in Alcarraz, “Our suns”, by Carla Simon, the earthen pot against the iron pot

On screens this Wednesday, January 18, the expected release of Our suns, the latest film by Carla Simon. Crowned with the Golden Bear for this second feature film in Berlin in February 2022 – she had already been crowned for her first film Estiu 93– the young Catalan director is a regular of laurels with a cinema that is nevertheless economical, sensitive, closer to “little people”. I dedicate this prize to the people who cultivate the land… to fill our plates “, she said in Berlin. A story of family, identity, peasants… and a solar film.

How the first images of a film install us in an atmosphere. Our suns opens onto a landscape of small trees and hills of red earth. It is sunny, a breeze is blowing, in the distance, you can make out the sea and you can hear children playing. Iris and her two little cousins, Pere and Pau, are in a carcass of this 2CV; it’s their space shuttle and they’re on their way to the sun. ” The sun burns my eyes, quickly glasses », Claims Iris, a true gang leader… The film is placed under the sign of the sun, a judicious French title. The sun of these lands of Lleida in Catalonia, which ripens peaches, figs and tomatoes. The sun beating down on the shoulders of African and Catalan pickers. The sun from the photovoltaic panels that gradually invade the hillsides. Because the fruits are sold at a loss, the peasants give up their land.

Children's games, their inventions... and their nonsense are one of the highlights of Carla Simon's film.  “Children are born actors,” says the director.

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The three children belong to the Solé tribe. With the grandfather, the patriarch, lives his son Quimet, his wife, Dolors and the three children, two teenagers and little Iris. Added to this hard core are Quimet’s two sisters and their own children. The family has been farming fields of fruit trees for several generations. Land ceded in gratitude for service rendered by another family, the Pinyols. The Solé ancestors had hidden the Pinyol in their cellar during the civil war: they were hunted down because they were rich landowners. At the time, recalls the grandfather, we did not sign paper, the word was enough. But generations change, customs too: no paper, no title deed. The Solé family has nine months to return these lands to their owner, the young Pinyol. Harvest time, summer time.

Our Suns by Carla Simon: Little Iris with the Patriarch.  The director tells a family story, but she questions the future of a certain rural world and traditional agriculture.

The closer an actor is to his character, the more convincing he will be. »

It’s a bit like the story of her own family that Carla Simon tells with this choral film. ” I worked with non-professional actors from the Alcarràs region who were very attached to their land. In order to embody this family as realistically as possible, I asked them to spend a lot of time together. They have passed so much that they now call each other by the name of their characters “, she says in the note of intent of the film, If in the Carla Simon’s previous film, Estiu 93, the camera married the point of view of the little orphan Frida, here, she accompanies the teenagers Roger and his sister Mariona. They both make the link between the different generations: the parents, the elders and the children and it is through them that we read the tensions which agitate the adults. They understand the issues of the moment while trying to live their teenage lives. Moving Roger in particular: right arm of his father whom he tries to protect in spite of himself, he tries organic, from tomatoes to marijuana plans hidden in corn.

In this very naturalistic film, almost documentary in certain scenes (the agricultural cooperative, the Alcarras party) there is no superfluous music, no intrusive dialogues -all the exchanges are in the Catalan language of this region-, but the whirlwind of a family life and emotions, captured by an accomplice and friendly camera.

And a question? Is there a curse of the sun as there can be a curse of oil. Will this region of Alcarras be doomed to a “monoculture of the sun”? The old people, while playing cards in the bistro, count the land sold to installers of photovoltaic panels. ” Pinyol thinks he’s king of the sun “, creaks one of them. Spain puts the package on alternative energies : solar, hydroelectric, wind… Is it still possible to save family farming in this region of Catalonia where, thanks to irrigation, since Antiquity, men have fertilized the red soil? At least it’s worth fighting for…