What are we waiting for?

The film

Who would have thought that the star of transition towns would be a small French municipality? Believe it or not, it is Rob Hopkins himself, the founder of the Transition Network, that says so. “What are we waiting for?”  tells the story of the multiple initiatives that have allowed this small Alsatian city of 2.200 inhabitants to reduce its ecological footprint.

Ungersheim’s city council launched in 2009 a program for participative democracy, baptized “21 actions for the 21st century”, and comprising all aspects of everyday life: food, energy, transportation, housing, money, work, and schooling. The keyword of the program is “autonomy”, as it seeks to bring food production back to a local level, to promote energetic sobriety and the development of renewable energies, and to support the local economy with a complementary currency (the Radis). Since 2005, the municipality has saved 120.000 euros in operating costs, and reduced its yearly greenhouse gas emissions by 600 tons. Over a hundred jobs have been created. And all this with no increase in local taxes! So, what are we waiting for?

Filmed over four seasons during the crucial year of 2015, where the transition program was almost fully completed, the documentary first took the form of a 52’ feature screened by France 3 Alsace, titled “Sacré Village !”. This format, however, didn’t properly showcase the richness of both the filmed material and the human experience it captured. The transition initiative as a whole, promoted by the local government and sought by informed citizens, creates a powerful dynamic that grows throughout the film. To convey this civic adventure, it seemed more fitting to replace journalistic commentary with the characters’ own voices, as they speak of their own motivations, doubts and hopes.

Thus, the idea to bring Ungersheim’s exemplary case to the big screen came about. A story told by its protagonists, elected representatives as well as ordinary citizens. Jean-Sébastien, the young intendant of the municipality’s agricultural management company, who left his job as a vet in search for better, more ethical pastures. Muriel, co-owner of the new eco-hamlet, based on the BedZED model. Christophe and Lili, who converted the family farm to organic agriculture and started a new life as farmers and bread makers. Sébastien, Hayat, Céline, employed under occupational integration contracts at the Trèfle Rouge gardens. And of course, Jean-Claude Mensch and his deputy majors at the Ungersheim municipality, architects of the program articulating these different initiatives. They all deserved a film, so that their collective dynamic and their joy in putting their hands to the task would have an impact, and that, from municipalities to districts, spectators ask themselves: “What are we waiting for?”