Passing politics from generation to generation


‘La Faute a Fidel!” is, in a sense, a project engineered by daughters. Director Julie Gavras’ father is the famed prorevoltionary director Costa Gavras, its lead actress Julie Depardieu is the daughter of Gerard, France’s most treasured actor. And Nina Kervel, who was age 9 when the film was made, comes off like a natural-born daughter of everyone involved in the movie.

“She’s very good at giving and then withdrawing,” is how Gavras described the young girl during a promotional trip to Tokyo. “She was totally uninhibited, and behaved like everyone on the set was her family, and it was therefore OK to take liberties, but in a nice, daughterly way.”

Of Depardieu, Gavras says that they shared a kind of short-hand about certain emotions and experiences, because they had grown up in the film industry. “It’s not that we had the exact same experiences,” said Gavras. “But there’s a certain air of professionalism to Julie that I could identify with. I’m very glad we’ve had the chance to work together.”

In this film, communism, especially in 1970, is depicted in a different way from what we’re used to seeing in cinema.

That’s because I grew up around adults who discussed communism and politics, so I never saw communists as arbiters of evil. When I was a child, one of my father’s friends described communism by dividing an orange and saying that there were some people who got the skin, others who got the seeds and inedible parts, and those that got the juicy center pieces, and what communism tries to do is make sure everyone gets an equal portion of everything. To this day, when I think of communism I think of that orange. So I used the scene in this movie. It’s childish, I know, but then this is a story that unfolds through the eyes of a child.

Do parents discuss politics in front of their children in today’s France?

Yes, I think it happens more often than people think. Of course, for people in my generation (Gavras is 37), communism was over long ago, but there is a new leftwing supported by new leftist arguments. And listening to the adults, children learn about the world and history and, ultimately, themselves.

It seems the parents depicted here are a little over-the-top when it comes to sharing information with their daughter.

That is largely due to the daughter’s personality. She simply refuses to let go of a question until it has been answered. She’s curious, but she’s also fighting a personal battle to get her former life back. So she questions her parents until they fully explain things. I see this as a testimony to the deep love and trust they have for each other.

How would you define freedom?

For myself, freedom is the right to choose among a number of available options, and to have those options. But the term is so abused now, and difficult to define.

How about freedom in the United States? In the movie, Mickey Mouse is described as a product of fascism.

Yes, in 1970 Paris that is how many people saw Mickey Mouse. As for the United States of today, I think the nation is far less concerned about freedom than they are about security.

In the movie, Anna is portrayed as neither cute or tragic. She stands out as an individual on her very own and she’s very impressive.

I think that’s because I never treat children as children, and particularly not Nina Kervel, who to me, is a person and an actor. My stance toward children is that there’s no call to love or coddle them indiscriminately, and no need to be authoritative either. Nina and I established a working relationship, and that’s what contributes to the movie’s success. . . . Most of all, she understood me. I hope I understood her.