It is a platform to deliver inspiration. This week it’s the turn of filmmaker Esther Carlin, who studied anthropology and visual art at the Australian National University.

Currently hunkering down with family in Melbourne, last year she travelled to the breathtakingly austere mountainous Cévennes region in southern France. Led there by her fascination with the work of controversial autism researcher Fernand Deligny, 30-minute dreamy doco The Time in Cévennes is the result.

A still from Esther Carlin's doco The Time in Cévennes.

A still from Esther Carlin’s doco The Time in Cévennes.

A thoughtful, meditative work, it’s lit with dappled light and rings to the tune of sheep’s bells. You can see what drew filmmakers like Agnès Varda and François Truffaut to this place. Carlin teases out a fascinating musing on the restraints of language, the ethics of Deligny’s video-led treatment, and the area’s complex socio-political history.

“Deligny came out of an intellectual space that was pushing back against the institutionalisation of people who we might think of today as neuro-diverse,” she says. “His approach was pretty ground-breaking, in the 1960s onwards, in that he thought what we needed to look at was not so much how autistic children are deficient, but more what the adults working with them didn’t have.

“Cévennes was Protestant, instead of Catholic, and they were persecuted as a result by the French state. That really informed this idea they have of themselves as being free thinkers and on the edges of what’s acceptable.”

The intellectual ramblings of her host Pierre Mourgues, a wonderfully eccentric, bearded character, become the real focus. “I just found him a very enigmatic figure,” she says.

Carlin is excited her film will be included in the Prototype Care Package. “I feel very lucky Lauren picked it up, because it’s something that takes time to watch. It’s not a five-minute film. It’s an investment. And at this time in particular, what a great thing.”

Working on the final cut, she was transported. “It feels quite present in a way, strangely, perhaps because it’s no more or less present than any place now, in a sense.”



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