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Haden Guest 0:04
Good evening, ladies and gentlemen, thank you for your patience. And thank you all for being here tonight for this screening of By the Grace of God. It's a real—it's a tremendous, I should say—privilege and a great pleasure to welcome to the Harvard Film Archive for the first time François Ozon. With his earliest films for the late 1990s and early 2000s, François Ozon quickly established himself as one of France's most consummate filmmakers, an often daring iconoclast able to work successfully and inventively across a wide range of genres and modes. From his deeply moving and quietly understated meditation on mourning, Under the Sand, to his exuberant musical comedy 8 Women made just two years later, Ozon has continued to dazzle and surprise audiences and critics alike with unexpected choices of style and subject matter. And as a showcase of his remarkable versatility, we are also showing in a program three other features by Ozon: his suspenseful thriller La piscine / Swimming Pool, Under the Sand—which I just mentioned—as well as his touching period-piece mystery, a haunting and beautiful film called Frantz.
Now, Ozon's most recent film, the work we're going to see tonight, is By the Grace of God, and this finds him working in yet another mode by focusing now on an urgent crisis still gripping France and far too much of the world: the sexual abuse of minors by members of the Catholic Church, and equally devastating, the systematic and long practice of concealment of the extent of this crisis by church authorities, all the way up to the Vatican itself. With a meticulous care for ourselves on has constructed a narrative that explores the deep and lasting wounds suffered not only by victims of sexual abuse, but also by their families, to present a moving and fascinating chronicle of three victims—all adults—who are forced to reckon with their still lingering trauma. By the Grace of God is among Ozon’s most stylistically restrained, and I would say even at times austere films, and this is a restraint which works to strengthen its quietly building emotional intensity. The film is guided by a steady focus on the small, quiet details that trace the errant paths of revelations that emerge slowly at times, through exchanges of emails, through telephone calls, and through heart-rending testimonies. Anchoring the film's measured realism is Ozon’s own careful research for the film which included lengthy interviews with members of the same activist group Lift the Burden which is depicted in the film.
By the Grace of God asks us to reconsider with deep compassion, what it means to be a victim and what it means to be complicit to a crime that so many knew about, but did nothing to intervene. Ozon skillfully conjures the deep lasting disorientation suffered by these men still haunted by what happened to them years before. And so doing asks us to try and understand why clarity and understanding of the past can be so very difficult, if not impossible, to achieve. This crisis of criminal abuse and neglect, his crisis also of consciousness, and faith itself is all too well known to us here in the Cambridge/Boston area where the Catholic Church was shaken to its very foundation by the terrible revelations in the early 2000s of horrifically rampant sexual abuse of young ones by priests whose victims numbered in the thousands. The story was broken by the Boston Globe and of course, became the subject of the award-winning film Spotlight from a few years back now, and it's a real honor to welcome in the audience tonight, Mitch Garabedian who played a major role in the revelation of the story, and he was portrayed by Stanley Tucci in the film that many of you may have seen. He’s standing there in the back. Let's give him a round of applause for his work. [APPLAUSE] Mitch is a practicing attorney and he continues to fight for justice.
By the Grace of God offers an important counterpoint to that procedural film, which looks closely at the remarkable journalists, advocates, lawyers, and instead, Ozon focuses now on the point of view and experience with the victim and the role of memory in repressing and reawakening the past. By the Grace of God is an object lesson in the power of narrative cinema to reveal truths to waking consciousness by retelling history, and perhaps to heal.
I want to thank Music Box, the distributor of the film, for all their help and making this very special screening possible. This is part of a tour that François Ozon is making with the film, and he's giving many interviews. He just gave a few today, which you'll see on television and on radio. I also want to give a very special welcome and thanks to the Consul General of France in Boston, Arnaud Mentré, who is here. Thank you for being here tonight. [APPLAUSE] As well as French Deputy Roland Lescure. Thank you as well for being here, monsieur. [APPLAUSE]
I’d like to ask everybody, please, to turn off any cell phones, electronic devices that you have, and please refrain from using them.
