You only really see them when collecting them creates a traffic jam and you get annoyed. Who are these men and women, engaged in an endless fight against garbage and to whom we lead the hard life? Mireille Dumas followed Aldo, Vincent, Jérôme and Aïcha, garbage collectors from the City of Paris and fighters against insalubrity... We met the journalist and producer. She talks to us with passion, hindsight and intelligence about her documentary 'Des Ordures et Des Hommes'.
What was the trigger, the genesis of the documentary Garbage and Men ?
There were several starting points. The idea was to highlight the women and men who feel invisible to others, to break the clichés and the a priori on a poorly known, sometimes despised profession. Next, I wanted to paint a portrait of the city of Paris, show its entrails and its dark side… It was also about taking the pulse of society. Garbage collectors are witnesses to what is happening throughout France.
Finally, I wanted to probe our own behavior. We throw a bit of everything, anywhere, anyhow. We are very behind on selective sorting. I wanted to make this film as a mirror of our incivility and our consumption patterns. For example, food waste: there are 10 million tons of food thrown away every year, it's colossal! Sorry, I'm inexhaustible...
You who have successfully made the stars speak, you put forward here people that we do not see, or worse, that we avoid seeing. What stood out to you during these interviews?
What struck me was the spontaneity, the lucidity, the intelligence of the words, the accuracy of the words. Using simple terms, the garbage collectors we met describe complex things. They speak with dignity and pride of their profession. There is no misery, no complaint. Unloved, despised, they are not revengeful. They take it with resignation, sometimes a little anger, but never aggressively. These garbage collectors are also incredibly humane in the face of human distress. They let people in need go and collect things from the market...
'We must be proud of our garbage collectors who do an essential job!'
There is indeed a strong social dimension in the tasks devolved to the Functional...
The Functional was created in 1982 by Jacques Chirac. It brings together 500 people who intervene day and night, 24 hours a day. Garbage collectors maintain wild camps. They intervene to clear migrant camps evacuated by the police, find themselves in public squats or underground with the homeless, drug addicts... They have to maintain to prevent diseases from spreading.
And there is in everyone, a feeling of feeling useful by the work accomplished, and at the same time, an embarrassment to exercise this discredited profession. The youngest talk about the impact on their love life…
A garbage collector who was a pastry chef says that it's easier to seduce with cakes than garbage cans. This job is seen as shameful and dirty while those who practice it keep our cities clean. Without them, the rats get involved... We must be proud of our garbage collectors who do a difficult, important, even essential job!
You accompany them on a daily basis in the dirt, the excrement... However, as a spectator, you don't feel any disgust, no smell. This documentary is a beautiful object of cinema.
It's hard enough to clean up your own trash, then other people's trash! We wanted to show the harshness of their daily life, the truck, the insults, the physical hardship, everything they got stuck in the face… but to highlight these heroes. When they discovered this film, they became spectators of themselves and said to me: ' I would so much like my father to see me, to hear me say that …'. It moved me to tears. When you go very far in the intimate, in the lived experience, in the personal, you touch the universal.
'It's garbage collector rather than unemployed'
By their background, their education, their level of diploma, these garbage collectors are not the same as 50 years ago. The profession has changed, its practice has changed… yet there are still just as few women.
Before, garbage collectors were immigrants. Today, they are often born in France, raised in France. Because of the economic crisis, many have chosen the civil service for job security: stability and guaranteed salary. It's garbage collector rather than unemployed. Bac +2 become garbage collectors... It is also about retraining: some were pastry chefs, soldiers, cashiers, farmers... Xavier is a former driving instructor, Aïcha was a fast food manager … Over the past fifteen years, the profession has nevertheless become more feminized. They are 5 women out of 500 men at the Functional and 5 to 6% of women among garbage collectors in general.
Women, confined to domestic tasks, chores within the home, remain a minority among cleaning agents in public spaces...
This is paradoxical. The man who holds a broom can feel devalued in people's eyes, affected in his virility. A woman cleaning outside, we will feel sorry for her fate...or find it normal! This refers to the role that has been assigned to women: they are there to do the housework... Moreover, it is a real constraint in practice, a very trying activity: you have to carry vacuum cleaners, blowers on your back, working hours in the heat or in the cold, day and night... A brigade intervenes on the peripherals but there is nothing, no toilets for women, no convenience... It may not be not so feminist to want female garbage collectors!
Watch the documentary Garbage and Men, images by Damien Vercaemer, a film directed and produced by Mireille Dumas , in the Infrared box, on France 2 February 11, 2020 at 11:10 p.m.
Available 1 month replay on: https://www.france.tv/france-2/replay-videos/
On LCP March 12, 2020'Garbage and CS Men'Source journaldesfemmes.fr