The Barbarians


Over the past 15 years, Jean-Gabriel Périot has perfected an innovative approach to filmmaking by focusing on the editing of moving images and photographs culled from archival sources, which constitute the raw material for his short films.

Périot's work is distinguished by an intense, emotional approach to contemporary and historical themes, which he describes as "political" in the profound sense of this term. He is not concerned with any particular form of militancy, but rather probes an essential question: How can real change be instigated in the context of social turbulence, and by what methods?

Périot's cinematic essay opens with a series of still shots from geopolitical summit meetings and conferences - a slow montage of static portraits featuring world leaders and public figures. Gradually, these images are replaced by images of ordinary citizens posing for group shots at weddings, academic ceremonies, and other events in the sphere of everyday life. The film speeds up to the point that the individual images merge with one another. They become interspersed with scenes of civil unrest, which feature individuals striking out against the authorities and their representative institutions in conflict-ridden contexts worldwide. As these scenes take over the screen, the film slows down again so that we may observe each individual image.

By contrasting institutional images of families, high-school students, and sports teams with pictures of individuals demonstrating in the streets, the film addresses the decision we must take if we want to express our civil discontent: since combating powerful institutions has become complicated to the point that we have lost our faith in the system, the only remaining form of resistance is the one performed by the demonstrators in the film.

The message conveyed by Périot's work is both disturbing and intriguing. Building on media images, he exposes the underlying message conveyed by political institutions, which we usually try to ignore: if we do not comply with the system, we will become barbarians. Périot, by contrast, argues that instigating change involves taking actions that border on breaking civilized codes.

The film ends with a statement by the French philosopher Alain Brossat: "If the political is to return, it can only do so from its savage and disreputable fringe. Then, a muffled noise shall arise, growing until a roar is heard: ‘We are scum! We are barbarians.'"


Herzliya museum
September 2013