‘Proud’: Episodes of the long march for LGBTQ rights in France
From left, Frédéric Pierrot, Emmanuelle Bercot and Benjamin Voisin

Timed for release during LGBTQ Pride Month, the 2018 French “episodic cinema” Proud (Fiertés in French) is now available for a wider viewing in the United States opening on June 19 in virtual cinema in select cities though Kino Marquee.

Proud consists of three episodes, each about 50 minutes in duration, focusing on the evolution of a French family across three generations spanning the years from 1981 to 2013. Each episode features a crucial moment for LGBTQ rights. In 1981 France almost decriminalized homosexuality, and did so after the next national election cycle; in 1999 established legal civil unions; and in 2013 affirmed the right to same-gender marriage.

The series is directed by Philippe Faucon, the César Award-winning director of Fatima, the sympathetic story of a North African immigrant in France. Clearly Faucon is accustomed to the theme of the “outsider” in French society. Proud is in French with English subtitles.

The French title Fiertés is in the plural, which is not reflected in English. Faucon’s idea is that it’s not just about LGBTQ “pride” but also the not so attractive quality of pride expressed in  egotism, stubbornness, intolerance, ignorance, and judgmental, sometimes unconscious discrimination. Perhaps a more accurate translation of the title would be “Proud People.” Pride is, after all, one of the Church’s seven deadly sins, or capital vices, which in at least nominally a Roman Catholic country, French viewers would know. Father Charles, son Victor, and grandson Diego, all show similar character traits as through the decades they fine-tune their relationships with the larger society and with one another. Society changes, and so do they.

Charles is played through by Frédéric Pierrot, the 17-and-18-year-old Victor by Benjamin Voisin, the adult Victor by Samuel Theis, and the adopted son Diego by Julien Lopez.

In such a short story (well, 145 minutes complete), there is also time to explore a number of racial and ethnic issues involving Arab immigrants, and their children and families. Parental disapproval of their kids’ homosexuality seemed to be pretty universal in those times across ethnic and religious lines. As the Arab immigrant father Sofiane, Hafid Djemaï turns in an especially strong performance. The story coincides with the AIDS years, and that theme figures into the story as well.

It’s significant that such “proud people” in the series are all males; the female characters are generally more tender and accepting, principally Victor’s mother Martine (Emmanuelle Bercot) and Victor’s youthful girlfriend Aurélie (the younger, Lou Ray-Lecollinet; the adult, Sophie Quinton). Victor’s long-time partner Serge (Stanislas Nordey) shares those resilient qualities as an empathic counselor at an LGBTQ youth center. There is one female social worker from an adoption agency performing a rather probing and prejudicial investigation on Victor. She is played in chilling fastidiousness by Chiara Mastroianni.

Overall, it’s a feel-good story, made more dramatically piquant by upsetting arguments, perceived betrayals, fistfights and an ambush. There is a certain telenovela esthetic to it all—big, vivid emotions, hasty decisions with long-term implications, tragic misunderstandings and hard-won reconciliations. At the same time there is also space for the characters to grow and mellow over time, none so much as Charles, the once so rigid pater familias, who finally seems to adjust his personal politics regarding homosexuality with the humanitarian socialist politics he ostensibly favors. The very definition of what it means to be masculine undergoes transformation. Cahiers du Cinéma called it “one of the most exciting series of the year.”

One take from the series is the value of marriage so that in the event anything happens to one partner, healthcare management, financial assets, and the children, if any, are legally protected.

Kino Marquee creates “virtual cinemas” for temporarily closed independent theaters and is currently working with over 350 art house theaters across the nation. See here for information on viewing Proud in your virtual cinema.


CONTRIBUTOR

Eric A. Gordon
Eric A. Gordon

Eric A. Gordon is the author of a biography of radical American composer Marc Blitzstein, co-author of composer Earl Robinson’s autobiography, and the translator (from Portuguese) of a memoir by Brazilian author Hadasa Cytrynowicz. He holds a doctorate in history from Tulane University. He chaired the Southern California chapter of the National Writers Union, Local 1981 UAW (AFL-CIO) for two terms and is director emeritus of The Workmen's Circle/Arbeter Ring Southern California District. In 2015 he produced “City of the Future,” a CD of Soviet Yiddish songs by Samuel Polonski. He received the Better Lemons "Up Late" Critic Award for 2019, awarded to the most prolific critic.

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