MSU Cinema International Film Highlights Populist, Far-Right Tensions in French Elections

Oct 4, 2019

The next film in the 2019 Cinema International series highlights the fear and resentment that permeated Europe following Donald Trump's election in the United States. Director of Murray State's Cinema International, Thérèse St. Paul, Ph.D., visits Sounds Good to discuss the film. 

From the MSU Cinema International website:

"Marine Le Pen was defeated in the French election that brought Emmanuel Macron to power, but her far right-wing party, with its nationalist, anti-immigrant platform, lives on to feed the fear and resentment that begot Donald Trump's election. 

This is Our Land is a fictionalized story of an attractive working-class single woman in the North of France who naively agrees to run for mayor, representing the Patriotic Bloc. Lucas Belvaux, who previously directed Rapt, a terrific thriller about a French politician's kidnapping, deals with another type of kidnapping here. With the help of a charming André Dussollier as the town's esteemed physician, the Populists' rhetoric seizes control of the minds of the electorate. With Catherine Jacob as the blonde-bobbed leader who never met an angry crowd she couldn't make angrier."

"The director [of the film, Lucas Belvaux,] is Belgian, but he lives in France, so it basically will be a French-Belgian drama," St. Paul explains. "It takes place in France. It's actually, in many ways, replicating (in fiction) a very real situation that involves the dangers of populism and how easy discourse of nationalist parties are actually trying to gain votes in areas where they are normally not very areas of the northwest of France, traditionally working class, steel workers, miners...they traditionally vote left. They vote for socialism, they vote for social programs." 

"I think the movie does a very good job to show how rhetoric, discourse, can really seduce people. The story [of This is Our Land] is that of Pauline, who's a nurse, warm-hearted, daughter of a former steel worker, so she's not really political. She's known and loved by all the people she visits in the France and Europe, doctors visit homes still. They know their people, people trust them, and nurses visit home. So there's this rapport with the people that she has," St. Paul says. 

"Indeed, the movie shows how [Pauline] is being pit by the group of - it's called the Social Bloc, but really it's the National Front, to head their campaign in the area. Of course, she doesn't realize what she's getting into because they basically lied to her. They use those easy lines, manipulative lines, to make her think 'oh, it's neither right nor left, it's a party that wants to give work to everyone.' Things that actually work on people's frustrations or dissatisfactions. People want better lives, so they hit on these topics, so it makes them okay. She rolls with that until she wakes up because she gets involved in their agenda and realizes that it leads to violence," St. Paul explains. "Of course, when this movie came out, which was about 2017, it was just at the time where these discussions were hot for elections. And of course, the representatives of what is very really the National Front, headed by Marine La Pen, who is, in France, the daughter of the founder of the party, Jen-Marie La Pen...they really reacted. They saw they were being targeted, so they didn't like the movie." 

"The film is extremely thrilling because you're wondering how this can happen, how is this going to unfold, and what's going to happen to [Pauline]. Of course, when you start having these dissensions, even in your own family, it creates drama," St. Paul concludes. 

There is a screening of This is Our Land in the Curris Center Theatre this Saturday, October 6th, at 7:30 p.m. The screening is free and open to the public.  For more information on Cinema International, visit the Murray State website