A look back at the Eté culturel 2022 in the Grand Est (the «Jeunes ESTivants» feature), with the release of the eponymous film by director Bastien Simon. A quirky look at some of the tasty encounters that have occurred between artists, inhabitants and territories.


Youth ESTivants, this is the device Cultural Summer far east. In the summer of 2022, it enabled 400 artists to invest in residences in nearly 110 places in the region, mainly in rural and, for the most part, non-cultural. One of them, director Bastien Simon, filmed some of the meetings that took place that summer between artists and residents. He traveled for 50 days in a yellow vehicle «La Poste», the ten departments of the Grand Est, or 5000 km.

Road trip with improbable encounters and joyful, even painful stories, the film offers a particular look, poetic, dreamy, offbeat or absurd, which links the artists to inhabitants of rural areas. Mutual aid, openness of possibilities, sharing, the film questions the artist’s place in our current society. It presents five exciting residences, among the 115 that were organized during the summer of 2022.

Co-produced by DRAC Grand Est et Nomades

A film to discover below

(Duration 20 mn)

Jeunes ESTivants

Bastien Simon returns here for us on his adventure.

Le photographe Nicolas Serve, en résidence à l’EPHAD de Joinville (Haute-Marne)

Bastien Simon, what has been your background so far?

Director, decorator for cinema and television, and visual artist, I was born in Nancy, where I obtained a master’s degree at the Ecole Supérieure d'Art de Lorraine in Metz.  I live and work in Paris since 2012. My workshop is located in the Villa But from here in Aubervilliers.

My films oscillate between the real and the imaginary. I have made various short dramatic and social films, documentaries for television and clips that I will describe as dreamlike. In 2020 I finished my first feature documentary The Great Neighbors, the dream city (96 ).

Currently, I write with Thomas Desenne a short fantasy fiction film, The Metamorphoses (2021 SAFIRE FICTION writing residency and Grand EST 2022 writing assistance). In recent years I have also been developing a project of cut-out paper works, « The Small Theatres To date, it has nearly 150 original works. I develop an animated film and a comic strip from this universe.

And, in 2022, I realized Youth ESTivants (20 ) for the Grand Est DRAC, Stages and Territories and the Ministry of Culture. A long version of 52 entitled Great East is currently in preparation with Nomades production.

Jeunes ESTivants : film de Bastien Simon (février 2023)

What meaning do you give to your work?

My work focuses on the image, whether it emerges from a film, a drawing or a sculpture. I believe that the image helps me to understand what binds us and divides us in our society. What is the place of our singularity in the whole? How can we live in harmony in a coherent whole that accepts all differences?

As much as my older films show a kind of dramatic fatality linked to our world where everything clashes and divides, so much, today, I wish to show horizons. I want to show the beauty of the encounter, the fragility of the person, his doubts, his fears, his hopes. 

Thus, the role of the artist in our society often comes up in my films (writer in need of recognition, immigrant painter, young artists in contact with inhabitants in rural or priority area, dancer, craftsman luthier who mounts a music group with homeless...). Many of my films question margins, isolation, art as therapy or survival.

Compagnie Théâtre des opérations à la MARPA, à Vanault-les-Dames (Marne)

Has this theme been included in Youth ESTivants ?

With Jeunes Estivants, I wanted to document and present this image of the artist as a vector of social bond, an essential image during and after the 2020 health crisis. It is a mutual relationship: the artist does not exist without his audience and vice versa. 

I also made this film for those who can’t project themselves into the life of an artist. That’s why I left, at the beginning of the film, on a character a little crazy (WESH, Jean David Merhi), with the image a little cliché of the artist out of frame, see "crazy", to show then other facets of the profession, with people very anchored in the real (addiction, loneliness, fear of the future). In itself quite ordinary people, with universal doubts. I wanted to show people like you and me, sensitive, open to each other.

Do you have a particular way of approaching the shooting of a documentary?

I especially like to leave alone with my equipment and have to face what is proposed to me. You have to be reactive. On the alert all the time. Ever since my film on Great Neighbours, I developed a way to film without any real preparation for writing. This can be dangerous, but once the axes and themes are found, we let ourselves be carried away by encounters and accidents.

So when I got the call from Scenes and Territories, I didn’t hesitate to say a big yes. A quick film project to complete, with ready-to-go financing, and an allocated "carte blanche". Going on the roads alone, meeting others. What could be better?


Patience and length of time are essential to your approach...

For a documentary, I like to work on long periods. I spent two and a half years filming the construction of this ephemeral and supportive village that was Les Grands Voisins, between 2016 and 2018. For Jeunes EstivantsI spent 3 to 4 months on the roads of the Great East and its 10 departments.

I like to take the time to find the right people and trust them, which sometimes doesn’t take me a year. I try to make them feel that I will always remain respectful of them and their history. A time I didn’t have so much to Jeunes Estivants. You had to risk taking the camera out prematurely sometimes. In fact, I was beautifully received by the artists and the locals.

The soundtrack of the film is rich and worked on. Is this an important dimension for you?

The sunny, bewitching and dynamic music of Hatter Fou, an artist from the Grand Est region, immediately came to mind. For several years I had been waiting for the right moment to call on him, and my wish to take the spectator by a breathtaking rhythm, which gives hope and warmth, naturally pointed to him.

In addition, I wanted a choral film, composed of works created during the residencies of the Eté culturel. The place of music or singing is very strong in this film, because it is just as strong for the artists here present (Wesh and his electronic instruments, Agathe Charnet and Lillah Vial with the music of one of the accompanying, the Georgian songs of the company IPAC, the music of the past with the people of the MARPA). And then I wanted this film to be very "sound" (fire crackling, rain on the sheet metal of the car, cracking branches in the forest, water flowing, birds...) all the little sounds of the countryside that come back to us when we get away from the city. 

Youth ESTivants

Production DRAC Grand Est et Nomades

With the artists:

  • the musician Jean-David Merhi, known as “Wesh”, at the Brienne-le-Château music school in Aube;
  • the actresses and directors, Agathe Charnet and Lillah Vial, in the Blainville Forest (Meurthe-et-Moselle);
  • photographer Nicolas Serve, at the EPHAD in Joinville (Haute-Marne);
  • the IPAC theatre company, at the Citadelle and the Wilson Centre in Montmédy (Meuse);
  • Theatre of Operations at MARPA, a residence for seniors in Vanault-les-Dames (Marne).


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