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Tuesday 20th March 2018

French Priest Tries to Block a Film on Molested Church Victims at BFF

Media & Culture

7Dnews London

Fri, 08 Feb 2019 20:25 GMT

 A top French film director wanted to break the silence over the scandal of child abuse in the French Catholic church. Writer-director Francois Ozon decided to escalate a shameful scandal which rocked the French Catholic church, by releasing a film he has worked on in secret for years, "By the Grace of God," which premiered at the Berlin film festival, on Friday February 8th, AFP reported.

After working for years on the film, Ozon is now fighting to release the film in France, which features a priest accused of molesting more than 80 boys.

But its release is threatened by priest Bernard Preynat, who is attempting to block its showing until after his trial, which is due to be held later this year.

A lay voluntary worker for the Lyon diocese, Regine Maire, has also issued a legal challenge to have her name removed from the film.

The movie's premiere comes as Cardinal Philippe Barbarin, the archbishop of Lyon, and five others including Maire, await the verdict of a court in Lyon on charges of covering up the abuse.

Ozon, best known for "Swimming Pool" and "8 Femmes," told AFP he had hoped the tortuous series of cases would have finished by now, but the film should be shown for "the public good."

'Breaking the silence'

"When you try to break the silence, there is always resistance," he said. "I don't think this is happening by accident, because it is a film which is trying to break an omerta, or code of silence, and which deals with the silence."

The scandal first broke in 2015 when a former scout Francois Devaux went public with allegations that Preynat had abused him as a child 25 years earlier.

The director said he tried to be "as even-handed and objective as possible. It is not a film of goodies and baddies, it is much more complex than that for the affected families and the institution itself, and I tried to show that.".

Painful revelations

But with the "liberation" that comes with daring to speak about something kept hidden for so long, Ozon said 90% of the film concerns the victims. “It is their story. The rest are established facts from court documents, the press, documentaries and a book on the affair."

The film-maker hope thes victims fight for justice over a difficult subject that mainstream cinema has rarely treated beyond the Oscar-winning "Spotlight" (2015), about journalists from The Boston Globe who uncover a cover-up of sexual abuse with the Catholic Church.

Ozon said the reaction from several French bishops and senior clergy who have seen the film had been positive.

"By the Grace of God" centres on Devaux and Alexandre Dussot-Hezez, a fervent Catholic who discovers at the age of 40 that a priest who abused him is still alive and has access to children, through the church.

“I don’t know if cinema can change the world, but it can open debate, “ Ozon said.