Our friends from the French Consul have generously partnered with us to host a reception which will follow tonight's screening and conversation. So please join us upstairs for a glass of champagne. But the most special thanks needs, of course, to be given to our very special guest, Mr. François Ozon, who I want to thank for his courage and his vision.
François Ozon 6:25
Thank you very much. Thank you [for inviting] me. I have the feeling [I’m] dead after your speech, but thank you. [LAUGHTER] It's very important for me to be here, especially in Boston, where you know what happened. There are many links with what happened with the church of Boston with the church of Lyon you will see in the film. I think the best is to not tell you too many things about the film, but I will be back after for a Q & A if you have some questions. Thank you for coming and have a good screening.
Haden Guest 7:17
Please join me in welcoming back François Ozon!
Thank you, thank you so much for being with us tonight and for sharing this film. It is so powerful and important. I'll ask some questions first, and then I know there are questions and comments that you want to share, and so we'll open the floor to the audience.
But I was wondering if we could talk first about the origins of this film, and to talk about the research that you did—these interviews with members of Lift the Burden. And so to talk about how the film emerged, how you worked with these extraordinary and brave men and women, and is it true that this film began with thinking of it being a documentary and how did it emerge into fiction? So that's where it begins.
François Ozon 8:43
So long story. Actually, I never had in mind the idea to make a film about pedophilia in the church. I've made many films about strong women and this time I wanted to focus on men, especially on men expressing their sensitivity, their fragility, something we are not used to seeing in movies. Very often men are about action and women are more about feelings and emotions. And this time I wanted to change a little bit. So I was looking for a subject about that. And I discovered by chance on the internet, the testimonies of many victims of child abuse and I was very touched. So I decided to [meet] Alexandre—the first one you see in the film—and he came with a big dossier, a folder with all the emails, and he said to me, “Do what you want with that.” So it was amazing material because I had all the private letters—with the cardinal, with the priest, everything. So I decided to work on it. I didn't know what it would become. And, I discovered that the story didn't stop with him. You know, it was a kind of a relay race between different men. So I decided to [UNKNOWN]. And after a while I thought, these people are so amazing, I should do a documentary. And when I said that to them, they were very upset [with] me. I think they trusted me and told me so many secrets, it was because I was a fiction director. And when I met them, it was the time when Spotlight was just released in France. Of course, it was very successful and important for them. And I realized in a certain way, they were waiting for me to make a kind of French Spotlight, you know, so I decided to make a fiction movie with real stories.
Haden Guest 10:47
How closely did you collaborate with them? I mean, this is a fiction film, and at the same time, it has such a strong, urgent and immediate, important connection to the reality. How much was the story, the details of the story, shaped according to your collaboration with them, and how much was created more liberally? And I'm thinking, in particular, not just about the characters themselves, but also about the families, because there's so much depth in the relationship between the families, you know, the brother of François, for example,
François Ozon 11:29
I made a kind of investigation, like a journalist. I realized very fast that what interested me was the family. I realized that child abuse is very often a ticking time bomb—do you say that?— which damaged all the families. So I asked the survivors, “Can I meet your parents? Can I meet your children? Can I meet your brother or sister to have their point of view?” Because for me, that was what really interested me, to see how all these people were damaged by the abuse. So it was very interesting to meet all these people, of course, especially the wife, for example, you know, Alexandre’s wife, when I met her, she told me a secret she had never [told] before: she was abused as a child. And I asked her “Can I use that for the film?” and she said, “Okay, but just change some small things.” So it was very touching for me to discover all these stories. And at this moment, I realized as a screenwriter, sometimes when it is stronger than fiction, because as a screenwriter, I wouldn't have invented the fact that very often the wives are abused too. So it was very powerful to meet them. And it was not a real collaboration; it was just interviews. They didn't read the script, and discovered the film once it was finished.
