Agnès Varda: Life is Art ACMI Presents

The Gleaners and I

G Scroll to content

“Charged with the pleasure of discovery”

Kevin Thomas, Los Angeles Times

At the turn of the century, Agnès Varda moved into digital filmmaking with the lightweight technology offering a new freedom to document her curious wanderings. Inspired by Jean-François Millet's classic painting 'Les glaneuses', Varda focuses her camcorder on modern day gleaners of all varieties to craft her multi-award winning film.

Gleaning is a long-standing form of 'rural welfare', whereby local commoners were allowed to collect leftover crops after the annual grain and orchid harvests. In modern times, the practice continues in fields and oyster beds across France, while in urban centres, gleaners can be found diving into supermarket dumpsters, at city markets and salvaging televisions, fridges, furniture, or what the French term as 'ownerless things'.

Varda traverses the French countryside and her hometown of Paris to seek out the gleaners at work. From jolly groups of oyster hunters to people existing on the very fringes of society, The Gleaners and I allows the audience to come face to face with people that are all too often invisible in our society. However, it is Varda's unique ability to frame her subjects with genuine interest that brings an enormous depth of humanity and political charge to the film.

Official Selection - Cannes Film Festival (2000)