Olivier Meyrou’s cool and dispassionate documentary focuses on the trial of the three French skinheads who beat a young gay man to a bloody pulp in Rheims, France, and then drowned him, seemingly on something of a whim. At first the film seems to labour at a distinct disadvantage, since neither the accused nor the victim are depicted. But in this absence something more universal flowers. Both the aggressors and the victim achieve a totemic status, François Chenu standing in for every homosexual or ethnically different soul who ever found him/herself on the wrong side of an intolerant group – the killers were actually looking for an Arab to practice their bloody sport on. It’s shot in the direct cinema style – no narration, no coy cutting away, a lot of shots of interviewees working out on the hoof what exactly it is they’re trying to say. Meyrou’s spare, powerful film and his cause are also helped enormously by the fact that Chenu’s family are exactly the stuff that the French Republic, or any democracy, wants its citizens to be made of – they’re open-minded, humanist, even forgiving, to some extent. That this film would be equally strong as a TV programme, or even on the radio, is no criticism.
© Steve Morrissey 2013