Haden Guest 12:58
I'm so moved by the children of Alexandre, the two boys, especially in the way– And I just wanted to ask, was that also [based in reality], when they go to see–
François Ozon 13:09
Yes, I was very surprised. I asked Alexandre, “What did you do with your children?” And he said, “I told them the truth. And very honestly, very openly.” And, the story with the fact they went to see the cardinal without telling their father, it's true, too. And it was very touching to hear how they told me, “It was amazing. It was like you're in a chateau, in a castle. Everything was so rich, and he gave us his book.” So it was a lot of irony!
Haden Guest 13:47
And, of course, though, making this film was very controversial. I mean, as we see at the end, this is still an ongoing crisis, investigation, still with repercussions. And the timing of the film was very sensitive. And there were in fact, efforts made to halt the film, to put up obstacles to its release. And I was wondering if you could describe those to us, and how you circumvented them, or how you fought against that?
François Ozon 14:20
Actually the shooting was very simple, because I lied to everybody. I said, “It's a film about friendship between three friends.” [HADEN LAUGHS] And the title of the film was Alexandre and not By the Grace of God, because if I would have said By the Grace of God, everybody would have known it's about Cardinal Barbarin, because it was very famous in France. It was a big scandal. So we decided to lie, and we shot all the interiors of the church in Belgium. All the exteriors are in Lyon, but all the other scenes are in Paris or in Belgium.
So actually, the shooting was okay. The problems arrived after, when everybody discovered the trailer and the title of the film. [LAUGHTER]
And what efforts were made? I mean, you won this Grand Jury Prize in Berlin. The film was sort of shot out there into the world. But nevertheless, there were efforts made to stop a theatrical release in France.
No, it was very stressful, because two days before the release, we didn't know if the film could be released, because actually, the lawyers of the priests tried to stop the release. And we didn't know until the judge decided two days before. He said that in the case of this film, freedom of creation was more important than the presumption of innocence, especially because the priest has never denied. And he said that the film was a public service. Do you say that? Yes. So the film was released. And unfortunately, it was a huge success in France.
Haden Guest 15:59
And how do you think the film–? I mean, do you sense or are you able to measure or do you see ways in which the film has helped change a kind of awareness or dialogue about the scandal and about this problem and about victimhood in general?
François Ozon 16:17
It was not my goal, but I realized films sometimes can change things. And the priests was defrocked after the release of the film. Cardinal Babarin was condemned; he went to the Vatican to propose his resignation, which was refused by Pope Francis. So it was again, a new scandal and good publicity for my film. [HADEN LAUGHS] And, many victims decided to [speak] out—people who had never talked before—and many people helped the association. So yes, it was very helpful especially for the survivors.
Haden Guest 16:58
I think, psychologically, emotionally, this film is so complex. And this is one of the things I admire about it. You don't try to simplify these stories at all. And I feel like it would be easy to do that. It would be an easier viewing experience, it would be an easier film, but you refuse that. And in that way, this film relates to some of your other work. I mentioned this to you before. Sous le sable / Under the Sand or Frantz, these films that deal with a repressed past with a haunted memory that shifts, is unstable. I was wondering if this is something we could just talk about, because it seems to me that you show the ways in which cinema is alone able to capture that, evoke that difficult dream state that one is often trapped within, and it seems like this is something you return to quite often.
François Ozon 17:59
What's your question? [LAUGHS]
Haden Guest 18:00
If we could talk about how the ways in which, again, you feel like cinematic narrative, the ways in which the kind of enigmas that you slowly reveal allow us… that is to say, fiction, then gives us access to a kind of emotional reality and a kind of paradox there...
François Ozon 18:23
Yes. I didn't have all that in mind when I made the film. But it's true when I discovered all these people, when I met them, everything was complex. It was always about ambiguity, even the victims, the priest—you know, he is part human being, like everybody, so everything was complex, it was not black and white. And that's what interested me. I wanted to show this complexity, the relationships within the family, you know, the brother, all these relationships were so powerful and interesting in terms of cinema. But I don't know if I understood....
