Documentary Filmmaking and Scientific Journalism



Los Ciutadins DirectorChristine Clar
Director of PhotographyUli Schmidt, bvk
EditorChristine Clar
ProductionChristine Clar & Uli Schmidt
Length79 min
SubtitlesGerman, English
Location28.9.-4.10.2006 in the Cité de Carcassonne and surrounding areas
LanguagesFrench, Occitan
WithThe Citadins – especially Jean-Claude Loupia, Guy Blanc and his daughters Nathalie and Stéphanie, Tony Espanol, Gérard Rajol, Lulu Vidal, Elia Cousteau; Jean-Pierre Piniès and Christiane Amiel; Les Baladins; Jean-François Albert; Claude Grandjean Jean-Louis Bergnes, and many others…


The medieval Cité de Carcassonne is a place full of history, stories and traditions, attracting visitors from around the world. But it is this very fact that has made it difficult to maintain the city not only as a monument of history, but also as a place where traditions can stay alive. Over the years, citizens from the fortified city moved out of the narrow houses and tiny streets into more comfortable abodes outside the city walls. At the same time, the tourist invasion began, and the place began to be flooded with souvenir shops, cafés and restaurants, making it uncomfortable for even more of the original citizens and pushing more and more of them out, so that in the end the place has become more like a museum than a place where people really live and maintain a social life.

But still exist, the former residents of the Cité de Carcassonne, or ciutadins in Occitan. They are proud of the place where they grew up, of its history and traditions, and look back with nostalgia on the times when the city was bustling with life, community, neighbourhood. And they are keen to maintain at least one of its traditions.

And that is the “Tour de l’Âne” (donkey’s walk). The tradition goes back to the middle ages and used to take place on the feast day of the patron saint of the city, Saint Nazaire, in the summer. Those celebrations do not take place any more, and the Tour de l’Âne, which is basically a carnival, was moved into autumn. The last groom of the year is paraded around the city, sitting on a donkey. He is holding a stick with a pair of horns (as a warning?) from which are dangling various vegetables with obvious sexual connotations (carrots, aubergines, leek, onions…). He was followed by the costumed ciutadins who are singing and dancing and are trying to involve the spectators in the proceedings, especially by getting young girls to kiss the donkey.

As a matter of fact, the Tour de l'Âne had been doomed – due to the exodus of the inhabitants of the Cité the last Tour de l’Âne took place in 1977. But the end of the 1990s, a couple of ethnologists came to do research on life in historic monuments, using Carcassonne as an example, and rediscovered the Tour de l’Âne. They started collecting photos and stories from the former ciutadins and all this rekindled the old enthusiasm – Why not try it again, the Tour de l’Âne? So the festival was revived and has been taking place yearly ever since.

But – for how long? Since there is no real community life in the Cité any more? The old community celebrations depended on an integration of old and young – and the former citadins are growing older and older and their children and grand-children have little interest in the old traditions.

The film paints a picture of the Tour de l’Âne as it exists today and of the characters involved. At the same time it explores the deeper issues of the attempt of keeping traditions alive in the face of the death of community life at a historic site. We talked to the former ciutadins about their experience of life in the Cité and of the Tour de l'Âne, we explored historic issues with the ethnologists, we met some of the old ladies who still live in the Cité, we asked some of the shop owners and tourists about their opinion, and we visited the Calandreta primary school in the Cité where the children learn the Occitan language and a respect for traditions. There is anger, sadness, resignation, nostalgia, joy and hope – and above all the love for this city, which they all have.

Los Ciutadins

Trailer (OV - engl. Subt.)