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Story behind the story

A 3-Generation Affair

The inspiration for The Last Link came from the Pyrénées Mountains of Southern France.  From the first time I saw them rising up across the horizon, I have been awed by them.  Perhaps it is their massiveness, their power, their timelessness; perhaps it is their ever-changing façade—one moment an etched frieze under an indigo sky, the next moment an undulating carpet of alternating patterns of moving clouds and shafts of light.  They are, in all their dimensions, truly magnificent.

In 1964-65, as a French major in college, I spent my junior year in southern France and grew to know the steep mountain valleys and the rich shepherding culture that gave life to the Pyrénées’ hillsides.  I was eager to introduce this world to my father, an author, who was traveling through France to Catalonia in Spain, the birthplace of Pablo Casals, with whom he was collaborating on a book.  Like I, he fell immediately under the spell of the peaks that reflected the beauty of a proud and passionate people living at their foot—rugged and strong, with wisdom acquired from the land.  He vowed to return to research this culture for a book but died before this was possible.

Later, in my 20’s, my wife and I spent the summer photographing, interviewing and working with the shepherds and their families in the Vallée d"Ossau, Béarn, in an effort to capture an aging agrarian community founded on hard work, tradition, family, and respect for land, animals and community.  Time passed, children were born and other work unfortunately delayed our project.  Little did we realize that, 36 years later, we would build on my father’s dream and act on my passion for this region and its people by making a film on French shepherds (Basque and Béarnais) who had emigrated to the American West and become part of the extraordinarily diverse tapestry of human experience.  And even further from our imagination was that our son, Ben, a film director, at approximately the same age I was when I introduced my father to this region, would give us a precious gift in his interpretation of this tapestry through the creation of the film.

Looking back at the series of events and experiences that have led us to the point where we are now, I can see that this project did not just "happen."  At a Basque festival some twenty years ago, I was chosen out of 1,200 people to be presented with a hand-carved ceremonial shepherd’s staff—a makila—with the charge to keep this culture alive.  Two years ago, our discovery of Pete, the 83-year-old sheep rancher, part of a dwindling Basque enclave in Buffalo, Wyoming, brought life to this mission.  With the decline of the sheep industry, the concern in Buffalo about the demise of their culture was on everyone’s mind.  It was been my greatest joy to honor the spirit of my father by immortalizing this centuries’-old tradition and to witness my father’s spirit take hold in Ben.  
-Tim Kahn, Executive Producer

Tim Kahn with Jean Chourée, 1974

Fran Kahn with shepherd Joseph Anglagrais, 1974

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