Haden Guest 19:09
Well, no, no, no, I mean, again, I'm just thinking about the ways in which your film–
François Ozon 19:14
I don't analyze so much my films. You know, once it’s done, I turn the page very fast. [LAUGHS]
Haden Guest 19:21
Well, let's talk about something else then which has to do with the representation, the way you depict the church because this too, I think, it would have been easy to just simply vilify, to make complete villains and monsters out of the priests. And, yes, there is a monstrous, there is a villainous, side, and yet in the character of Emmanuel and in his family, you allow space in the film to still speak about—even though this is ambiguity at the end—there's still some respect, despite everything, for the church as an institution, even though you're questioning it to its very foundation. And that's a very difficult task to pull off. And I was wondering if you could talk about decisions you had to make to not tip too far, one way or the other?
François Ozon 20:12
I try to be honest, you know, and to show the reasons of everybody. Of course, the film is told from the point of view of the survivors. But at the same time, I tried myself to understand why Babarin did nothing, because he knew for such a long time. I tried to understand his logic, the logic of the institution. And, when you realize that everybody knew that this priest was a pedophile [for] thirty years, and he never denied it [for] thirty years. He said, “I have problems with kids.” When you realize everybody knew, it's so shocking, so you try to show these things [as honestly as possible.]
As an old Catholic—because I had a Catholic education—I have always been fascinated by the mis-en-scène of the Church. So I wanted to show that in the film, all of these Catholic rituals. So it was important, especially in the city of Lyon, which is a very Catholic city in France, very conservative. You know, I was born in Paris, I didn't know the city so much, but when I discovered that there is this isle with the basilique, it was geographically so interesting and cinematographic. Because the first idea was maybe not to shoot in Lyon, but it was obvious when I saw the geography of the city to shoot there.
Haden Guest 22:05
Well, that opening shot is really powerful, in which right away you embody the idea of the power, the mystery, the force of the Church as a symbol–
François Ozon 22:16
Its heredity in the city.
Haden Guest 22:17
Right. And then, of course, you come around to that at the end. At the same time, though, there's an attention, which I really appreciate to the kind of—I don't want to call them banal—but just these small details, that email correspondence, for instance. I don't know if I've seen a film that's able to dramatize the politesse, that kind of polite, formal nature of it, and you managed to do that as well.
François Ozon 22:41
Yes, for the French, when you hear all the all these emails in French, it's very polite, it's very well written, that's why I decided to use it for the film, because you understand how the institution works and how they try to... make you sleep?
Haden Guest 23:01
To put you to sleep.
François Ozon 23:02
To put you to sleep! So for me, it was great material. And actually, I could have done all the film with emails, letters, because the story happened because of the internet, because of social media. You know, all the big meetings, when they are all together, it didn't really happen like that. It was on the ‘net. They gave me so much material—letters, emails—I used [them] to widen the scenes.
Haden Guest 23:33
And maybe just a last question before opening up the floor, I'd love to talk to you about how you came to decide on these three. I mean, yes, there are more than three, but really there are three main characters, three of these victims and how... because it rounds out the story so well, but I can imagine it must have been difficult to decide who would be the three and what would be the order they would come in, because that’s also very important.
François Ozon 23:59
Well, it was obvious; it's the chronology of the story. First, Alexandre was alone. He began to fight alone. [For] two years, he believed in the church, he trusted Babarin, and very often when you are [a victim of] child abuse, you're alone. So he felt he was alone and step by step he realized many things. And after two years, he decided to go to the police, to the Justice because he understands that nothing will change. And then there is a kind of relay race because the police begin an investigation. They discover François, they discover the letter of his parents and when François discovers the situation. So for Alexander and François, it was obvious to choose their story. Afterwards, I had more choices for the third character, because it's after the question of the association and actually, at this moment, seventy victims [spoke] out. So I had the choice within all these people. So I asked Alexandre and François, “I would like a third character different from you with a different social background, and maybe someone who was not able to have a family, to have a job.” And they told me, “You have to meet Emmanuel,” and I met him and he was perfect for what I was looking for. Very touching.
Haden Guest 25:31
And how do they feel about the film? What has been their experience watching the film, but also as they've seen their deeply personal stories–?
