Arts and Entertainment
Film about clerical child abuse opens in French cinemas
A film about child sexual abuse by Catholic priests with certain scenes so sensitive that they had to be shot abroad, has finally opened in French cinemas amid controversy surrounding the country’s biggest church abuse scandal, the media reported on Saturday.
“By the Grace of God”, made by acclaimed French director Francois Ozon, received the Silver Bear jury prize at the Berlin film festival last week, the Guardian reported.
Ozon, best known for his colourful French farces and disorientating thrillers, said he wanted to tackle one of society’s darkest moments in order to ensure that clerical child abuse is “punished and never repeated”.
The film deals with the devastating effect on the family lives of a group of men in their 40s who were sexually abused as boy scouts by a priest in Lyon in the 1980s and 1990s and who fought to bring a case to court.
It is the most-high profile dramatisation of the alleged cover-up of clerical sexual abuse since the Oscar-winning “Spotlight”, set in Boston, was released in 2015.
Ozon’s film has been released just as judges are due to deliver a verdict in a first trial related to the scandal.
Cardinal Philippe Barbarin, the archbishop of Lyon, was tried last month with five members of his diocese on charges of covering up and failing to report the abuse of scouts by the priest Bernard Preynat several decades ago.
Barbarin is the highest profile Catholic cleric in France to become embroiled in a child abuse court case. A staunch conservative, he became a household name with his opposition to France’s legalisation of same-sex marriage in 2013. He denies trying to cover up or hide abuse.
The film’s title, “By the Grace of God”, comes from a now legendary press conference given by Barbarin in 2016 when he shocked France by giving thanks to the lord that alleged abuse dated back too far to be brought to court.
All the interior scenes inside churches were shot in Belgium and Luxembourg to avoid Ozon having to seek permission from Barbarin himself to shoot in Lyon.
“When you try to break the silence, there is always resistance,” Ozon said. “I don’t think this is happening by accident, because it is a film which is trying to break an omerta, and which deals with the silence.”
Ozon based his story on several members of the survivors’ group, La Parole Liberee, which has gathered the testimonies of 85 people who claim to have been abused by Preynat in Lyon.