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CULTURE

EXPLAINED: Could bullfighting finally be banned in France?

French MPs will vote due later this month on whether to ban bullfighting in a move that has enraged lovers of the blood sport in those parts of the country where it is popular. Here's what you need to know.

EXPLAINED: Could bullfighting finally be banned in France?
Spanish matador Daniel Luque fights a bill in the arena of Arles, southern France, on June 6, 2021. (Photo by Nicolas TUCAT / AFP)

Lawmakers in France are trying once again to ban bullfighting.

The issue has split the ruling coalition of President Emmanuel Macron and the biggest opposition party, the far-right National Rally, which is led by animal-lover Marine Le Pen.

Journalist-turned-MP Aymeric Caron has proposed a bill to outlaw the centuries-old practice, which remains popular in south west France. The bill is currently with the Law Commission before going up for a vote in the National Assembly on November 24th – the first time MPs have ever voted on the subject. 

Currently, France’s penal code outlaws acts of cruelty towards animals but makes an exception for “uninterrupted local traditions” such as bullfighting. To prohibit it is to clash with the aficionados attached to this local custom in cities including Bayonne and the medieval jewel of Mont-de-Marsan in southwest France near Spain, where the practice has its origins, and along the Mediterranean coast including Arles, Beziers and Nimes.

Environmentalist MPs tried and failed in 2013 and again 2021 to have bullfighting banned, despite widespread public support. According to an Ifop poll conducted in February for animal welfare organisation 30 millions d’amis, 77 percent of French people are in favour of banning bullfighting – up from 50 percent in 2007. 

Spanish matadores Enrique Ponce (L) and Ivan Fandino (R) react after a bullfighting with Victoriano del Rio’s bulls during the festival of La Madeleine at Plumacon arena in Mont)de)Marsan, southwestern France, on July 24, 2015.AFP PHOTO / GAIZKA IROZ (Photo by IROZ GAIZKA / AFP)

The trend is reversed in cities with a bullfighting tradition, where 72% of the inhabitants favour maintaining bullfighting, according to a poll conducted by Ifop and Sud Radio in June.

Earlier this year, La France Insoumise MP Caron said: ““I think the majority of French people share the view that bullfights are immoral, a spectacle that no longer has its place in the 21st century.”

For years, critics have sought a final legal blow against what they call a cruel and archaic ritual, but none of the draft bills presented have ever been approved for debate by National Assembly lawmakers.

French courts have also routinely rejected lawsuits lodged by animal rights activists, most recently in July 2021 in Nimes, home to one of France’s most famous bullfighting events.

‘Leave our traditions alone’

Caron hopes his bill will attract cross-party support. And the idea of a ban does have backing outside his left-wing party, including top members of Macron’s party such as the head of his parliamentary group Aurore Berge, who was among 36 lawmakers who called for a bullfighting ban last year.

Rassemblement National MP Julien Odoul, told Le Parisien: “The cause is more important than political differences.

“I will gladly vote for the abolition of bullfighting.”

The move to ban it could fail because a majority of MPs fear a backlash in rural areas and bullfighting heartlands where the practice is a cherished cultural tradition.

The conflict echoes the widening rift in France between rural dwellers steeped in deep agriculture traditions, and Parisians and other urban residents accused of trampling on the country’s cultural heritage.

“The MP Caron, in a very moralising tone, wants to explain to us, from Paris, what is good or bad in the south,” the furious mayor of Mont-de-Marsan, Charles Dayot, told AFP.

Bullfighting is “our identity, a living culture. Leave us alone with our traditions!” added Dayot, who is vice-president of the Union of French Bullfighting Towns.

The law would also ban cock-fighting which is permitted in some areas in northern France.

Bullfighting country

Bullfighting dates back to Roman times, but the first written reference to a bull-running event in France dates from 1289 – as part of law concerning the driving of animals through the streets to the slaughter house in Bayonne.

As well as Bayonne, bullfighting events take place in Mont-de-Marsan in the Basque Country, near the Spanish border, and along the Mediterranean coast in towns such as Arles, Béziers and Nîmes.

Spanish matador Manuel Escribano gestures after fighting with a Miura bull on June 9, 2014 during the Bullfighting Pentecost feria in Nimes, southern France. AFP PHOTO BERTRAND LANGLOIS (Photo by BERTRAND LANGLOIS / AFP)

It is so popular that regional newspaper Sud Ouest still publishes corrida results from across southern France and northern Spain.

Spanish-style corridas have taken place in parts of south west France since the 19th century, with bullfighting events popular in the Spring and Summer months – with the season beginning in late April and running into September.

An estimated 1,000 bulls per year are killed in French arenas, while according to the pro-bullfight organisation, the Observatoire National des Cultures Taurines (ONCT), two million people attend corridas in France every year.

As well as the Spanish style corrida, there are two more types of French ‘bullfighting’. One is the “course landaise”, in which cows are used instead of bulls. In this type of event, teams try to dodge and leap over the cow, with each team aiming to complete a set of at least 100 dodges and eight leaps.

In the “course camarguaise”, meanwhile, the goal is to snatch a rosette from the head of a young bull.

Bullfighting was actually added to the list of France’s “cultural heritage” in 2011 by then-French culture minister Frédéric Mitterrand. Four years later, it was cut from the list, following a massive public outcry.

It is, in fact, banned in most of France but is allowed in the south because it is regarded as a cultural tradition, despite complaints from activists that the sport is a form of animal cruelty.

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CULTURE

The English-subtitled French film screenings for December you don’t want to miss

As the film club that screens French films with English subtitles celebrates its seventh birthday, here are the movies you will want to see and where you can see them:

The English-subtitled French film screenings for December you don't want to miss

For the past seven years, Lost in Frenchlation, a company that regularly screens French films with English subtitles, has given anglophones living in Paris – and more recently across France – the opportunity to enjoy French cinematic culture.