François Ozon 25:44
I think it was very disturbing for them, because you know, it was very close; it happened in 2014 to 2016, so it's difficult to see on screen your life so close. I think they were very afraid about the reactions of families. And at the end, everybody had very good reactions. People were touched. Even the mother of Alexandre, who was a monster in the film, she loved the film. And she said “My son isn’t evil,” so you know, the power of cinema can change many things.
Haden Guest 26:22
I'm sure there are questions from the audience. We'll start with a question– Gerald Peary is here. There's a microphone coming to you right now.
Audience 1 26:34
For the pedophile priests, I wonder did you go back and rewatch Peter Lorre in M to watch his desperation again, to think about this character? Like there's one moment where he kind of screams out—which felt very much like something from Fritz Lang—screams out his desperation and his compulsion to keep doing things to children. It was so eerie in the same way.
François Ozon 27:09
I have never seen the film, I'm sorry. [HADEN LAUGHS] I'm sorry! No, but it was very complex to work this part, you know, with the actor. I think Bernard Verney is a great actor. I don't know if you know him. He was in the films of Éric Rohmer a long time ago. For him, of course, it's very challenging to play the bad guy, but at the same time, an actor is always a lawyer for the character. So he was very involved in the part. And my way of directing him was to say, “You’re ‘outside of reality.’ [?Au seul?] I don't know if you say that. “–and you watch the men as if they were still children.” And that's what he did. And I think he’s very powerful in his way of acting.
Haden Guest 28:09
Let's take another question.
François Ozon 28:12
Peter Lorre, he was good in the part?
Haden Guest 28:18
[INAUDIBLE AUDIENCE COMMENT]
Haden Guest 28:20
The gentlemen in the glasses right there.
Audience 2 28:24
Thank you so much, Mr. Ozon. So I have a question about the scenes of memory when the characters remember the moment they were molested. So I want to know, what do you decide to show and what not to show? And, you know, there are these depictions of sexual assault in the media, and do you think it's done in the proper way, maybe? Thank you.
François Ozon 28:54
It was a big deal. It was a big question, you know, “do we have to show it or not?” Of course, it was impossible to show the act of abuse, but speaking with the victims, I realized very often they said, “We didn't understand what happened. We were paralyzed. We trusted the priest. We had admiration for him.” So I realized it was important to show the circumstances. The children are a little bit like lambs which go to the wolf. You know, they are [?hypnotized?]. And it's something sometimes people don't understand when you are not abused. But very often the children can't move. You know, they are paralyzed in front of the adult, and I think it was important to show that in the film.
Haden Guest 29:54
Yes, the gentlemen right there.
Audience 3 29:58
Hi, good evening. It was a beautiful movie because I think it was very simple and very subtle at the same time. And I have a question concerning the social aspect of this movie because I thought it was very interesting to see how the characters were reacting depending on their social background. I think the first character is really a hero, because in this social background, it's very hard to speak up and to say no, and it was very admirative of this person. Was it something you were interested in? What was your analysis while you were preparing the film?
François Ozon 30:40
It's something I discovered during the investigation. The fact Alexandre was very Catholic coming from a conservative family. It was interesting to see his reactions in comparison of Emmanuel or François, but it was not a choice. But you know, sometimes reality is good for a film.
Haden Guest 31:06
There's also though this move down the socioeconomic ladder, in a way, starting from Emmanuel the banker to the construction worker...
François Ozon 31:12
Yes, and you realize that when you are in a family with a kind of a equilibrium, it's easier to develop yourself after being abused. Someone like Emmanuel who had divorced parents, it was more difficult for him to manage all the drama, and the fact he had no authority of father. He had only this priest in his life. It destroyed totally his life, I think.
Haden Guest 31:53
Let's take the question right there. The woman right there...
Audience 4 32:00
Good evening. Thank you so much for being here. I have a question about your depiction of the the priest, because it's kind of difficult to make sense of such evil, right? This person molested dozens of children. And in the movie, we see that some victims seem to insist on the fact that he was sick. And he had told [UNKNOWN] and it's not really his fault. And on the other hand, there are some victims who seem to depict him as a very powerful, charismatic man. And so I was wondering how you kind of reconcile the two and what kind of research you did, if you got to meet him? Or how you kind of made sense of that? Thank you.
