Thousands of fans gather every year at strategic points along the route of the Tour de France, the world’s most famous cycle race. Last year director Méryl Fortunat-Rossi and his colleague Valéry Rosier joined them. “We’re both big fans of the Tour de France, even though mostly we watch it on TV and fall asleep,” Fortunat-Rossi said at the start of a Q&A following a screening of his debut documentary Holy Tour.
In the humorous film the pair don’t follow the cyclists but their fans. “They’re all pensioners who worked hard to afford a caravan. Perhaps the fact they’ve experienced hard work is why they like the Tour de France, which in my artistic milieu is regarded more as a kind of folk entertainment,” the director said. While shooting he came to understand why people are willing to spend 12 days camped out by the route. “It’s better to watch the actual race on television. But at the place itself a community grows up. These people have a constant smile on their faces – that’s why I like them so much.”
Though most fans do their best to be seen in live broadcasts of the race, it wasn’t easy persuading them to take part in the film. “That fact we’re showing them now on the big screen in Prague just isn’t the same for them. It cost us a lot of bottles of wine and sausages. And it helped that I speak a lot and I’m open. Also we had very small cameras, so people often didn’t realise we were shooting,” said Fortunat-Rossi. The authenticity of the Docs section film was attested to by a Czech fan who himself travels to watch the Tour. “Maybe we’ll see you next time!” the director told him.