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How was "Lefebvre the movie" made?

October 25, 2013

An interesting interview from 2011 about the making of Archbishop Lefebvre: A Documentary.

Archbishop Lefebvre documentary film update

A July 2011 interview conducted by Fideliter (SSPX French District) with Mr. Jean-Jacques du Cray, producer of the documentary film.

1. It has been over a year since announcement has been made about the film on the life of Archbishop Lefebvre. Does it take so long for a documentary to be realized?

The realization of such a film takes considerable work. Our crew has often dedicated entire days and nights preparing for it. They must make historical considerations to establish a coherent synthesis, research archives of audio-visuals, make contact with the contemporaries of the different periods of Archbishop Lefebvre’s life, prepare for trips to meet them, transcribe interviews, translate, request of authorization, acquire technical equipment, choose music. These are some of the numerous aspects—among others—of this vast project.

Thus, it is not, in short, surprising that we have taken our time. If my memory serves me well, I believe that we actually began to seriously discuss this idea in 2006!

2. What stage are you at, now?

Right now our crew is traveling around the world to meet the bishops, priests, religious and faithful who knew Archbishop Lefebvre intimately. This task is very delicate because we are not working on a documentary of a Carmelite or Capuchin [a cloistered religious—Ed.]. For example, when examining the life of St. Therese, one would not be compelled to go too far out of Normandy.

However, when it comes to the life of a missionary, archbishop and founder who has trekked the world and who was Superior General of two different religious communities, one is led on a journey that passes even through the tropics! Under the circumstances, it is necessary to betake oneself to many parts of France, Gabon, Senegal, Switzerland, Germany, Italy and America!

3. Could we have some information on the famous persons that you are examining? With what criteria have you chosen them?

The nearly thirty persons examined had to be above all capable of being witnesses to some extent in all the periods of a life that spanned 85 years—because it is not a question of knowing the opinions of such-and-such a priest or such-and-such a lay person, interesting though it may be. Our task is to portray our character with historical accuracy in the context in which he lived. Of course, it is more difficult to find evidence of missions in Gabon than it is to find out who was present at the 1988 Consecrations! It seems to me that we have finally come to a certain balance.

Among the contemporaries that we have chosen, those who were his followers are as numerous as those who were not. As a consequence, those who were, for the most part refer to him as “Archbishop Lefebvre”. Others, for many reasons, speak of him familiarly as “Marcel”, others as “Lefebvre” some even as “the Archbishop”. One can count on hearing disclosures that, no doubt, will surprise more than one…

Nevertheless one could add that we are at the right time to realize this film. Ten years ago, many perhaps would not have dared to speak out. The events that have marked the years of 2000 and onward have shattered the taboos. From another perspective, this work will be impossible in a few years because we must question people that have become very old. Three of the Archbishop's contemporaries have passed away when we were preparing to question them.

4. What have you been able to see in Africa?

We have followed in the footsteps of Archbishop Lefebvre in Gabon and Senegal. In all we stayed in Africa for 15 days. It is true that it is only a short time, but it was at the same time a very rich and educational visit. At Gabon, we rediscovered the traces of a very important apostolate of one who is still remembered as “Fr. Marcel”, a Holy Ghost missionary.

We of course visited Libreville and Ndjole, Donguila, Lambarene and Kango where he worked between 1932 and 1945… We went to all the places Fr. Marcel had passed through. We ought to take a moment to thank Fr. Patrick Duverger and his collaborators at Libreville who had prepared, down to the tiniest details, for our week at Gabon.

5. Is the memory of Archbishop Lefebvre still alive in Gabon?

Since there are still some eyewitnesses there, yes, it is, very much so! At the different missions where he worked, the elderly still remember him. They learned their Catechism from him. They were baptized and they received their First Holy Communion from his hands. And naturally, they were willing to share their memories. It is true that they are very old, and that their memories are blurred with the passing of time, but all the same, we have found witnesses who were profoundly marked by Archbishop Lefebvre, particularly in their faith…

It is incredible how he imbued their spirits of those who knew him, though he was so young at the time. Seventy, sometimes eighty years later, they all retained a loving memory by his passing. At Gabon in particular, as Archbishop Lefebvre―as founder of the Society of St. Pius X―had established a mission there in the mid 1980’s. His memory was, in a way, revived by this “return”.

In any case, when the priests of the Society arrived in 1986, no one had forgotten Fr. Marcel and his brother Rene. Indeed, because of this, the foundation could take place with the approval of the public authorities.