François Ozon 32:38
No, I didn't want to meet him. I had enough material about him from the police, from the victims, and from the journalists who made some investigation about him. But what was your question exactly?
Haden Guest 33:00
Again, finding this balance between, you know, some of the victims speak of him as a monster, others speak of them as this figure of authority still to be respected. Again, trying to find this balance between this complexity of the character...
François Ozon 33:14
Yes, this complexity was obvious, you know, because this man has never denied what he did. He said he was sick, but I think it's easy for him to defend himself saying, “I am sick.” When the trial happens, the logic of his lawyers would be to say, “The institution knew and they did nothing,” but he was an adult, you know. As an adult, you can be responsible for your acts. So I think he's very perverse in his way of defending himself.
Haden Guest 33:54
Okay, we can take this question right here in front. Let’s do that, and then we'll get to more over there.
Audience 5 34:03
So, even though the movie’s a fiction, you made the choice of keeping the real names of the protagonists. Was it a big risk since the trial is still ongoing? And why did you make that choice?
François Ozon 34:20
It was maybe a mistake. I was very naive and innocent because all you see in the film was already in the press… about the priest, about the cardinal, about the [UNKNOWN] of the church. There is no surprise for the journalists who made the investigation about the affair. The scoop about the victims, about the families… I thought it would be totally hypocritical to change the name of the priest and the cardinal. I could have changed—said he is called “Baratin” instead of Babarin. It would have been stupid, you know, and I had the feeling today in the period of transparency, of “metoo,” it was more honest to use the real names. My producer would have preferred I changed the names, but I decided to keep them. And actually it [caused] many problems after.
Haden Guest 35:21
The gentleman right here on the edge...
Audience 6 35:27
Thanks so much for this film. I don't have a question, but would like to say, it is an extraordinary film. And particularly in this kind of sobriety. It could have been sensationalized or just an out-and-out attack against the Catholic Church or could have taken all kinds of very extreme viewpoints or approaches and it was extremely retenu. And, modest, you could say, in some ways, and beautifully done. Thank you.
Haden Guest 36:03
Actually, if I can, I’d just like to follow up on that, as a question… What ways did you think about wanting to make this film? Can we say “accessible,” in a way, wanting to have a kind of sobriety, a kind of restraint, which many have commented on—again, with admiration—have said it's different from other films of yours in that sense? I was wondering in what ways you thought about that deliberately.
François Ozon 36:27
I felt responsible, because I met a real person. So it changed totally my way maybe of mis-en-scène. It was something new, you know, I've never met that before. So you know, each time, I think, the mis-en-scène has to be adapted to the logic of your story. So it was obvious actually. I didn't ask myself so many questions.
Haden Guest 36:55
The gentlemen in the glasses, and then... Okay.
Audience 7 37:00
Thank you for bringing this powerful film. My question is, has this film changed your personal relationship with your faith and with the church?
François Ozon 37:11
I had lost my faith before. [LAUGHS/LAUGHTER] I lost my faith a long time ago when I was a teenager, when I discovered the hypocrisy of the church, about sexuality especially. But I have to confess when I'm in a plane, I believe in God again, [LAUGHTER] because I'm very afraid, so sometimes I make some small players.
Audience 8 37:38
The film is so perfectly cast. Was it difficult to cast? And was it difficult for the actors to play these parts in terms of their own experience maybe, you know, faith-wise and so forth?
François Ozon 37:50
No, what was new for me was to have to find the actors for people I knew in reality. You know, do you look for someone who is the same physically? So that was the big challenge, but to find the actors was quite easy, because they were very touched by the story of the survivors. And I realized very often when I told the story to the actors, they began to cry. And I asked them, “Why do you cry?” Of course, the story is terrible! But very often, many of the actors I met told me, “I was abused myself.” And I realized, as an actor, it's the art of dissociation. And when you are abused, if you want to survive, very often the child experiences a process of dissociation to go on with life. And it's close to the experience of being an actor, you know, you have to pretend to be always alive, and actually, very often you are dead inside. So I think, for the actors, it was not easy, but there was a big link with this kind of experience.
