Pride: a film that speaks to the heart
by Bénédicte Prot
- CANNES 2014: Two beautiful battles, wonderful people, solidarity, an energy and a contagious joy: the Directors’ Fortnight concluded with a truly inspiring film
After the ten days of the festival, it is by now tradition for the Directors’ Fortnight, which has for a long time made sure to have an inspiring grand finale for the audience at Cannes, to have a film which overwhelms them with joy and emotion and raises them from their seats at the end of the show for a long standing ovation. This cinematic communion experience was brought to us this year by the British film Pride [+see also:
film profile], by Matthew Warchus, an opus in the form of a rally cry which looks back on the unlikely solidarity that brought together the gay community of London and Welsh miners in Margaret Thatcher’s Great Britain of the 1980s.
It's all born out of a feeling of compassion: while watching the news, after a night out, Mark (Ben Schnetzer) feels truly touched by the fate of the coal miners who are losing their jobs as the British government closes the mines – an historic and founding moment for British cinema of social solidarity. With his light-hearted group of friends, Mark then decides to organise a quest to seek out these fellow underdogs of the Conservative Party – because at the end of the day, "fighting for the rights of gay people is useless if we don’t fight for the rights of everyone". And that is how the LGSM (Lesbians & Gays Support the Miners) movement is born, although the punk of the group doesn’t think this name composed of four initials is very catchy...
The inhabitants of this small mining town in the heart of Wales are on the defensive, when they see this very colourful group get out of their minivan – among whom are the extrovert party animal with his Patrick Swayze hairstyle, a carrier of the nasty virus which is then beginning to run rampant; his discreet, long-term partner alienated from his sanctimonious family; the vegan lesbians; and a young man who hasn’t yet come out of the closet... But the reservations of these small-towners with their impossible styles showing the worst of the 1980s, who also make up a welcoming community (led by a fantastic Paddy Considine and an incredible Imelda Staunton, supported by Bill Nighy playing someone unusually sohisticated in this Welsh community...), can only end up giving in (with the exception of Maureen, a paragon of narrow-mindedness and ungratefulness) when faced with the generosity of these extravagant Londoners who worry about them while the rest of the world couldn’t care less.
One of the joys of the film is exactly that pleasant candour with which two worlds separated by ignorance more than by prejudice discover each other and find common interests between themselves – between the elderly ladies who exchange recipes with the lesbians and the awkward locals who realise that getting on the dancefloor gives them more of a male appeareance in front of the girls, rather than staying nailed to the bar drinking pints... The exchange is even more invigorating than the curiosity of each and every one about their obvious differences, and than these two communites made up of simple people, whose lives are difficult enough as they are without denying themselves some humour.
The extremely pleasant, laid-back tone of the film naturally rests on the struggle of these people, who seek to assert themselves in Thatcher's exclusive Great Britain and, what's more, have too many obstacles to overcome to be unsure of themselves. Therefore, when Mark's gang is accused of being "perverts", he emphasises that when faced with insults, his community's strategy has always been not to be indignant, but rather to grasp these terms and to stake a claim on them. And it's not just cinema: in December 1984, LGSM organised a concert in Camden proudly entitled "Pits and Perverts", where the Bronski Beat group of Jimmy Somerville was formed, and the following year, at the great Gay Pride in London, entire buses of miners came to support their friends, to march together, at the front of the parade.
(Translated from French)