Proud is Philippe Faucon’s three-part miniseries about fathers and sons living through three watershed moments in French LGBT history. Available on Kino Marquee, the first episode takes place during the 1981 French presidential election. That is the election with an 86% voter turnout. It’s a turnout ridiculously high in the Western world but apparently not high enough for France. Charles (Frederic Pierrot) roots for Mitterrand. He’s a citizen of a country moving towards the left while most Western powers move to the right. That said, Charles has a hard time dealing with his son Victor’s (Benjamin Voisin) homosexuality.
The second installment takes its audience in 1999. Victor, like many people in their thirties (Samuel Theis), gets the baby bug. But it is difficult to adopt in a system that unofficially discriminates against LGBT candidates. The series ends in 2013 as Victor tries to connect with that child, now a teenager, Diego (Julien Lopez). Diego himself wants to connect with an increasingly tolerant Charles and his own left wing activism. Diego is South American, and Faucon, who tackles race in his work, hits all the proper notes in writing such a character.
Proud is mindful of the idea of the role of space in legitimizing sexuality. It contrasts young Victor’s dalliances with an equally young Aurelie (Lou Roy-Lecollinet). That happens indoors, which is opposite of the parks that are the only place for him to find men. Sure, a miniseries about gay men will have scenes like the latter. But the contrast here shows that gay men then wanted to move from the parks to make homes just like the straights do.
Making that home is hard, especially for gay men, and the series highlights those hindrances as personal as much as they are political. One of the things stopping 1999-era Victor from having a baby is his own boyfriend, Serge (Stanislas Nordey). Serge, by the way, also acts as Victor’s gay sherpa. It’s hard to believe that the first man Victor meets ends up being his longest lover and no, I’m not bitter. Anyway, Serge doesn’t see the point of parenting because he doesn’t want that child to feel the pain of losing him.
Serge, after all, is HIV +, shortening his life span. The second episode is the meatiest and longest one, but it also exposes some of the series’ flaws. Some of those flaws concern its female characters. Aurelie only exists as the catalyst for Victor to realize the next steps for his adulthood. Other characters, mostly female, exist to remind him of the legal hurdles that come with his growth. The same goes for a female social worker that the series writes as a boring villain.
But this series and its three episodes of a reminder of legal and physical threats. Gay people and everyone else in the LGBT+ community feel the presence of such threats. Although instead of scaring queer people back into the closet, these threats only make these characters fight harder. The series also beautifully incorporates the support system we have as we advocate for laws seemingly unimaginable in our lifetimes. Belated Happy Pride, everyone!
Proud is streaming now as a part of virtual cinema at the Fox Theatre here in Toronto via Kino Marquee.