Haden Guest 39:12
Let’s take a question right there. Yeah. Yes.
Audience 9 39:19
Thank you for another wonderful film. And this question is more general. Something I really admire about you and your art is how incredibly different every film is, an incredibly different genre. Something so magical, like Ricky, but in reality or something, so funny, like Potiche or beautiful and tragic, like Time to Leave, and I was thinking, how is it possible that this person has so many different genres and styles and visuals inside? So I don't know if it's possible to answer this question, but I wanted to ask: does it start with genre or does it start with an image or does it start with a joke? How do you begin your artistic process that the results are so beautiful, but so incredibly different?
François Ozon 40:06
I don't know, really.
Audience 9 40:08
Yeah, that's what I thought, so…! I’m sorry to–
François Ozon 40:09
No, I think I follow my instincts. You know, I try each time not to repeat myself. I'm a cinephile, very open mind. I like different kinds of cinema. I can be interested in very arty movies and some more Hollywood movies. So I have no… Ah, how to say that in English?
[LAUGHS} Maybe, yes. So, when I have an idea, I try to follow it and to find the right genre to tell it the best way.
Haden Guest 40:57
There's another question over there… Was there? Do we have other questions? There we are...
Audience 10 41:07
Good evening. Thank you for this viewing. I have a little question about at the very beginning, it surprised me because the story is true. The characters are real. And yet it still says that is fiction, that it is inspired, that it’s not the real story…
François Ozon 41:21
Because of the lawyers. Not because of me!
Audience 10 41:27
Okay. All right. I was wondering, is there something–?
François Ozon 41:28
Actually it's a fiction.
Audience 10 41:30
Yes, you say it is a fiction. Why?
François Ozon 41:34
It's a complex question. It's a fiction, because it's not the real person on screen. You know, it's actors who didn't meet the real person before, so we invent to give us new characters. Of course, it comes from the reality but I made some small changes, you know. For example, the fight between the two brothers didn't happen the night of Christmas, or the wife of Alexandre, it was not exactly that. So I made some small changes. But it's true. It's real, but it's not a documentary, because it's not a real person. So it's called a fiction. But the lawyers asked us to put these words at the start of the film, to be sure that the film could be released.
Haden Guest 42:31
I want to ask just what seems to be kind of random, but a wonderful little detail, the placement of Tintin au Congo in the Cardinal’s bedroom. I mean, it seems to place him as this kind of childlike figure, but then also this is, you know, Hergés most controversial book that seems to speak about Belgian and European imperialism. I was wondering if you could talk about that because it seems to be very deliberate.
François Ozon 42:57
It’s not my invention. You know, I'm perverse, but not like this. [LAUGHTER] It’s the reality actually. I saw in a magazine in France, very famous, Paris Match, there was a kind of documentary about Cardinal Babarin, and there were some pictures of him in his bedroom. And he's a big fan of Tintin. And he had this poster of Tintin Congo which is the most politically incorrect book about Tintin because it's very racist. And it was in his bedroom in front of his bed. So it was of use to show that in the film.
Haden Guest 43:38
Great, no, I'm glad you did.
François Ozon 43:40
He didn’t attack me about that.
Haden Guest 43:43
Not yet! Okay. Let's take this question on the edge.
I've been following the French release. It really turned you into a different kind of public figure in France. Has that interfered at all with continuing your ongoing work?
François Ozon 44:30
No. [LAUGHTER] No, I think the film changed things in the Church. But for me, it didn't change anything. The film was successful, so I earned some money! So that's the good thing. Maybe people were surprised to see me making this kind of movie. But, the important thing was for the survivors, the film was very helpful for the association and the law changed, because now the statute of limitation is forty years. It was twenty before. The priest was defrocked, and there are many commissions now in the Church working on all these problems of pedophilia. So you have the feeling the Catholic Church in France has understood pedophilia was a real crime and things have to change.
