Blame it on Fidel

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Issue: 
(318)

Director: Julie Gavras; Release date: 26 October

In 1970s middle class Paris Anna, the nine year old daughter of a journalist and a lawyer, is serenely confident in her small world. From her parents' large apartment to holidaying at her grandparents' Bordeaux estate through her catholic school she is absolutely sure of how to behave in every situation.

She is neat, conscientious and is perfectly happy to force other children around her to follow suit.

Then some relations arrive from Franco's Spain and, as if her parents have been holding their breath ever since they refused a church wedding, they embrace radical politics. Soon they're all living in a shabby flat full of hairy revolutionaries with a series of refugee nannies and Anna is reeling from the assault on her senses and certainties.

As months pass and the children discover unfamiliar food and creation stories other than Genesis, their parents struggle with liberation being more complicated than they expected. Fighting injustice isn't just about exciting trips to Allende's Chile. It might actually mean breaking the law and, even worse, discussing sex and abortion in public. Inevitably their relationship to each other has to change too.

In every family where the grownups are distracted, young children see and hear much more than the adults realise. They also understand a great deal of what's actually happening in the family because they don't yet know what is meant to be unthinkable even if they do know what should never be mentioned.

So Anna in all her determined conservatism forces her father to look at his own family's shameful history while he accuses his wife of hypocrisy.

On the face of it, this is a small sweet film. It is well acted and scripted with delightful children, and recreates very well the claustrophobic and oppressive child's eye view of the world when parents looked for alternative ways to live and everyone was determined to smoke themselves to death.

In fact, it unpacks a process of individuals and groups of people struggling to articulate new ideas as they change the world and in that struggle change themselves.