PARIS • A film about rising nationalism in Europe featuring a character similar to French far-right leader Marine Le Pen is set to hit the screens in France two months ahead of elections - and Ms Le Pen's allies are furious.
Chez nous (Our Home) tells the tale of a nurse in northern France who is approached to be a candidate for the Patriotic Bloc party. The branding and message of the hardline group and its blonde female boss leave little doubt that Belgian director Lucas Belvaux modelled it on the National Front (FN), which has surged in opinion polls.
Ms Le Pen's close confidant and vice-president of the party Florian Philippot called it "scandalous" that a "clearly anti-National Front" film was being released during campaigning.
"Having seen the trailer... It looks like a real turkey," he said on Sunday.
Mr Belvaux responded on Monday, saying he had been surprised by the strength of the reaction to the drama which sees veteran actress Catherine Jacob play the Le Pen character.
"Mr Philippot has only seen the trailer so it's a cheap controversy which avoids the debate about the message of the film," he told France's BFMTV channel.
"It's not so much an anti-FN film as a film about the populist message and how people relate to politics. It's voters that interest me, not political parties," he added.
Polls show Ms Le Pen qualifying for the second round of the presidential election in May where she is forecast to face - and probably lose to - right-wing Republican party candidate Francois Fillon.
But her chances are being taken seriously after an unpredictable 12 months in politics, including Britain's June vote to leave the EU and the election of Mr Donald Trump as the next US president.