×

Lucas Belvaux’s ‘This Is Our Land’ Rocks the Boat in France, Angers Far-Right Leaders

One of France’s rare movies examining homegrown populism and the country’s own brand of far-right politics in a non-comical way, Lucas Belvaux’s “This is Our Land” has managed to rock the boat even before its theatrical release next month.

The movie, which portrays a charismatic 30-something single mother (Emilie Dequenne) who gets “hired” by the far-right party to become its representative in an underprivileged town in Northern France, has sparked uproar within the real-life National Front party.

Marine Le Pen, the party president who is also a leading contender in the French presidential election, and her right-hand man, Florian Philippot, contend that “This is Our Land” caricatures them and was financed by the Socialist party to damage the image of the National Front before the election in May. The National Front’s attorney went as far as to accuse the film’s producers of being disciples of Goebbels, the infamous propaganda minister for the Nazis.

That accusation brought a sharp rebuke from Belvaux. “That’s the way the National Front party operates: Any dissident voice has to be discredited,” he told Variety.

The surprising bit is not the reaction in France but the flurry of international headlines the controversy has triggered – not just in Europe but also in Brazil and Malaysia, among other countries.

In this post-Brexit and post-Trump election era, the trailer itself resonated strongly because everywhere in the world today there is some kind of populist party creeping up or already in place, Belvaux said. “The film portrays how the ideology spread by the National Front party in Northern France emphasizes social issues and targets the unemployed and the underprivileged. People who are afraid of losing their jobs are an obvious target,” he said.

David Frankel, who produced the film at Synecdoche, said that “the film has the merit of showing the state of France today.”

“It’s not ‘Eyes Wide Shut’ but eyes wide open. We show the world we live in. In that sense the film is similar to ‘Do the Right Thing,’ whose message was ‘Be aware it’s going to explode,'” added Frankel, whose credits include Claude Lanzmann’s “The Last of the Unjust.”

A crucial element of the film is the empathy that Belvaux employed to depict the film’s protagonist and even her lover (Guillaume Gouix), a former neo-Nazi, as well as the town’s illustrious doctor (André Dussolier), who recruits her for the party.

“Nowhere in the film do I judge the characters on either side. I rather give an objective perspective on what the far-right party in France is about,” Belvaux insisted.

Although the far-right has become the third if not the second most powerful party in France, depicting it in mainstream culture remains somewhat of a taboo. Most directors shy away from turning the spotlight on the National Front because they either don’t feel qualified to do so or they fear some kind of backlash.

“For so many years, the National Front has vilified intellectuals and film folks in violent ways to discredit them in the public eye. We’ve been nicknamed the ‘gauche caviar’ [the caviar-left wing] as if we were a bunch of hypocritical elitists who knew nothing about hardship,” Belvaux said. “In reality, that’s totally wrong. I know about hardship like many people who work in this industry do. We’re not the elite, and I do feel completely qualified to make a film about this party.”

What certainly displeased far-right figures is the way in which the movie shows how the party attempts to re-brand itself to widen its appeal. It becomes the Patriotic Bloc, which is officially a milder, socially engaged, nationalistic rather than xenophobic party. But while the rhetoric is more subtle, the film contends that the ideology remains unchanged.

“Populism is all about marketing,” said Belvaux.

The movie’s plot and characters are inspired by a wide range of material, from Paul Moreira’s documentary “Danse avec le FN [National Front]” to the neo-Nazi collective Maison Flamande to personal testimonies that Belvaux collected along the way.

Even though the movie deals with a touchy subject, it was easily financed, said Belvaux. Pre-bought by French public broadcaster France 3 and pay-TV channel Canal Plus, the film was produced by Synecdoche and co-produced as well as repped in international markets by Paris-based company Le Pacte.

The movie has already sparked interest from foreign buyers, said Camille Neel, head of international sales at Le Pacte, who will be on hand to present the movie to distributors at the UniFrance Rendez-Vous in Paris.

Belvaux said he hopes viewers come out of “This is Our Land” with a better understanding of the mechanisms of a populist party and what lies behind its rhetorics.

Does he think the movie will convert National Front voters into socialists or republicans?

“The FN activists won’t likely show up, but those who don’t vote or those who are on the margins, unsure of what party they belong to, might turn up,” said Belvaux.

Popular on Variety

More Film

  • Maelle Arnaud

    Lumière Chief Programmer Maelle Arnaud: 'Film History Doesn't Have Parity'

    LYON, France   — As the Lumière Institute’s head programmer since 2001, Maelle Arnaud helped launched the Lumière Festival in 2009 and has watched it grow in international esteem over the decade that followed. This year, the festival ran 190 films across 424 screenings in theaters all over town. The festival will come to a [...]

  • Girl with Green Eyes

    Talking Pictures TV: Bringing the Past Back to Life in the U.K.

    LYON, France – Since its launch in 2015, Talking Pictures TV has become the fastest-growing independent channel in the U.K. with a growing library of British film and TV titles that span five decades, according to founder Noel Cronin. Noel Cronin attended the Lumière Festival’s International Classic Film Market (MIFC) in Lyon, France, where he [...]

  • Wings of Desire

    German Heritage Sector Applauds Increased Digitization, Preservation Funding

    LYON, France  — Germany’s film heritage sector is celebrating a new federal and state-funded initiative launching in January that will provide €10 million ($11.15 million) a year towards the digitization and preservation of feature films. Rainer Rother, the artistic director of the Deutsche Kinemathek, outlined the plan at a panel discussion at the Lumière Festival’s [...]

  • 'QT8: Quentin Tarantino, The First Eight'

    Film Review: 'QT8: Quentin Tarantino, The First Eight'

    In one of the intermittent revealing moments in “QT8: Quentin Tarantino, The First Eight,” a documentary about the films of Quentin Tarantino that’s like a familiar but tasty sundae for Quentin fans, we see Tarantino on the set of “Pulp Fiction,” shooting the iconic dance contest at Jack Rabbit Slim’s. As John Travolta and Uma [...]

  • Zombieland Double Tap

    Why Emma Stone Was Haunted by Fear of Vomiting While Shooting 'Zombieland: Double Tap'

    SPOILER ALERT: The following story contains a slight spoiler for “Zombieland: Double Tap.” The zombie slayers are back! Ten years after Emma Stone, Woody Harrelson, Jesse Eisenberg and Abigail Breslin first killed dead people walking in “Zombieland,” they’ve reunited for “Zombieland: Double Tap.” “You take stock of your life a little bit,” Stone says of [...]

  • Hereditary

    The Best Horror Films to Stream Right Now

    Good horror movies aren’t always easy to scare up, but with Halloween on the horizon, Variety has compiled a list of some of the best horror films available on Netflix, Amazon Prime and Hulu. NETFLIX Apostle Cult horror meets religious hypocrisy in this creepy gothic thriller, which follows prodigal son Thomas Richardson, who returns home [...]

  • Brett Gelman

    'Stranger Things' Star Brett Gelman Joins Michael B. Jordan in 'Without Remorse'

    Brett Gelman, best known for his scene-stealing roles in “Fleabag,” “Stranger Things” and “Love,” has joined Michael B. Jordan in Paramount’s adaptation of Tom Clancy’s “Without Remorse.” Jamie Bell and Jodie Turner-Smith are also on board. Jordan is starring as operations officer John Clark, also known as John Terrence Kelly, a former Navy SEAL who [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content