The anniversary of the Battle of Poitiers (even if the exact date is disputed) is the occasion to evoke a documentary produced in 2012 by Robert Genoud, and broadcast on France 3 Poitou Charentes in April 2013. Far from the docu-fictions at fashion, or old-fashioned images of Epinal, further still documentaries claiming to reestablish the truth on taboo subjects, " Our ancestors the Saracens Is a fascinating look at a historical event and its consequences until today. The evocation, not only of a battle, but of an encounter.
The view of historians on the battle of Poitiers
While a famous actor resituates the battle in the fantasized clash of civilizations centuries between Islam and Christianity, Robert Genoud gives the floor to two historians specializing in the period and medieval Islam: Philippe Sénac and Françoise Micheau. Both perfectly explain the context of the battle, and above all put its importance into perspective: it was probably only a raid, and above all the battle was not as decisive as one might think since others have followed in the following years, and that the Arabs did not leave Narbonne until twenty years after Poitiers ...
Their interventions are interspersed with interventions by teachers and guides taking us to different places that witness the Arab presence, from Narbonne to Moussais-la-Bataille (presumed place of the battle) to the surroundings of Garde-Freinet. Because the documentary also questions the possible persistence of a Saracen presence in the south of France, and especially the consequences today of the posterity of Poitiers.
The battle of Poitiers today
It is when the documentary questions the consequences of the Battle of Poitiers, and even more so of its political use, that it truly stands out from other historical programs. Thanks to the gaze of historian Karine Larissa Basset, but also that of the inhabitants of Chatellerault, we learn that if the battle had consequences today, it is on the view that France has on its Muslim community, and more so in the region where the confrontation would have taken place. Through very diverse testimonies, from families, animators, high school students, practicing Muslims, and even from the rapper Medina (passing through for the shooting of a clip), Robert Genoud shows how the "construction" of importance of this battle (from Saint Louis, but especially from 1830, at the time of the colonization of Algeria) has a significant impact, until today, in the view that we can have on the French Muslims , and in particular in the construction of stereotypes and prejudices, the first steps towards discrimination. It is no coincidence that, as the documentary shows, the site of the battle is regularly the object of recovery by the extreme right.
"Our ancestors the Saracens" is a documentary to discover absolutely, for its historical interest (the interventions of Françoise Micheau, Karine Larissa Basset and Philippe Sénac are fascinating), and even more for the way in which it explains the public uses of the history and the importance of the latter in our contemporary relationships.
- “Our ancestors the Saracens”, by Robert Genoud, production Yves Billon, Zaradoc, France 3, duration: 52 minutes.