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Gelobt sei Gott (By the Grace of God, Grâce à Dieu)
France/Belgium 2018

Opening 26 Sep 2019

Directed by: François Ozon
Writing credits: François Ozon
Principal actors: Melvil Poupaud, Denis Menochet, Swann Arlaud, François Marthouret, Bernard Verley

Forty-year-old Alexandre (Melvil Poupaud) lives in Lyon, France, with his wife and children, who remind him of his own childhood, something he has suppressed all these years. In the 1980s he experienced sexual abuse at the hand of a Catholic priest, Father Preynat (Bernard Verley), both in church and at Boy Scout camp. Learning that Preynat is still active in the church, he overcomes his original hesitation and writes to Cardinal Barbarin (François Marthouret), asking him to take action against Preynat’s crime. After much dissatisfactory communication and discussion, Alexandre finally takes takes his case to court. This publicity attracts François (Denis Ménochet), who had similar experiences with Father Preynat. He determines that they need more witnesses in the case and establishes a website, La Parole Libérée, where he collects names and descriptions from 60-70 more men. One of them is Emmanuel Thomassin (Swann Arlaud), who blames his failure to accomplish anything in life on his own experiences. Father Preynat admits to being attracted to young boys, but does not ask for forgiveness. Cardinal Barbarin does nothing, except transfer Preynat to other responsibilities within the church. Alexandre wants more than simple job relocation; he demands that the Church, all the way to Pope Francis in Rome, should publically recognize and condemn the crimes, as well as fire acknowledged pedophiles.

Director François Ozon contacted these three witnesses and they willingly shared all of their official transactions, as well as reactions from family members. It is a documentary, where actors have stepped in to tell the story in order to protect the participants. It did reach Rome and, since then, the Catholic Church has been more open when facing (and admitting) this problem. One hindrance was the statute of limitations which eliminated any crimes older than 20 years. So far, the one conviction has been contested and is still up for decision. Ozon received little help from the church, and, although much was filmed in Lyon, he had to go to Belgium and Luxemburg to film inside actual churches. Definitely see the film (winner of the Grand Jury’s Silver Bear Prize at the 2019 Berlinale Film Festival) both for the excellent actors, and also in order to be aware of an event which is not yet solved and which will occupy our news coverage for many months to come.  (Becky Tan)

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