La Faute à Fidel (2006)

Directed by Julie Gavras

Julie Gavras’ debut narrative film focuses on a sort of “coming of age” story of a young girl (Anna) who is raised in a family in political transition. Anna’s family becomes more radicalized in post-1968 France where her father takes on the cause of defending Allende’s Chile while her mother goes into womens’ liberation. The story revolves around Anna’s anxiety due to the drastic changes in her own life that must occur as a result of the ongoing political changes within her immediate family. The story essentially uses Anna’s growing up as an analogy to explain certain political changes that occurred in the West in places like France during the time the film takes place (the 1970s).

Anna’s father feels quite guilty for his family’s support of Franco in Spain which motivates him to become a passionate supporter of Allende in Chile. Their family hosts exiles, activists working on Allende’s campaigns, etc. throughout the film which make from some interesting interactions between the young Anna and the Communist activists. For example there is a scene where Anna is up late one night and has a conversation with the activists about trading an orange for money. They insist that trade should not be done for personal benefit over another but in an egalitarian way, while Anna resists these progressive notions. The conversation is a sort of “Communism for children” style of dialogue that demonstrates the bourgeois ideology that still dominates Anna’s preconceptions of the world and makes for an interesting scene when those notions are directly challenged.

As the story progresses, Anna beings to challenge these preconceptions in places like her Catholic school which leads her to some trouble (after having already been removed from certain religious classes in the school). These developments make her grandparents quite uncomfortable and they clearly are opposed to the leftward turn the family has made.

There is also tension within the family that is itself representative of greater tension amongst the Left of that time. Anna’s mother becomes quite involved with abortion rights, while her father sees this as a sort of deviation or even a negative struggle to get involved in. This is of course one of the biggest criticisms of the “Old Left”: the theoretical and political “blind spot” of what the Old Left considered to be single issue causes that were considered to be distractions from the more important class struggle. These questions don’t get resolved in the most comfortable way in the film, just as they weren’t “comfortably resolved” in the real history of the Left.

The film does an excellent job at using the perspective of a child to explain a time that was quite crucial in understanding the contemporary Left and at least some of the important developments that got it to where it is today.