FORT BUCHANAN (Benjamin Crotty, France/Tunisia, 2014, International Panorama)
The name sounds like it may be a John Ford film – and that the film’s title comes from the facility for the wives of soldiers serving in the army perhaps reinforces that. Perhaps something like Fort Apache? Well, no. This is a French film, though the director, Benjamin Crotty was born in USA.
This film is completely set among the wives, talking sex (and sexual tensions and frustrations when husbands are on service out of the country), sharing problems like how to handle the near-18 daughter of one of their number, and then the looming impact on French Government cutbacks on military facilities such as theirs.
In only 65 minutes, this film develops a strong sense of a community, and of the individuals who make up that community. At one point it shifts from France to Djibouti (though filmed in Tunisia) when some of the wives join their husbands – not all of whom are happy to see their partners. I haven’t mentioned yet, however, that Frank, one of the husbands is black – and after 18 years of marriage he’s not seeing the relationship in the same way as his spouse. And then I add that Frank’s wife is Roger – and that there is another man in the group of wives….. well, in one way those details misrepresent the film. Because it is most definitely not a film about race or a film about gay couples.
In fact, part of its success comes from the fact that all the characters are over race or gay marriage as issues. These are just people, with the same issues of sex, of families, of bringing up children, of hopes and fears of the future, of identity with and outside of a relationship.
This is a little gem that completely took me by surprise.