The Valley Rebels: Meet Cédric Herrou, a farmer defying the law to ease the path of refugees across Europe. Some see him as heroic, others want him prosecuted. Herrou simply sees it as his duty to offer assistance.

Cédric Herrou is a farmer who supports and houses African refugees in the alpine village of Breil-Sur-Roya in southern France. Some regard him as a heroic good samaritan, but others – including the French border police and state prosecutor – denounce him as the leader of a band of smugglers, bringing migrants from Italy into France while flouting official border controls. As Cedric moves from one prosecution to another, why do he and his fellow activists feel compelled to defy the authorities?

Herrou’s olive farm lies in a picturesque valley on France’s Italian border near a popular route for refugees trying to slip past border controls. Since the French government tightened security along the coastal route into France, refugees began climbing up the valley seeking a new route in, appearing suddenly on the sides of roads or in local villages. Since then, Cédric’s farm has become home to an unofficial camp for an ever-changing set of young refugees and who climb up the valley where he lives.

Cedric and the other activists are defiant. They say they are upholding French and international law, whereas the authorities are violating it, especially where it concerns child refugees.

Yet with multiple prosecutions coming Cédric’s way, and the political atmosphere in France veering towards the extreme right, is Cedric fighting a losing battle? The activities of Cédric and the other residents of the valley offer a microcosm of the conflicted relationship of French citizens with the influx of refugees into France and Europe.

The Valley Rebels | Key Credits:

Director, Producer, Editor: Spencer Wolff
Producer and Editor: Ben Lenzner
Executive producers for the Guardian: Charlie Phillips and Lindsay Poulton
Commissioned by the Guardian and the Filmmaker Fund