6. Did you have the same impression in Senegal?

It is different there because the Society of St. Pius X is not present, but it is incredible how the whole diocese of Dakar is imbued with the spirit of Archbishop Lefebvre, its pastor from 1947 to 1962. Those who knew him well say that he had a mania for building… Well! At Senegal, we had supplementary proof of that. The churches, the schools, the seminary, the Benedictine monastery, the Carmelite convent, the printing office, the courthouse… all bear his imprint.

Without a doubt, it is this that makes all our witnesses for the film unanimous: all who knew him as a missionary and knew what sort of choices he made at the time of the Council affirm, without hesitation, that he was a great archbishop and that he laid the foundations for the young Church in Africa. Archbishop Lefebvre ordained, in 1959, one of the priests from Senegal whom we have interviewed. He told us that he himself went to Econe in the 1990’s to recollect himself at the archbishop’s tomb.

7. Has he, nevertheless, left enemies behind?

We cannot deny that he had severe disagreements with some of his collaborators. At the heart of the Holy Ghost Congregation, [in the view of his confreres―Ed.] he went from unanimous gratitude as the elected Superior General at the eve of the Council, to a kind of ostracism when he resigned in 1968. In the face of enthusiasm for the aggiornamento, his warnings were not well received. However, everyone―even those who were against him―recognized his qualities of humility, simplicity, of leadership and of a builder.

One could feel, even today, the wound that was made in the hearts of some the Holy Ghost Fathers and of the diocesan priests in Senegal. They admired Archbishop Lefebvre and could not understand the road that he chose to take. Some of them confided this to us. For them it is too hard to speak of this episode of their lives. Sometimes by a disconcerting silence, most often by delicate refusal, they told us that they would prefer not to reopen what to them was a great wound. Those who did speak of it were, in general, inexhaustible, as suddenly free to speak. We were ushered into their office, and we perceived that despite the restriction imposed by their congregation or diocese, they had lost nothing of the life of him who was once their father. On their bookshelves, they had everything that has been written about Archbishop Lefebvre, from the writings of Congar to the biography written by Bishop Tissier de Mallerais.

8. Did they understand his position after the Council?

Without any doubt, at Gabon, yes. At Senegal, though some of them remained faithful to him in their heart, many of them have not yet found the connection between the extraordinary bishop they knew and the prelate who dared to be opposed to Rome. To them, it is not logical… They do not realize that the root of the problem is the Faith.

9. Were you able to get a hold of any interesting pictures?

We have been able to find a very great number of photographs. There are also archived audio-visuals provided by the period after 1975. Amateurs among the faithful, for example, have taken excellent videos (in 8 and 16mm format) from 1970 to 1980. Unfortunately, it is much more difficult to find videos from his time in Africa. Videotaping was neither a top priority for the missionaries nor of the locals. The older priests of the diocese of Dakar say that they recall that Archbishop Lefebvre was not much or not at all filmed when he was in Africa.

Overall, the documentary has four components: the archived photographs, the archived audio-visuals, the videos that we have taken of the places where Archbishop Lefebvre lived and finally the audio-visual testimonies of his contemporaries. I take advantage of this interview to ask our readers not to hesitate to share with us any videos they might have of Archbishop Lefebvre so that we can make copies of them.

10. Do you have any other requests?

Yes, there I have another very important request, a financial one. To travel around the world, to pay very expensive fees to have access to the public audio-visual archives, finance the equipment, the film conversions, the making of the DVD is all extremely costly especially since we are not sponsored by a producer. All the same, we hope by this documentary to make the personality of the archbishop well known, as well as a part of the Church’s history and the crisis in which she finds herself. Today young adults either if they dedicate themselves to God or decide to have a civil life do not know the founder of Econe, for he has been dead for more than 20 years.

A few days ago, when talking to two well-educated young adults who had all their schooling in Society schools, I discovered that neither of them had read the biography written by Bishop Tissier de Mallerais! Perhaps they are reading us today? If they are, may they know that it is for them in the first place that we prepare this film.

11. When can we hope to see this film?

Taking into consideration the delays of editing, dubbing and making of the DVD, we are hoping to make it the end of this year 2011. Twenty years after his death, Archbishop Lefebvre will be projected on screens, described by those who walked in his footsteps in the tropical forests or amongst the columns of the Vatican!

Watch the trailer for the Archbishop Lefebvre documentary>

Get the DVD now>