June 25, 2019
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"By the Grace of God": a true story of sexual abuse within the French Church

By Alicia G.Arribas

Madrid, Apr. 8 (efe-epa).- "Grâce à Dieu" ("By the Grace of Good") a controversial and award-winning film based on true accounts of sexual abuse within the French Catholic clergy is a narrative that unfolds from the point of view of the victims, its director said Monday.

The film was originally designed to be a documentary but François Ozon opted for fiction to tell this still-developing story of the abuse victims of Priest Bernard Preynat.

At the time of the assaults, Preynat officiated under the archbishop of Lyon Cardinal Phillippe Barbarin, who has since been found guilty of silencing the controversy.

"I wanted to talk from the point of view of the victims," Ozon told EFE.

"With regards the Church I simply discuss events that, on the other hand, were very well known in France, the 'thanks to God,' that Barbarin said at a press conference during which he exonerated himself of the crimes, which had received much media coverage, because they had expired," Ozon added.

The ruling of the court case surprised many when the verdict was that the statute of limitations had expired on some charges.

The director was very certain from the beginning of the project that the victims would be the angle for his movie.

The movie tells one of the most talked about accounts of pedophilia in the French Catholic Church, involving over 60 children who reported the abuse during the 1980s and 90s when they were boy scouts under Preynat, although accusations date back to the 1970s.

Preynat has admitted to molesting children but is still awaiting a date for his trial.

Last month, Barbarin was found guilty of covering up Preynat's sexual abuse and was handed a six month suspended sentence, which he will not serve unless he re-offends, for failing to report the accusations.

It did, however, lead to his resignation, which Ozon, highlighted, "the Pope did not accept."

"I do not establish a hierarchy of suffering, but I am of the opinion that these men who were abused in their childhood are a ticking timebomb, because when they suffered the problem they didn't understand it, they couldn't verbalize what was happening to them, not even their parents realized what was happening to them," he continued.

This is the first time Ozon chose to use a topical story that was based entirely on true facts.

It was also a first for the director of the mystery movie "In the House" (2012) to park his usually ironic and sharp style in favor of offering an almost clinical account of the horrors he denounces in the film but never shows.

He said he decided against graphic images of abuse after meeting the true characters the movie was based on.

"I have a lot less distance with them than with the characters of some of my other movies," he added.

The film is structured like a relay of accounts which opens with Alexandre (Melvil Poupaud), a practicing Catholic who is a father of five and who at the age of 40 sees a photo of the priest, who abused of him as a child, surrounded by children.

Menochet, a ruddy looking man, told Efe that even though he, and his character, look like they have "few friends," he is also fragile.

"All humans carry it within (fragility), but this thematic almost required it," he continued, adding that it was "François's gaze that directed me towards that frailty."

"When people talk of pedophilia we do not empathize with the victims," Menochet said.

He hoped that this movie would help with this.

"I think it is a magnificent film, and necessary for society thanks also to the door it has opened within the very Chruch," he added.

"Grâce à Dieu" was awarded the Silver Bear Grand Jury Prize at the prestigious Berlinale movie festival in 2019 and is set for release worldwide in April. EFE-epa

aga/ch/rb

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