Retrospective: Colette Piault

Colette Piault, born in Paris, received a doctorate at the Sorbonne in 1963. She has conducted fieldwork in West Africa, France and Greece. Her first film, Albertine et Dorcas, was shot in the Ivory Coast in 1966 while simultanously working on a different ethnographic project under the direction of Jean Rouch. The film Le Brouck (1972) investigates agricultural structures and economic changes in France, in the department Pas de Calais.

Several of her films focus on rural life in Greece.She started to work in a village in Epirus in 1974 and shot in 16mm a series of six films about aspects of migration from the point of view of the deserted village, trying to carefully observe the pace of the events and daily life rather than to restructure them through a commentary or other devices.

Colette Piault is presently honorary Director of Research at CNRS (Paris, France). She created the French Association for Visual Anthropology in 1985 of which she is still President. She has published several papers in French and English about her field work and visual anthropology. She created and organized an annual international research film seminar, "Looking at European Societies" between 1982 and 1992; she has worked as a lecturer at the Anthropology Department at the University of Paris X-Nanterre (1995-1998) has been a member of the selection committees for the festivals at Göttingen (1993-1996) and Nuoro since 1988.

She presented her films in universities and international film festivals in several different countries such as, Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Canada, Cyprus, Denmark, Estonia, France, Finland, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, NewZealand, Norway, Poland, Roumania, Russia, South Africa, Sweeden, Switzerland, Tunisia, United Kingdom, USA...

My Family and me, 75 min, 1986

Shot over four years, the film shows one specific aspect of migration: family relationships. Thanassakis, a 13-year-old boy, is staying with his grandparents in the Greek village of Ano Ravenia, while his parents stay with his younger brother in Zurich, Switzerland. It was filmed during three periods: winter in the village, summer in the village (while his parents, as most migrants, come back for the holidays), and Christmas in Zurich when the grandfather and the young boy visit their family. Because of the closeness which developed between the crew and the family, the documentary often resembles a fiction film; it attempts to understand the family relationships not through interviews but following and filming moments of daily life, showing their emotional family atmosphere. Only during the last shot does the filmmaker ask a question directly to a member of the family: Who is most important to the young boy – his father or grandfather? The father responds with unexpected precision.

Everyday is not a Feast day, 110 min, 1994

Every Day is Not a Feast Day is a chronicle of the daily life in Ano Ravenia, a mountain village in Greece. Although the village appears to be virtually self-sufficient, the truth is that its economical, social, and family life depends on the outer world to a great extent. Like many mountain villages, Ano Ravenia, has been progressively deserted by it most active population. The film shows the painful transformation from the holiday feasts and the temporary return of those who have left to live elsewhere to the monotony and calm of daily life. Without any commentary, the film respects the daily pace of the villagers.

Let's get married, 35 min, 1985

Eleni, who was raised in Greece but lived with her aunt Martha’s family in Martin, Tennessee met Demetrios who was living and working with his father in the Greek village of Ano Ravenia. While she was on holiday, they fell in love and married. This observational film follows this Greek-American wedding day in the manner of a home movie shot by professional filmmakers. Delimited, natural, and spontaneous, the film reveals the American influence on Greek culture through behaviors, attitudes, and language.

Thread of the Needle, 25 min, 1982

Ano Ravenia, a mountain village in Greece, young men leave to find work, learn a trade or serve in the Army while a young woman may leave her father’s house only to enter that of her husband. The unmarried girls remain in the village amoung the elderly folk, meeting together to embroider their trousseaus and chat. In a rural Greek community, it is not the role of women to express their point of view in public. The film allows the spectator to sit in one of these casual sewing sessions where the girls talk about their wishes and problems, most of which revolve around marriages that will change their lives.