so far as to take them there himself. But, above all, he is criticising the approach of the French authorities which effectively "prevents people from requesting asylum" and ignores the needs of isolated minors, illegally sending everyone back to Italy regardless, even paying for them to be convoyed to the very south of the Boot, "and then, three days later, they’re back again!".
"When you start to respect the law, we will too". This is Cédric, a month later, deep in discussion with the Prefect of the Alpes-Maritimes region, surrounded by CRS officers who stand ready to evacuate the “Lucioles” squat, situated in disused SNCF premises, where Cédric and his friends who have come from The Roya Valley have settled somewhere in the region of sixty migrants. Police custody, judicial reviews, growing media notoriety, schemes to get migrants across the border, court cases, legal victories and confrontations with the border police, court-rulings in his hand, but crucially, human interactions of all kinds: Michel Toesca’s old DV Cam and mobile phone have recorded three years’ worth of commitment from a man who is quite charismatic and very kind but, above all, who understands the importance of a simple approach in life. It’s a pretty picture. It offers a great deal more in terms of human value than it does directorial verve, but this isn’t hugely important; substance far outvalues form in this instance.
(Translated from French)
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