Alsace: Babul TV, television in Alsatian on the internet

Rund Um. Since the end of 2021, Babul TV has been offering videos on social networks: very personal discussions with known Alsatians, in dialect – with rare exceptions. Because the trio of volunteers, initiator of the project, wants to contribute to the preservation of the Alsatian language.

“Babul” is an untranslatable Alsatian word, close to the verb “bàbble” (“to speak”, “to chat”, to chat”). Its meaning can be related to “parlotte”, “elocution” or “chatter”.

But the nuances are more subtle, as indicated by the expressions “Dü hesch ààwer a Babul” (“You have one hell of a babul”) or “Halt dini Babul” (“Arrête ta Babul” – which expresses something like “Buckle it”).

And all this palette of meaning flourishes in Babul TV’s broadcasts. Talk shows (but we could also say discussions, confidences or casual chatter), with Alsatian personalities.

Programs where you take your time, from twenty minutes to almost forty. Each offers an intimate moment, during which the guest, placed in total confidence, opens up. Serious, deep, humorous, true. Where even tears sometimes flow.

Behind the scenes, Babul TV is three friends, young retirees. “We could call it the TV of the Three Barbus” suggests, hilarious, Marc Boutonnet, the instigator of the project.

This former photographer provides all his equipment for image, sound and editing. During filming, he directs operations and supervises two of the three cameras.

His accomplice Raymond Piela films with the third camera, and takes care of the sound recording. Pierre Heintzelmann, the only face to appear in the videos, conducts the interviews.

The guest is contacted well in advance. If possible, the complete trio will meet him, at his place, “over a glass of wine” says Pierre Heintzelmann.

The preliminary exchange can last a whole afternoon. From there, the interviewer selects the themes and anecdotes that seem interesting to him for the interview, and prepares his questions accordingly. “Personally, I don’t really like improvisation” he acknowledges.

The final result, very neat, gives an impression of great fluidity, in a single take, with questions and answers that follow one another logically. But the reality of filming is quite different.

Chez Huguette Dreikauswe filmed almost 2 hours 30″ says Marc Boutonnet. “At others, it was even longer. We take all our time, to give the person the opportunity to confide.” Knowing that afterwards, during editing, drastic choices will have to be made.

The goal is that the person being filmed no longer thinks at all about the presence of the cameras. “Sometimes there are surprises, when people forget that they are recorded” smiles Raymond Piela. “They speak so freely that they say things that you then have to cut.”

From time to time, when speaking is truly free, moments of intense emotion also emerge, which leave a deep mark on the small team.

In form, no constraint. Some guests react from photos they have pre-selected. Others sing songs, or recount their memories in emblematic places.

For an optimal rendering, at the end of the interview, Pierre Heintzelmann repeats his questions several more times, so that they can still be filmed in various frame values.

“It’s really hard work,” he says. “Selecting the right questions, finding how to formulate them (…) And during the shots, we start over three, four, even ten times.”

For the editing, Marc Boutonnet takes charge, in the small studio he has set up in his own house. “I’m doing a pre-edit” he specifies. “I spend three to five days there, three hours in the morning, then in the evening, when I have insomnia.”

“It goes slowly until I’m satisfied”both in form and substance: “That the assembly of images be correct, and the subject coherent, without giving the impression that we are jumping from one theme to another.”

“Afterwards, I phone Raymond, so that we can watch together, that we throw sequences or that we add images that I had not kept.” An equally time-consuming activity “until Raymond and I agree” on the final version which will be posted online.

But, with a sparkling look, his sidekick, who came for the editing of a new program with the singer René Egles, denies: “Regarding the editing, Marc is the boss, and I have nothing to say. I’m just an executor (a Hàndlànger)”.

For now, only about ten videos are online. In fact, Babul TV was only created last October, and the rate of production is one additional show approximately every fortnight.

The first guests are mainly from the Bas-Rhin artistic milieu. “We started by asking people we knew” acknowledges Raymond Piela: Roland Engel, ScholleIsabelle Grussenmeyer… to see what could be done.”

They would now like to diversify their cast, and would also like to contact Haut-Rhinois. But they hesitate to go too far, so as not to incur too many expenses, because all their work is voluntary, and they receive no subsidy.

“We are not paid, but we have fun” summarizes Raymond Piela, who nevertheless gives an even deeper meaning to their commitment.

“I have invested my whole life in Alsatian culture” he specifies. “And there, it is a form of continuity. Because there are few media where we practice the dialect.”

“However, a language is alive like an apple tree that still bears apples. As long as we can make songs, plays, videos of it, it stays alive. And who knows, in a century, people may bring out our old shows, and realize that in our time, we still spoke Alsatian.

Apart “hand out a lot of business cards”, the Babul TV team does not advertise its product. The shows are launched on the web like a bottle in the sea.

Hoping that “word of mouth” will do the rest. “And the people we’ve already interviewed. It all depends on the shares” believes Marc Boutonnet.

Small precision: to find Babul TV on social networks, do not forget to add the term “Alsace”. Because on the internet, there is another Babul TV. But this one is produced… in India.

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Alsace: Babul TV, television in Alsatian on the internet


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