Lost in Frenchlation has also expanded out beyond Paris, with screenings in Charente and Normandy this month. 

Here are the screenings across France that you will want to take note of:

Paris

Trois Nuits par Semaine – In this film, the main character, 29-year-old Baptiste meets a young drag queen, Cookie Kunty, and becomes mesmerised, even though he is already in a relationship. The film shows Baptise becoming immersed in Cookie’s world, and eventually the start of their relationship.

Cineuropa described the film as “conveying to perfection the vibrancy of this incredibly intense yet wistfully painful world” and that the complex film is likely “to divide audiences.”

The screening will take place on Friday, December 2nd at 8pm, with pre-drinks beginning at 7pm. Following the film, moviegoers are encouraged to stick around for a Q&A with the director.

It will take place at L’Entrepôt Cinema (7 Rue Francis de Pressensé) in Paris’ 14th arrondisement. Tickets are available online for €7 for those eligible for reductions, and €8.50 for all others.

Pétaouchnock – Set in the Pyrenees mountains, this film is about two friends seeking to pull themselves up from rock bottom. While trekking on horseback, the duo enjoy an unforgettable experience. Described by Le Parisien as having a “well-seasoned cast with a good dose of comedy.”

The evening will also celebrate Lost in Frenchlation’s seventh anniversary, with giveaways and stand up comedy. Join the group at 7pm for drinks, and enjoy English-language comedy from Sarah Donnelly and Luke Thompson at 7:30 before the show goes on at 8pm.

Taking place at the Club de l’Étoile in Paris’ 8th arrondisement (14 Rue Troyon), on Friday, December 9th, you can find tickets HERE. Reduced tickets will be available at €13, and regular tickets are available for €15.

Petaouchnok_TLR-Pulsar_H264_HD-239_24p_WEB20_EN_20221020-M141.mp4 from Lost in Frenchlation on Vimeo.

Les Miens – a film by the director Roschdy Zem, Les Miens is a personal portrait of a family resembling the directors’ own. The film portrays a relationship between brothers – Moussa known for being kind – and Ryad – a TV presenter known for being egotistical. However, when Moussa suffers from serious brain trauma he becomes almost unrecongisable, and his family relationships are forever altered.

The screening will take place on December 12th at 8:30pm, with pre-drinks starting at 7pm. Moviegoers are welcome to stay after the screening for a Q&A with one of the film’s actors.

The show will take place at Cinéma du Panthéon, in Paris’ 5th arrondisement (13 rue Victor Cousin). You can get reduced-price tickets for €6.50 and regular priced tickets for €8.50. For this film, tickets will only be available at the door, but you can make a pre-reservation HERE

Simone, le voyage du siècle –  a biopic about one of France’s most prominent women, Simone Veil, this film will take audiences through the renowned feminist and holocaust survivor’s early childhood, as well as her most pivotal political battles. Vogue has called it one of “the most anticipated films of the year.” 

The Women of Paris walking tour will also be organising an event before the start of the screening, at 5pm. You can reserve tickets for €15 at this website.

As for the screening itself, it will take place on December 16th at 8pm. All are welcome to join in pre-drinks at 7pm. 

The film will be shown at the Luminor Hotel de Ville cinema, located at 20 Rue du Temple in Paris’ 4th arrondisement. 

You can find reduced price tickets (€7) and regular tickets (€11) HERE.

 
Les Engagés – Running a little over an hour and a half, this film shares the story of David, a man who ends up helping a young migrant who is being pursued by the police. Based on a true story, the film takes place in Briançon, a town in the Alps near France’s border with Italy, and tells the tale of how David commits himself to helping the young migrant, at all costs.

This screening will also be in partnership with the association “Serve the City Paris.” The only English-speaking NGO in Paris, Serve the City Paris has grown from its start in 2012 as a small circle to become a mobile organisation with over 700 volunteers.

The organisation will be conducting a Christmas fundraiser at the screening, where they will accept money, in addition to physical donations (with priority placed on sleeping bags and tents large enough for for two to four people) for those in need. You can learn more HERE

Taking place on December 22nd, moviegoers are welcome to enjoy pre-drinks at 7pm before the 8pm screening at L’Arlequin in Paris’ 6th arrondisement (76 Rue de Rennes)

Charente

Those looking to enjoy a French film with English subtitles in Charente are in luck this month. The theatre is located in Marthon, about half an hour from Angouleme by car).

Couleurs de l’incendie – An adaptation of the 1927 saga, the film tells the story of Madeleine, a young heiress who must take over a financial empire after the death of her father, Marcel Péricourt.

You can find the listing for the film on the theatre’s Facebook Page. It will be screened December 10th at 5:30pm. If you need to contact the theatre for any reason, you can reach them at [email protected]

Caen 

English-speaking fans of French cinema in Normandy can rejoice, as Lost in Frenchlation has also expanded to Caen. Here is what is in store for December;

Saint Omer – In this film by Alice Diop, a young novelist has her convictions called into question as she attends the trial of  Laurence Coly, a woman accused of killing her 15-month-old daughter, who drowned at a beach in northern France. As the trial rolls forward, the novelist is struck by the words of the accused and the witness’ testimonies.

The screening will take place in partnership with the Café des images, which is dedicated to giving the international community in Normandy an opportunity to experience France’s cinema culture.

Taking place on Wednesday, December 14th, moviegoers are invited to join for a pre-screening get-together at Café Polyglotte at 7pm. The screening will begin at 9pm.

The theatre itself is located at 4 square du théâtre, 14200 Hérouville-Saint-Clair

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