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My birthday tree


My rural roots
Jean-Claude Carrière Film-maker
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My parents were small farmers from the South of France, from the Herault department. They were both descended from farmer families, from two neighbouring villages, and they got married. I was born in 1931 in that small village, where I manage to still have a house, where I still stay from time to time. Therefore, it was a traditional farming community. It just so happened that my dad had heart problems, and he could not work in the field anymore, and that’s why after the war - the Second World War - they left the village to come to Paris, to run a cafe, which was quite a popular one, where I spent my youth. But until then, from my birth up to the age of 13, through my studies at my local school, my father taught me... my father and both of my grandfathers taught me their culture, like working the field, ploughing, grafting trees, building walls, anything that would be expected from a farmer. And of course, from being raised in that culture, I lived in another one.  There was quite a clear break when I was 14 years old, and suddenly we lived in the city. I kept up with my studies, and now I am what I am. But I have always wanted to maintain the links with my childhood, with my roots, with those first steps in my life which are so important to me. Every time I go back, and I do at least twice per year, I build a wall, I plant trees, I tend the flowers, the vegetable patch, I talk with my neighbours, exactly as in a village. It is important to me that these roots have never been severed. And as a child I always had cats, and I continued to have cats throughout my entire life. There is one that is extremely young, and going a bit crazy just around us, we just need to accept it and let it be.

Mes parents étaient de tout petits paysans du midi de la France, du département de l’Hérault. Ils étaient l’un et l’autre de familles paysannes de deux villages voisins et ils se sont mariés. Je suis né en 1931 dans ce petit village où j’ai toujours réussi à garder ma maison où je vais de temps en temps. C’était donc une paysannerie traditionnelle. Il s’est trouvé que mon père était malade du cœur et qu’il ne pouvait pas travailler la terre et c’est pourquoi après la guerre, après la  deuxième guerre mondiale ils ont quitté ce village pour venir en banlieue parisienne tenir un bistrot, très populaire dans lequel j’ai passé mon adolescence. Mais jusque-là, de ma naissance à l’âge de treize ans, par les études que je faisais normalement à l’école de village, mon père m’a appris… mon père et mes grands-pères, m’ont appris leurs culture, c’est-à-dire ils m’ont appris à travailler la terre, à labourer, à greffer des arbres, à construire des murs, tout ce qu’un paysan doit savoir faire. Et naturellement, élevé dans cette culture,  j’ai vécu dans une autre. Il y eu une coupure très nette dans ma vie à l’âge de 14 ans, et, je suis devenu un citadin. J’ai continué mes études et maintenant je suis ce que je suis. Mais je ne jamais voulu rompre tout à fait les liens avec mon enfance, avec ces racines, avec ces premiers étages de ma vie qui pour moi sont très importants. Chaque fois quand je reviens là bas et j’y reviens au moins deux fois par an, je fais un mur, je plante des arbres, je m’occupe de fleurs, de légumes, j’ai des rapports avec mes voisins, comme dans un village. C’est pour moi très important de n’avoir jamais été coupé de ces origines. Et déjà quand j’étais enfant j’avais des chats et j’ai toujours eu des chats toute ma vie, il y en a un qui est tout jeune et qui fait le fou autour de nous et il faut s’habituer, il faut le laisser faire.

French screenwriter Jean-Claude Carrière (1931-2021) began his association with films aged 24 when he was selected by Jacques Tati to write for him. This early experience led to further contact with other film-makers, including Luis Buñuel with whom Carrière collaborated for many years. He wrote screenplays for films including Belle de Jour, The Discreet Charms of the Bourgeoisie, Tin Drum and Danton.

Listeners: Andrzej Wolski

Film director and documentary maker, Andrzej Wolski has made around 40 films since 1982 for French television, the BBC, TVP and other TV networks. He specializes in portraits and in historical films. Films that he has directed or written the screenplay for include Kultura, which he co-directed with Agnieszka Holland, and KOR which presents the history of the Worker’s Defence Committee as told by its members. Andrzej Wolski has received many awards for his work, including the UNESCO Grand Prix at the Festival du Film d’Art.

Tags: South of France, Herault, 1931, World War II, Paris

Duration: 2 minutes, 7 seconds

Date story recorded: January 2010

Date story went live: 26 July 2010