By the Grace of God
Grâce à Dieu
Panorama | Spotlight on France
VIFF fave François Ozon (he was a festival guest with his first feature, Sitcom, 21 years ago, and VIFF has shown nearly a dozen of his films since) had all of France on tenterhooks in the lead up to the release earlier this year of this torn-from-the-headlines drama. An alternately compassionate and angry work about sexual abuse and cover-ups in the Catholic Church, the film premiered in Berlin when the archbishop behind the cover-up, Philippe Barbarin, was still on trial in Lyon (he was convicted on March 7).
Ozon’s focus is on a quartet of abuse victims led by Melvil Poupaud’s Alexandre, a reticent Lyon family man and one of many pre-teen boys sexually assaulted in the 80s and 90s by priest Bernard Preynat (Bernard Verley), who stayed active in his Lyon diocese until very recently. As the four men press for action against Preynat, they come up against the all-too-typical stonewalling and wilful blindness so common in these cases. But Ozon, whose trademark visual stylishness is evident, if in slightly less ornate ways, throughout, gives the victims their due, fashioning an ambitious, immediate, and heartfelt tribute that is both "superbly acted and highly controlled." - Jonathan Romney, Screen
Silver Bear (Grand Jury Prize), Berlin 19