La faute à Fidel! — film by Julie Gavras

The eruption of Allende’s Chile and the Cuban Revolution in the life of a 9-year-old French girl

   Michel Porcheron

“It’s because of Voltaire”. “It’s Rousseau’s fault”. Immortalized by Victor Hugo in his novel Les Miserables, the refrain from the tune sung by Gavroche (1) beneath a shower of bullets on the barricades of Saint-Denis Street during the Parisian insurrection of 1832, is known throughout the entire world.

More modestly, La faute à Fidel! (“It’s Fidel’s Fault) is the first full-length feature film from young Julie Gavras, daughter of Costantinos, better known as Costa (2).

Before becoming a film, La faute à Fidel (Tutta Colpa di Fidel) started life as a book by Italian journalist Domitilla Calamai (3) that Julie Gavras adapted for a free version for the big screen. Not just by chance¼ it was Costa’s fault! “I enjoyed the book very much because it gave me the impression of rediscovering myself without it being my story exactly¼ In spite of that, all the questions that the author asks about commitment I also asked myself, perhaps now more than ever before¼ I feel a great fascination for that generation, that of my parents, that of those who took on a commitment, those who fought and experienced an era which was so bright, so happy,” said the young director, for whom the next generation is “supposedly cynical and lacking in incentive.”

Take a look at the synopsis of the film: Anna is nine years old. For her, life is simple, made up of order and habits and she is growing up comfortably between Paris and Bordeaux. In the space of a year, between 1970 and 1971, the political commitment assumed by her parents, who are extremely left-wing, begins to disrupt Anna’s life. First her uncle, a communist implicated in the struggle against the Franco regime, disappears, probably assassinated by the Spanish Civil Guard. Later, following a trip to Chile during the presidency of Salvador Allende, Marie and Fernando (Anna’s parents) convert their political convictions into action. And so the tranquility comes to an end in the home on the outskirts of Paris, now filled with “red and bearded” comrades, people who dream of Fidel Castro’s Revolution.

And so ends the age of religious education and, above all, the tranquil calm that characterized the young girl’s life.

It’s Allende’s fault! It’s Fidel’s fault!

It is not exactly the autobiography of Julie Gavras during the 1970s but the life of young Anna, as told by Domitilla Calamai, in a film adaptation. But for someone who was 11 years old at the time that her filmmaker father was shooting Missing” it was without doubt, the first film that I understood”, says Julie Gavras.

“When I was younger, Costa’s films were a bit dark, even a bit too long (she laughs). That story taught me about the date September 11, 1973. I learnt what a coup d’état was, what a military junta was. I didn’t make a political commitment when I was 11 years old, far from it, but what’s certain is that I discovered how the world worked because of that event. “

Without even realizing it, as happened with the young Julie in real life, Anna, upset but curious, is to discover new values: the importance of sharing, the feeling of belonging to a group. She even absorbs some knowledge of communist thinking and ends up crying when she hears the Chilean song “Venceremos.”  Another point, the chords of the legendary song of the Spanish Civil War ring out around the house. “The communism of the Ebro Army, imperialism, women’s rights; she tries to fit these vast concepts into her small world,” writes Cecile Mury in the French weekly Télérama.

With just a few documentaries behind her, Julie Gavras has undertaken a feasible and accessible task (with autobiographical elements), while at the same time ambitious. And she has done so without a safety net, without putting her parents in front of a tape recorder, without the help of filmmaker Gavras behind the camera.

La faute à Fidel! (1:39 hours) is a reflection on political commitment and all that that implies; the reasons that are the basis for this and utopia. It is about the rebellion of adults seen through the eyes of a little girl. Seen, of course, from afar, in a subjective way and from a distance that is at once entertaining, conspiratorial and critical. It is the reflection of an era (the 1970s) “seen by” and not “made by.” The young Gavras wanted to explore a new track in place of “historical” trails that have already been analyzed and re-analyzed. Although she harbors a feeling of understanding towards her parents, whom at times appear to be disorientated and without replies for all the questions she puts to them, the young Anna emphasizes that it is not for this that she is disposed to forgive them for a certain “abandonment”. But Anna is growing up, her perception of the world is becoming enriched and, following in the footsteps of her parents, she accepts this new life which she is now analyzing from a personal point of view.

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