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  Blame It On Fidel She Feared The Beard
Year: 2006
Director: Julie Gavras
Stars: Nina Kervel, Julie Depardieu, Stefano Accorsi, Benjamin Feuillet, Martine Chevallier, Olivier Perrier, Marie Kremer, Raphaël Personnaz, Mar Sodupe, Gabrielle Vallières, Raphaëlle Molinier, Carole Franck, Marie Llano, Marie Payen, Marie-Noëlle Bordeaux
Genre: DramaBuy from Amazon
Rating:  8 (from 1 vote)
Review: It was on the day of her aunt's wedding that nine-year-old Anna (Nina Kervel) noticed all was not as rosy in her world as she had previously thought. For a start, she learned her Spanish cousin Pilar (Raphaëlle Molinier), who spoke no French, was going to move in with her along with her other aunt, who had recently been widowed thanks to her uncle's stance in opposing the fascists in Spain, but Anna could not understand why things could not stay as they were. Why couldn't she live with her grandparents in their lavish rural chateau? Who were these Communists her parents were now so enamoured with? Just what was going on?

The director of Blame It On Fidel was Julie Gavras, who as the name suggested was the daughter of political filmmaker Costa-Gavras, a talent whose profile had come to prominence around the time this movie was set. Was this autobiographical, then? Though based on a novel, if it was, the resentment that Julie felt as a child did not seem to have been carried over to her adult years, as here was a particularly clear-eyed take on what political activism can do to a family, and how it can mean the parents neglect their offspring as they try to take care of people who they don't have as much emotional connection to, at least in the view of their children.

Certainly in the view of Anna, played with the grim features of the terminally sceptical by the remarkable Kervel, as she cannot understand the tenets of the left if they mean upsetting her happy home life. Why should she be the one who suffers, and why should she join the ranks of the dispossessed when she already had everything she wanted before, and sees no reason why she cannot go back to having those things? Her lawyer father (Stefano Accorsi) is now dedicating himself to good causes, because he feels the guilt of not being able to save his brother-in-law thanks to his relatives' history as part of the oppressors, and the problems with Chile with Salvador Allende's rise to power are what concern him now, apparently more than his daughter.

Anna's mother (Julie Depardieu) is no better, as she is fighting for the rights of women to have birth control and abortion, at that time illegal, and has given up her cushy job writing fluff for magazines to raise consciousness in society. This is told in such a way that you can see Anna's point of view completely: she may be a petulant little madam but that does not mean that her pain at being taken away from her comfortable life to be thrown into one of confusion is no less troubling for her. You could perceive this as the ideological battle between right and left, with the little girl on the selfish conservative side and her parents on the wooly liberal opposite, with neither able to come to terms with each other.

Although ostensibly a drama, this does not mean there are no laughs, as Anna provides a number of chuckles in her one-girl protest movement against the Communists. In one scene, she stays up to see her mother who has gone out, leaving a bunch of activists to babysit: after she refuses to go to bed, they try to explain the concept of wealth redistribution that utterly goes over her head, just as her countering with the idea that she should make as much money as possible out of the working classes does not impress them. At school, she feels humiliated by being taken out of divinity classes as her parents want no religious education for her (in a Catholic school!), and at home she has to put up with her cheerfully oblivious brother and a succession of nannies, the first of which is a Cuban exile who gives the film its title, so she has to go. Gavras all but admits that even the grown-ups have enough trouble explaining politics among themselves, but this was a warm-hearted and perceptive film, with a note of optimism for the last shot. Music by Armand Amar.

Aka: La faute à Fidel!
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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