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French priest files to delay release of sex abuse victim film premiering in Berlin

Francois Ozon director of By The Grace of God at Cannes in 2017
Francois Ozon director of By The Grace of God at Cannes in 2017 Anne-Christine POUJOULAT / AFP

The French release of a film based on real-life cases of sex abuse allegedly committed by a French priest, which is being premiered Friday at the Berlin film festival, could be delayed. Lawyers for the priest in question, who is accused of molesting more than 80 boys, say the film should not be shown until after his trial later this year.

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Director Francois Ozon’s film By The Grace Of God tells the story of a group of survivors of abuse at the hands of Lyon-based priest, Bernard Preyant. Ozon worked in secret with several members of a survivor’s group that has gathered testimony of dozens of people who claim to have been abused by Preynat in Lyon.

Preynat is to be tried on sexual violence charges involving ten children. The allegations came out after a former scout, Francois Devaux went public in 2015 with allegations that the priest had abused him as a child 25 years earlier.

Preynat was suspended by the church later in 2015, and it later emerged that Cardinal Philippe Barbarin, the archbishop of Lyon, had confronted him about the allegations five years earlier, and later went to the Vatican, but never contacted law enforcement authorities.

Barbarin and five other church officials and members are waiting for a verdict on charges of covering up the abuse and failing to protect children.

Delaying release

Ozon’s film is due to be released in France on 20 February. Last Friday one of Preynat’s lawyers filed an appeal to a Paris court to delay its release, arguing that it would infringe on the presumption of innocence of someone who has not yet been tried.

A previous motion to delay the film’s release was overturned by a Lyon court in December.

Ozon has also been pressed to remove from the film the name of a lay voluntary worker for the Lyon diocese, Regine Maire, who is awaiting a verdict along with Barbarain. She has issued a legal challenge.

Ozon has said that the reaction from several French bishops and senior clergy who have seen the film had been positive.

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