Haden Guest 45:31
Are there any individual screenings in France that you could speak about that had particular meaning? Or… I don't know if you could describe some of the... because I know you held some special screenings for groups.
François Ozon 45:46
We met many Catholics, of course, because the success of the film come from the Catholics who came very often to see the film because they feel victims of this situation too, because they are upset that their religion is always linked with with pedophilia. And they want to turn the page and have the Church change all these things. I met many priests, many bishops, during the two we met in France, and all these people were very—how do you say that?—I have the feeling the French Catholic Church needs a revolution. And all these people I met were so old and so disconnected from reality, and I realized nothing will change because we need some young people to make a revolution now. And when we saw the reaction of the Pope, you have the feeling it will be so, so difficult to move on.
Haden Guest 46:48
And in the film actually the children... you leave with this beautiful moment at the end, this next generation is poised on this moment of doubt. And this is something that you feel is the situation–
You mean the question at the end?
Yeah, the question at the end.
François Ozon 47:07
It's a question I asked to Alexandre, and he gave me an answer and I decided not to use it in the film and to [end] the film with this question, to give the opportunity to everyone to think about that. And I think the question should be more “Do you still believe in the institution?” rather than “in God,” because the faith of Alexandre didn't really change, but his trust in the institution did.
Haden Guest 47:39
Okay, let's just take a couple more questions. The gentlemen here in the front.
François Ozon 47:46
There is champagne?
Haden Guest 47:47
Yes. There is champagne! So one more question.
François Ozon 47:50
You don’t drink in America, that’s why...
Audience 12 47:54
Your movie came out during the metoo movement. And I was wondering how do you relate what's happened in the Catholic Church and what's happening today in the movie industry?
François Ozon 48:10
Maybe unconsciously, I made the connection, but not openly.
[INAUDIBLE AUDIENCE COMMENT]
Haden Guest 48:24
[LAUGHS] We’ll do one final question. This woman has been waiting very patiently. And then that will be it. Go ahead. You need the microphone.
Audience 13 48:31
Thank you for this film. How did you choose what to focus on because these survivors also had an amazing legal fight with Barbarin and were so plucky and determined in getting him convicted of failing to report. The prosecutor initially had exonerated Barbarin, but then the victims filed a direct criminal complaint, which is something we can't do here in the US and got him convicted of failing to report, and it was an amazing story that they got this powerful Cardinal convicted of failing to report sexual abuse. And did you think of focusing on that? Or was that too complicated a legal story as opposed to the beautiful film that you did make?
François Ozon 49:36
It was in the press. You know, I'm not a journalist. I'm a director and I wanted to focus what I said on the victims and on the families because it's something you never read in the press. You know, you have to be very brave to talk out, because when you decide to talk it's many problems which arrive after for the family, for the wife, for the children, so that was my idea, you know, when you break the silence, it's very brave but at the same time, it's very dangerous. That's why many people decide to never [speak] out and that was my goal.
Haden Guest 50:27
Well, François Ozon, we want to thank you for speaking out and thank you for being here tonight!
© Harvard Film Archive
Outraged by the still-unresolved sex crimes committed by prominent members of the French Catholic Church, Ozon first considered making a documentary before realizing he was better suited to craft a compelling multithreaded narrative that could do justice, in every sense of the term, to the point of view and life experience of long-suffering victims of sexual abuse. Telling the story of three men looking back, reluctantly but with real purpose, By the Grace of God constructs a riveting study of injustice, community and faith that looks closely at the rippling effects of sexual abuse upon families, loved ones and the victims themselves, who have struggled against the shame and guilt and confusion inflicted upon them during their most vulnerable years. Ozon uses all of his consummate skills to deliver a powerful indictment of rigid and criminally indifferent Church hierarchy while also showing admirable restraint in depicting the crimes committed in ways that ennoble, yet in no way soften, the still heart-wrenching suffering being felt to this day.
A special reception in the upstairs gallery will follow the screening and discussion.