Beyond Hatred

PBS Premiere: June 30, 2009Check the broadcast schedule »

Film Update

POV: Can you tell us what has happened in the lives of the Chenus since filming ended?

Olivier Meyrou: François's parents sent the letter that they read at the end of the film, and two out of the three boys who killed François responded soon after they received it.

The youngest one who was a minor at the time of the murder — was one of the two who responded. François's mother told me that it was ironic, because the boy didn't know how to read or write and had asked his Arab cellmate to write the letter for him. So, a skinhead had to write a letter to the parents of his victim, but since he couldn't write, he had to rely on his Arab buddy.

The other one who responded to the letter was the one who was most involved in the skinhead movement. He was the leader of the group. He told François's parents that François died with a lot of courage. He also said that the three of them were cowards that night, and that François didn't back down. François stood upright in his shoes and he didn't want to apologize for being homosexual; he stayed true to himself. The skinhead wrote that it was partly François's strength of will that unleashed violence in the three of them. François's strength reflected back their cowardice, and that was unbearable to them.

So the letter really centered around that, and it was really hard for the Chenus to answer. How does one reply to a letter like when you are the victim's parents? The letter revealed the aggression and violence against François, as seen from the point of view of the aggressor. It was very disturbing to the Chenus.

The Chenus also thought about the reintegration of these boys back into society. They were each sentenced to 20 years in prison, and their sentences can be reduced for good conduct, so they might only serve 12 years. That means these men will still be young when they are released, and the Chenus are very much aware of that. What the Chenus don't want is for these men to come out of prison more damaged and more aggressive. They want to stop the violence from continuing any longer.