Occitan: A Language Under the Guillotine 38:00, 2001 (Ref: EU01818)



Of the more than 6,000 languages in the world, 3,000 are in danger of extinction. Sadly there are several languages in Europe whose very existence is threatened. Occitan, a language spoken in a few pockets of southern France and heir to a rich literary tradition, is one of them. In this documentary we show how France’s government is doing its utmost to kill the language: outlawing its use in government offices, preventing its use in schools, ridiculing those who speak it and making French a job requirement. This policy has taken Occitan from a living language to the brink of oblivion in just three generations. Occitanie has never been an independent country and France has never given it the status of administrative region. It occupies one third of France, but only 3 million of the 14 million people living there speak the language. It also stretches into 12 Alpine valleys of Italy’s Piedmont region, with a population of 180,000. Occitan was once the leading European language in poetic literature, the language of the troubadours. But eight centuries later, it has virtually succumbed before the onslaught of French.

Today, however, there is a fledgling movement which aims to reverse this decline. It can be seen in universities, in schools, in the arts, in the determination of young people to use the language of their grandparents, in the creation of Occitan media and especially in music. This film is a portrait of a linguistic minority’s fight for survival. The question put forth in this report is: will the United State of Europe finally become a reality or will there be a rise in the unification of cross-border regions based on cultural and linguistic ties? Will non-official languages tend to die out or in a Europe rich in diversity will people from Alicante to Turin and from the Balearic Islands to Bordeaux communicate in the same tongue?