TF1 seizes the Grégory affair with the series “A French affair”

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(AFP) – Riding on the success of series inspired by various facts, TF1 attacks the most emblematic of 40 last years: the assassination of little Grégory with “A French affair” which intends to retrace “with empathy” the media-legal fiasco behind the fact of society.

16 October 1984. Grégory Villemin, 4, kidnapped from the family home, is found dead, hand and foot tied, in the Vologne, a river in the Vosges. A crime claimed by a raven, still not elucidated.

It is on this drama, imprinted in the collective imagination, that “A French affair” opens (6 X 52 minutes), presented out of competition Thursday at the La Rochelle Fiction Festival before its broadcast, from 20 September, on TF1.

Once is not customary, the series does not will not appear on Salto, the platform of TF1, M6 and France Télévisions, but a little later on Starzplay in France and other European countries, by virtue of a partnership with the American service.

Very documented, it depicts, until the change of scenery of the affair in Dijon in 1984, the ordeal of Grégory’s parents, Christine (Blandine Bellavoir) and Jean-Marie (Guillaume Gouix), helped by their lawyer (Gérard Jugnot), the pack of journalists thirsty for scoops such as those of RTL, Jean-Michel Bezzina (Michaël Youn) and Paris Match, Jean Ker (Michel Vuillermo z), joined by the fictitious and benevolent reporter of France Inter, Jeanne Lombardie (Laurence Arné).

And of course the errors of the investigation, passed by gendarme Etienne Sesmat (Guillaume de Tonquédec) to commissioner Jacques Corazzi (Thierry Godard), on behalf of judge Jean-Michel Lambert (Laurent Stocker), who will wrongly incriminate the boy’s mother.

This first part inaugurates a series of anthologies, each season of which will be devoted to a major affair corresponding “to societal upheavals” having changed “the relations between the French, their way of seeing justice or consuming information”, explains to AFP his co-creator Jérémie Guez (“Sons of Philadelphia”).

A concept which seduced TF1 “well before” the success of the documentary series of Netflix devoted to the Grégory affair in 2019, assures the co-producer Aimée Buidine to AFP.

– Avoid controversy and prosecution –

The channels – and their viewers – are fond of adaptations of various facts, at the risk of arousing controversy and of being accused of “voyeurism”, like TF1 recently after a TV movie on Michel Fourniret.

But if it has fascinated for decades, the Grégory affair, brought back to the front page after enième twists in 2017, had not inspired fiction since the miniseries “The Villemin Affair”, hailed by critics, in 2006.

Inspired by journalist Laurence Lacour’s book, it earned its broadcasters, France 3 and Arte, a conviction for defamation against Bernard Laroche, a time suspected of the murder of Grégory then killed by the father of the child, his cousin.

To avoid such a pitfall, the team of “A French Affair” asked a lawyer to reread the scenarios and “view the montages to the end”, according to Aimée Buidine.

The bias? Do not “try to say who is the culprit” when justice has not pronounced, relying on “the plethora of sources” available, adds the producer.

For the sake of neutrality, none of the protagonists were however consulted, including the Villemin couple, who was recently moved in Paris Match through the voice of their lawyer, Marie-Christine Chastant-Morand, the latter. This does not exclude “reacting”.

“I understand perfectly that people who have suffered” the “worst drama that can happen” fear the series, concedes Jérémie Guez , defending himself from wanting to “relaunch a controversy which in the end never stopped.”

“We pay tribute to their resilience, their humanity and their love “while trying” to have empathy and humanity for each of the protagonists “. The project of the series is not either “to cast shame on a section of justice or journalists”, he assures.

“If the French were not passionate about the case, its treatment would have been different “, underlines the screenwriter, who intends to demonstrate the collective responsibility behind” the disruption of this investigation and the way “in which the victims saw” little by little their lives escape them “.

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