15 December 2006 | guy-bellinger
La faute à papa!
Julie Gavras is famous politically committed director Costa-Gavras'daughter and it shows. But be reassured "La faute à Fidel", her first fiction film (coming after a pair of interesting documentaries) isn't a carbon copy of a Costa Gavras movie in any way. It is much more exciting than just that in that it examines thoroughly the pros and the cons of leftist involvement, mainly its negative repercussions on family life.
The plot revolves around little nine-year-old Anna( played to perfection by tense, brooding, occasionally warming to a welcome smile Nina Kervel), whose life is turned upside down when her parents abruptly change from well-to-do upper middle class people to leftist activists, with a feminist inclination concerning the mother. The whole film will describe the difficulties of a little girl who loses all of her privileges out of the blue, how she understandably rebels against such injustice (even rich kids have a cause to defend!) and who very slowly gets to understand her parents' choices, eventually coming to terms with the situation and growing mature (more mature than the standard brat) in the process.
The movie really charmed me from the beginning to the end, ringing true all the time (the early seventies are well captured, whether when it comes to the production values or the depiction of the mentalities of the time). And Julie Gavras knows her subject on the tip of her fingers. Her parents just like Anna's ones have always been leftist activists and wasn't her dwelling-place invaded by Chilean "barbudos" while her dad was preparing "Missing"?
The viewers share her empathy for the central character and appreciate her refusal to resort to caricature. Of course Anna's grandparents are "grand bourgeois" but they are not horrible persons. On the other hand, a leftist activist is not perfect by definition. Those ambiguities give depth to the characters and make them believable throughout. And Julie Gavras has a knack for unexpected details enhancing the viewer's interest and involvement in the story. I was particularly amused by such features as Anna adoring her catechism class, the presence of a violently anticommunist Cuban domestic worker (hence the title), the succession of nannies exiled from different countries torn by ideological conflicts, Anna singing "Ay, Carmela!" to protest against her parents quarreling and many others.
All in all, a wonderful initiation movie that augurs well for Julie Gavras' future career.