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Le Semeur (The Sower)
A portrait of artist and seed producer Patrice Fortier, who dedicates his passion and expertise to preserving plant biodiversity.
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Le Semeur (The Sower)

Running Time
77 minutes

Le Semeur (The Sower)

A portrait of artist and seed producer Patrice Fortier, who dedicates his passion and expertise to preserving plant biodiversity.He likes beets, especially hardy varieties that can stand up to a strong wind. He admires independence in a plant. He looks over his carrots with the same patience and meticulousness as he harvests seeds from his squash. Sometimes, he dreams about a certain cherry tree whose genetic legacy he wants to preserve and spread. Not to mention his pride in his Polish rutabagas. Patrice Fortier isn’t crazy, he’s just seriously passionate about his work. Living on his company farm, La société des plantes, in the Kamouraska Valley, he is preserving and propagating rare and forgotten seeds in order to restore vitality and variety to our agricultural heritage. Directed by Julie Perron with uncommon elegance and assurance, Le Semeur gives us a fascinating taste of Fortier’s intensely lived days.

Filmmaker Notes:

In shooting this film, what interested me beyond the cinematic and metaphorical potentials of the garden — a microcosm of the world — was the notion of safeguarding plant biodiversity, seen through the actions of one person who had taken up the gauntlet with gusto. Patrice Fortier, a man with many dreams, is a sower of ideas. I entered his world with interest and respect, gradually getting to know it through the seasons. My film presents him as an archetype, an everyday hero living in synergy with his “plant creatures.” To bring Fortier and his world to the screen, I drew on the Quebec tradition of direct cinema. I set out to point up both the devotional and heritage aspects to his work by carefully documenting each stage through the changing seasons. In bygone days, farmers planted the seeds produced by their crops — an age-old practice that’s dwindling in today’s world, where life itself is subject to patent. In celebrating the work of one seed producer and bringing it into the present context, I hope to underscore the fact that, these days, replanting seeds is an act of resistance.I approached the subject as a series of tableaux, maximizing the effect of a tripod and static shots. Lengthy consideration was given to framing, light and colour, to meticulously selecting camera angles that would highlight the relationship between one man and nature. I wanted viewers to be infused with the beauty of the garden, moved by its magnificence. For inspiration, I looked to works on canvas by the great masters. Indeed, the film’s title refers to the celebrated work by Jean-François Millet (1851), a painting later reworked by Van Gogh (1889). Sound design was another pivotal concern, with a particular focus on capturing the sounds of silence. The soundtrack blends the murmurs of nature — wind, fire, earth, seeds — with subtle tones of flute and violin to pay tribute to Fortier’s world and its specific soundscape. As well as the painstaking craft of the seed producer, the film captures the sweet madness of the artist and his exuberance. Fortier transforms his crops into works of art that prompt reflection on selection and botanical heritage. Integrated organically into the scenario, his art and “follies” play an important role.My collaborators and I crafted this film with joy, poetic license and scrupulous attention to detail. My process and that of the seed producer are both lengthy, patient endeavours: bringing this film to fruition took four years, the same amount of time needed to save a rare or forgotten variety . . .

Film details
Year(s) screened
  • 2014
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