“The idea is to see if it’s possible to consume products made only in continental France” and to make a documentary out of it. To many French, this notion will have echoes more associated with colourful Productivity Minister Arnaud Montebourg – a man who consistently calls his fellow citizens to arms in the fight against imports in order to save French jobs.
This experiment goes beyond simple consumption. According to the young man, “what interests me is not just that my products are all 100% French but that the effect on the French work force would be as significant as possible. The idea is therefore not just to acquire only products with French labels but to go for products that are manufactured in France, and changing my consumption patterns accordingly. In this period of de-industrialisation of France, the idea is to see if it’s possible to consume products made in the country, to extrapolate a snapshot of the industrial life of France from that and to bring some flesh to the bare figures of Insee!” (France’s statistical organ – the equivalent of the CSO)
The experiment will be aired in documentary form on premium-pay television company Canal+ next Spring. According to Carle, it’s “a demonstration via the absurd, which was inspired by the character in the American documentary ‘Super Size Me’, in which a man tried to live exclusively on McDonalds food.”
The young producer began his challenge last May and admits to having “modified my lifestyle and adopted a more modest consumption pattern.” But today, his Parisian apartment has a bare look about it. In fact, having verified the provenance of the contents of his home at the beginning of the experiment, “my apartment was cleared of almost everything because most of my possession were not French. Even if these goods are irreplaceable, I had to do it,” explains Benjamin Carle. Moreover, in order to bring himself more in line with the common Frenchman, he lives on the national average monthly net salary of €1,800; a sum, he says “is sufficient, even though it’s a little hard at times.”
He also had to make some sacrifices: “I had to change certain habits – for example, I haven’t drunk coffee in four months, I spend more time doing my shopping in order to check the origins of each product.”
On the advice of the Ministry of Culture, he has extended his French-only consumption to books, films and music:
“As the idea of buying French to help French jobs should not limit itself to certain sectors, I now only watch French films and I only listen to French music,” adds a bemused Carle. Although he misses his beloved Coldplay, he is finding some solace in rediscovering his love for the culture of his native land and adds that he’s now beginning the know the words of Alain Souchon by heart.