The members of France’s writers/directors/producers association l’ARP have thrown their weight against National Front (FN) presidential candidate Marine Le Pen, urging the industry to preserve freedom of expression with a vote for independent centrist Emmanuel Macron.
Compared to their American counterparts ahead of the U.S. election last year, French filmmakers and celebrities have been less vocal in expressing political opinions publicly. But with France heading to the polls on Sunday to determine the new president in a deeply contentious battle, that appears to be changing. L’ARP had previously warned against what a Le Pen victory might mean, and today came out much more vehemently. On Friday, Luc Besson posted an anti-Le Pen screed, denouncing both the candidate and her FN party.
In a statement today (see translation below) L’ARP, whose Administrative Council includes Claude Lelouch and Michel Hazanavicius, says it fears for the future of freedom of expression against which the National Front “embodies a threat.” Le Pen has run on an anti-immigration, anti-EU platform which is vastly unpopular in the creative community, and l’ARP countered today, “We will oppose any ‘patriotic’ culture that would be trapped within an ideology.”
L’ARP calls censorship a National Front priority when it comes to cultural policy. There have previously been instances of censorship of books in FN strongholds like Vitrolles, Marignane and Orange. In March this year, a film seen as critiquing the party was pulled from a municipal cinema in the south.
Chez Nous (This Is Our Land), by actor/director Lucas Belvaux, is the story of a young woman recruited by a fictional populist party, and the ascension of the party in the north of France. Pascal Verrelle, a member of the FN and the mayor of Luc-en-Provence, a small commune in the Var region, canceled its screenings there saying, “I’m not going to give (the filmmakers) the stick to beat me with.” L’ARP then cried foul, condemning the “anti-democratic decision” through which the National Front “reiterated its selective and oriented vision of culture.”
Below is l’ARP’s statement from today. It was titled “Ni Brun. Ni Blanc. Votons Macron.” ‘Brun’ is a reference to the National Front’s racist ideas while ‘Blanc’ is used to describe abstention from voting.
“As the second round of the French presidential election approaches, to stay mute seems impossible for us.
We would like to share our concern: The values that guide us daily as citizens and filmmakers are under threat. Racist ideas take over our debates, ooze and divert us collectively from the Republic, and seek to divide the citizens of our country.
We, the filmmakers of l’ARP, put our daily commitment at the service of an enlightened, tolerant and ambitious cultural policy. For us, diverstity in its broadest sense is the greatest wealth: opinions and cultures from home and abroad must continue to irrigate our patrimony.
We will never allow freedom of expression — the keystone of democracy — to be called into question. Let’s say it clearly, the National Front embodies a threat to this freedom. We will oppose any ‘patriotic’ culture that would be trapped within an ideology.
We are aware of the challenges that that our cultural policy must face: those tied to the digital revolution, artistic education, access… We are aware of the need to respond to them by putting aside all corporatism, and we are paying attention.
But how can censoring films, closing cultural centers or promoting a ‘hidden’ art be acceptable responses? And yet, these are the priorities of the National Front when it comes to culture.
In municipalities run by the National Front — Orange, Marignane, Vitrolles — culture was decimated and the ‘national’ preference proclaimed. This is not a fantasy, it is reality: Just a few weeks ago the FN deprogrammed Lucas Belvaux’s last film.
We are called to express ourselves on Sunday May 7 to sketch the future of our Republic. More than ever, the participation of everyone in this vote will be decisive: dramatic tomorrows may await.
In all brotherhood, and so that France continues to defend a culture that is free and open to the world, we invite each of you to vote against withdrawal and intolerance.”