Blame It On Fidel
Welcome to the Real World?

Blame It on Fidel is a delightful film about a precocious nine-year-old girl named Anna trying to make sense of her vastly changing world. The setting is 1970 at the zenith of massive socio-political changes in Europe and America. Anna’s first eight years have been spent mostly in Paris in a large house owned by her parents who deeply love her, and have created a very comfortable environment for her to grow up in. She attends a private Catholic school, and lives a very ordered, safe life until her uncle is killed as a “militant” under the fascist regime of Franco in Spain. This soon extricates Anna from her comfort and the illusion of control into a chaotic mess of politics and a crumbling world.

A trip to Chile transforms Anna’s attorney parents into communist ideologues, and overnight Anna’s world of innocence is pulled out from underneath her. Her family moves from a nice, big comfortable house in a wealthy area to a small apartment in a working-class neighborhood. Her quiet evenings with her mom and dad are consistently interrupted by questionable characters holding meetings and saying unspeakable things such as, “Mickey Mouse is a fascist!”

Nina Kervel as Anna in Blame it on FidelHer world of classical training is replaced by protests for women’s rights, group solidarity, and the overthrow of oppression everywhere. Her beloved nanny is fired for her political leanings, and Anna’s dad forces her to leave her religion classes at her school, which causes her public embarrassment and ostracization by some of her friends. These things affect Anna greatly, and create an unstable foundation for her to make sense of her changing world.

Her favorite subject in her religion class is Genesis, because it makes sense of her world. It is a meta-narrative explaining some of life’s biggest questions, and it gives her comfort. For her dad, that kind of comfort is an “opium for the people.” It is garbage, a myth that uneducated people use to make sense out of mystery. The movie gently reinforces this idea as Anna goes through several nannies from different cultures that all seem to have their own “fable” similarly explaining how the world came into existence. This disillusions Anna, and allows her to realize in a simple way that all of these “isms” are empty and meaningless, and the only truth comes from our own ability to reason. And so Anna is converted! She throws off the shackles of control and oppression, and realizes that answers do not come from religion, myths, or these weird political peoplethey come from her own sense of knowing. This is cemented in a conversation with her dad, who himself begins to realize that human ideologies (religious or political) aren’t the answer to our human problems; but our gut feelings are what tell us that Mickey Mouse really isn’t a fascist.

In the end, Anna relinquishes her demand to stay in her rigid Catholic school and agrees to go to the public school. The movie ends amazingly with Anna showing up her first day at the public school where she is struck by the lack of order and chaos surrounding her in the play yard. While the scene depicts a definite fear and confusion in her eyes, the camera angle changes to a bird’s eye view (“The Heavenly Gaze”), and in the midst of chaos and kids running and bumping into one another, some kids take Anna’s hand in a gesture of acceptance and form a circle of unity as the crane shot pans higher above the spiritual scene. The shot reminds us that the only heavenly gazes are the ones we create, and that meta-narratives (grand stories that make sense out of life) don’t really exist. It is only through our own human devices that we can make sense of this world in a small way.

I loved this film; Nina Kervel, as Anna, is fantastic and deserving of many awards! The film is thought-provoking, humorous, and brings us into the life of a nine-year-old in a way that many of us have forgotten about.

While I would agree with the movie’s premise that you cannot control the world around you, and that all of our political and religious ideologies do not give us answers, the writers have been converted by another ideology that fits our current, western cultural “zeitgeist.” It seems to me that the cultural feeling is that if we shun religion or the “oppressive” gods of this world, we will finally be in control of our own destiny; but this sentiment is just another gospel story, replete with its own ideology and dead ends. How many times will we hear that humans are the answer, when it is humans that have created religion, politics, and every mess known to humanity? How can we know that the answer “lies within?” Maybe the answer lies outside of us, which helps create a “New Way” to be human.

Finally, this movie makes me think about our kids, and the way they process the world we force them into. I guess this is what we have all gone through; but is there a way to help them process these grand events in their lives in ways that are less confusing? Have we forced our children to be what we want them to be, without shaping them in a way that gives them the ability to choose well?

I would give this unrated movie a PG rating. Content is great for the whole family, but there is talk of abortion, revolution, Communism, sexuality, and some language that may be deemed inappropriate for some children.

Courtesy of a local publicist, Mike attended a press screening of Blame It on Fidel.