4 Months, 3 Weeks & 2 Days (2007): Cannes Fest Winner Shown in French Schools

4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days, the Cannes Festival’s Palme d’Or-winning film about an abortion in Ceausescu’s Romania, is to be screened in French lyces following a change of policy by government officials who had initially vetoed plans to show the picture.

As well as winning the top prize at Cannes, Cristian Mungiu’s film was the recipient of the National Education Prize, which is awarded to a Cannes-selected film with the relevant artistic, aesthetic and educational values each year.

The chosen film then receives government funding to allow a special educational DVD to be produced for upper-secondary schools, which teach children between the ages of 15 and 18.

This year education minister Xavier Darcos said he would not be financing the DVD due to concerns over the film’s tough subject, and wish to protect the more vulnerable audiences.

However, critics claimed the move was tantamount to censorship and voiced concerns that the government was reacting to pressure from pro-life lobbyists. They pointed out that “Elephant,” Gus Van Sant’s portrait of seven high school students on the day of a shootout, was screened in schools in 2003 despite its violent scenes.

“Elephant was shown to 15 to 18 year olds despite its violent character and the fact that it was restricted to under-12s. Rather than talking about the film’s harshness, the censorship of 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2Days appears to be motivated by the desire not to talk about abortion,” said Laure Tarnaud from the French society of French directors.

The ministry vehemently denied the allegation, claiming that the only concern was educational. The prize’s creator, Christine Jupp-Leblond, told Le Figaro that she believed the film was appropriate for children of school age. It’s not an easy film but it was only meant to be shown to teenagers ranging from 15 to 18 years old, he said. The film is unsettling, but it deals seriously with a subject that affects today’s teenagers. The best way to tackle it is to give teachers the educational tools to talk about it, as this movie does.