How does a family react to a son's life
taken because he is gay? The toll taken on those left behind is
explored in PBS' documentary Beyond Hatred premiering tonight.
On the night of September 13, 2002, in
Leo Legrange Park in Rheims, France, Francois Chenu was brutally
murdered by three neo-Nazi skinheads. When the trio came upon
Francois they asked him if he was gay and he answered yes.
The twenty-nine-year-old fought back as
the men beat him, then, when it was over, he called them cowards,
prompting the men to kill their victim.
Acclaimed Director Olivier Meyrou
dispenses with the dramatic reenactments. In fact, the film mostly
ignores Francois' death by drowning, opting instead to concentrate on
the lives of the family left behind. It's powerful filmmaking, to
say the least.
Meyrou catches up with Francois'
parents and three sibling two years after his death, as the killers'
trial is about to open.
The documentary focuses on the mundane
lives of the Chenu family, allowing us to sense the strength
necessary to continue after such a brutal crime.
In one shot, we watch Marie-Cecile,
Francois' mother, prepare a meal while in voice-over she talks about
the killers as their trial approaches.
“I don't really want to see them or
enter their world. They caused chaos in our lives. … They
destroyed the lives of six people. They killed Francois and
destroyed us five,” she says.
Later, she admits to her son, “his
last 5 minutes do haunt me.”
In the film, we witness the family's
struggle to understand the crime, the perpetrators and the system
that ultimately will judge them.
One of the boys on trial was only
sixteen when he participated in Francois' killing. They all came
from broken homes.
“The first time I visited him in
jail, he had a look in his eyes that I'd never seen,” the aunt of
one of the boys says. “It was a bit scary. He was totally
indoctrinated, and had changed so much in just two months.”
Beyond Hatred then goes beyond
the bloodshed of hate crimes to spotlight the often forgotten victims
of hate crimes: The loved ones left behind to live in its aftermath.
In the final frame, six months after
the trial, the parents read a letter they have written to the
“The trial told us about your lives,
your family, your friends,” Jean-Paul, Francois' father, reads.
“But we also heard from your lips words that suggested something
was changing inside you.”
Beyond Hatred has its American
broadcast premiere on the P.O.V. Series on Tuesday, June 30 on PBS.
The film will also be available for viewing online starting July 1 at