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Audrey of the Alps

Director's statement

Shepherds have been around for centuries since the Neolithic Ages. In recent times when people have been more interested in industrialisation and city life, and even industrial farming, shepherding has been neglected. Now, the tradition is being preserved by the French government, which supports shepherds financially.

When I met Audrey Douville I was attracted to her relationship with the wilderness; as she is not what I imagined a shepherd to be, yet in France people traditionally have a strong connection with the earth. I wanted to see more, and in my film, evoke a sense of the traditional European farming that Audrey is committed to. In order to do this I joined them on their journey and spent the whole European summer living with Audrey and her partner Maxime, on the mountain.

Audrey turns her back on a common existence in contemporary suburban France, where she was brought up, to climb mountains and watch over sheep. It sounds simple, but the job holds a lot of responsibility watching over 1700 sheep, and some goats. Audrey is undaunted, leaving behind mobile phones and computers for this peasant life in a striking environment. As the film observes Audrey’s experiences on the mountain we see the peasant emerge as she embraces the wilderness and endures a challenging job and abrasive bosses.

During the filming of Audrey of the Alps I lived with the two shepherds, in the cabins that are in the film. There is no electricity or running water, a gas stove top to cook on and limited cooking resources. We went down to town once a fortnight and bought stocks of food, I recharged my camera batteries at one of the cafes in town. Showers were taken in buckets with water heated on the stove. We lived frugally and walked abundantly.