ARTE – WEDNESDAY, JUNE 7 AT 11:10 P.M. – DOCUMENTARY
In the beginning, François Ozon wanted to make his film Thanks to God (2018) a documentary. His remarks came back to the decision taken, in 2015, by victims of touching and rape committed by Father Preynat, during scout camps in the Lyon region, from 1970 to 1991, to file a complaint before the courts.
After meeting the victims, François Ozon heard himself answer from those who had already told their story a lot to the television cameras: “Another doc! » The director, Catholic, catechized and who says he is always sensitive to priestly decorum, then turns to a fiction film. Thanks to God retains some of the names of the protagonists of the affair, but Ozon confides that he had to do “the mourning of real people”.
That’s what the documentary is about Once upon a time… “Thank God” (2023), by Claire Duguet, with the assistance of two plaintiffs, Alexandre Hezez, by whom the omerta was broken, and François Devaux, the first victim whose case is not time-barred, as well as the director, the producer of film, three of its actors (Swann Arlaud, Denis Ménochet and Melvil Poupaud) and Jean-Marc Sauvé, president of the Independent Commission on Sexual Abuse in the Catholic Church.
These testimonies, supplemented by extracts from the film (broadcast by Arte in the first part of the evening), agree that the fault lies, basically, less with Father Preynat, who willingly admitted the facts, than with those who maintained the non-denunciation within the Lyon archdiocese, including the cardinal and archbishop Philippe Barbarin, convicted at first instance for “non-denunciation of sexual assaults on minors”, but released on appeal.
“The nuisance of the father in general”
Melvil Poupaud, who plays Alexandre Hezez on screen, sees a kind of ” assignment “ in Ozon’s decision to shoot a fictional film on this subject, and agrees that his own faith “could fuel the character of Alexander”. “Even if I didn’t experience that, thank God”he said.
François Ozon, whose feature films are distinguished by a variety of styles and subjects, notes however that “the patriarchy within the Catholic Church can recall the nuisance of the father in general, which I have been able to show in other films”. And he admits having resolutely placed himself on the side of the victims. What, he adds, could be reproached to him.
Claire Duguet’s film, serious and documented, is part of the same perspective and lacks a third and non-partisan perspective that would allow us to better grasp the issues of a fiction based on real facts. Pascale Robert-Diard put it this way in The world : if Ozon’s film serves “the legitimate public interest in the true story of the former scouts (…)their fight to have the guilt of Bernard Preynat recognized and to denounce the silence of the Church”he makes liberal use of “the freedom that fiction gives him to create scenes, dialogues, and to lend feelings or attitudes to his characters”.
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