How did the man who, more than any other, paved the way for a French national cinema come to be completely forgotten, especially so in France? How is it that what little attention is paid to him centres on his alleged career as a pioneer and performer in early gay and BDSM porn? Why was Bernard Natan’s name erased from the history of cinema, despite the fact that he dominated the French film industry for most of the 1920s and 30s?

David Cairns and Paul Duane have excavated an extraordinary tale that aims to rewrite the history of European cinema. The man who brought sound cinema to France and Cinemascope to the screen before the word existed, the French equivalent of Cecil B de Mille, came to an end so shockingly tragic that it seems unbelievable. Rumours and lies have swarmed around his story for decades but this documentary finally brings the truth to light.

From the maker of the Grierson award-nominated portrait of writer John Healy, Barbaric Genius, and the award-winning music documentary Very Extremely Dangerous, NATAN is simultaneously a visually experimental murder mystery, an inspiring portrait of the birth of cinema and a savage history of French bigotry in the 1920s and 30s.

Paul Duane

Reel Art is an Arts Council scheme designed to provide film artists with a unique opportunity to make highly creative, imaginative and experimental documentaries on an artistic theme.