France’s compelling 2018 miniseries, Proud, about the evolution of gay rights told through a family drama is now screening in virtual cinemas in Canada and the US. You can stream Proud on Kino Marquee.
Proud, the three-part French miniseries from director Philippe Faucon (the excellent Fatima) tells the story of three generations of men in a French family as they deal with coming out and the changing political climate in France. Spanning almost thirty years, it’s a compulsively watchable look at how political attitudes change, and so, too, do families and their relationships. Though centred around a white family, Proud does feature a key queer supporting Middle-Eastern character, and it addresses how his coming out (or staying in the closet) is further complicated by his particular cultural milieu.
The first episode of Proud focuses on father Charles (Frédéric Pierrot) who can’t handle discovering, accidentally, that his teenage son, Victor (Benjamin Voisin) is gay, when he catches him receiving a blow job from Charles’s colleague’s son, Sélim (Sami Outalbali). It ends with Victor’s hard-won coming out, his newfound discovery of love, and the spectre of AIDS on the horizon for his partner.
The second picks up a decade later, where the adult Victor (Samuel Theis, who looks like a cross between James McArdle and James McAvoy) is still in a relationship with an older man who started as his one-night stand in episode one, Serge (Stanislas Nordey). His father has learned to grudgingly accept Victor and Serge as a couple, but draws the line at supporting Victor in his pursuit to adopt a child. Because gay men are tacitly blacklisted from adopting, Victor has to play it straight, temporarily kicking out Serge from their shared home in the process, the last straw in their already strained relationship. Serge is HIV+ and though he is living a mostly normal life, his sex drive is non-existent, and they have an open relationship that Serge tolerates. It’s a smart look at how these relationships have evolved and how even though being gay is no longer illegal, equality is far from being won.
The third episode follows Victor’s teenage adopted son, Diego (Julien Lopez), a straight Latino activist caught between his conservative father, Victor, and his secret relationship with his increasingly accepting grandfather, Charles. Here, Victor struggles with becoming his father, shying away from fighting for his rights, and struggling to support his son just as his father once struggled to support him. Having broken up in episode two, Victor and Serge are now amicable co-parents, though not in a relationship, and Faucon teases out the joys and pitfalls of their unconventional family in which Serge serves as peacemaker and buffer between Victor and Diego.
Although Proud covers important milestones in gay history, from the changes in political leaders and attitudes to the proliferation of AIDS, it stays focused on the characters’ personal journies. As presented in Proud, AIDS isn’t a pandemic so much as a thing that stops Serge from living his full life because he’s constantly worried he will die and leave others behind; it’s about Serge living with HIV rather than their group of friends dying from AIDS, as many of them no doubt must have. Rather than inviting us into the changing Parisian queer community or the minutiae of the Act Up activism meeting (like the excellent BPM), Proud stays focused on the personal, where the political only serves to change how these people can relate to each other and themselves. We partly chart the changes in the wider world by Serge’s job as a social worker at a centre to help gay kids, and the children he encounters there.
Ultimately, the miniseries Proud is about a family growing and changing, learning to accept, and forgiving things that feel impossible to overlook. And it’s a love story about two men, Victor and Serge, who spent their lives together as partners even when they’re not romantically involved.