It is 6.30 p.m., and there is a commotion in the courtyard of the Œuvre Jean-Joseph-Allemand. For two hundred years, this Catholic institution – named after the founding abbot – has welcomed young people from the neighborhood in its immense bastide in downtown Marseille and has served as a leisure center. But this evening, Father Olivier Passelac, director and chaplain of the holy place, also agreed to open its doors and its theater to the team of the Baleine and the Gyptis, two art-house cinemas in Marseille (administered by the company of Shellac production and distribution). Like other cultural venues in France, cinemas have been closed since the reconfinement and could not reopen on December 15 as expected. Cultural organizations have attacked this decision in interim relief before the Council of State and should be fixed within forty-eight hours. Places of worship, on the other hand, remain authorized to receive the public. “We have therefore decided, like other cinemas in France, to carry out various actions to protest against this injustice. Since we cannot see a film in theaters, but we can go to mass, the idea then arose to organize screenings in places of worship ”, underlines Juliette Grimont, programmer of the two cinemas.
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Everything was decided quite quickly. “We first contacted churches close to our cinemas and even Notre-Dame-de-la-Garde, which refused to welcome us”, explains Juliette Grimont. Father Passelac did not object, on the contrary: “It seemed normal to us. We are authorized to celebrate Masses while respecting sanitary distances and we are sad to see that theaters and cinemas cannot exercise. ” Between 3 p.m. and 4 p.m., a newsletter was sent to announce the screening at 6.30 p.m. “In a few hours, we had 50 registered for an authorized tonnage of 80”, rejoices the programmer. Free entry. The documentary film screened tonight is Peril over the city, by Marseille journalist Philippe Pujol, 2014 Albert-Londres Prize. And which tells the story of the life of the working-class district of St-Mauront (Marseille 3e). Why this choice ? “It’s a snub: there is danger in the city when places of culture are not open. And we also had to choose a film that did not exceed an hour in order to finish before the curfew ”, notes the programmer.
Spectators drop in and try to avoid the lost balloons as they cross the courtyard to reach the entrance to the theater. Most of them had never set foot in this vast Catholic bastide. “It’s a strange feeling. We have the impression of being resistant and going to a somewhat clandestine party ”, jokes Maria, 62, civil servant, who came with her husband. “These days, finding people with whom to share emotions in a room, that cannot be refused”, she continues.
Philippe Pujol made the trip to support the action. “Before making a movie or a book, I always wonder if it’s useful. But obviously what we do is not essential. We can’t let that go by ”, underlines the journalist. The session goes well, no mask forks. And at 50 in a 300-seat room, it’s easy to keep your distance. When the meeting is over, there is no time for a debate. It is 7.45 p.m., everyone leaves the room hurrying. Chantal, 67, came and left in a group. “It feels good, but it’s very weird, you have the impression that going to the cinema already belongs to the world before …”, she gives, nostalgic, as a conclusion to the evening.