By Séamas McSwiney
A film poster with an AK-47 superimposed over the Eiffel Tower. This was one of the more curious and telling casualties of the terrorist attacks in Paris on Friday 13 November.
Due for release on 18 November, the film Made in France, directed by Nicolas Boukhrief, was promptly withdrawn from release.
Beyond the generalised and staggering trauma of the mass killings in the French capital, the producers and distributors were immediately struck by the iconic coincidence of rampage had both with their poster graphics and with the subject of the film. The distributor Pretty Pictures instantly removed the film from release and had its provocative poster hastily stripped from Metro station walls.
But the film itself promises a message beyond that sensationalism. Made in France tells the story of Sam, a freelance journalist who is also a French Muslim. He infiltrates fundamentalist circles to investigate the growing phenomenon of disaffected youth joining extremist groups. He befriends a group of four youngsters who he learns have been given orders to form a jihadi cell and wreak havoc in the heart of Paris.
“We had to make a responsible decision,” said distributor James Velaise, adding that the decision was made with the producers and the director. Co-producer Clement Miserez stressed that “no pressure was put on them to cancel”.
Shot and completed in 2014, Made in France was first set for release in early 2015, but was postponed in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo and Kosher supermarket attacks in January, and finally dropped by its then distributor SND Films.
In the making of his film, Boukhrief declared in the press kit that he had concocted “an antidote” to Islamist indoctrination. “The movie was filmed before the January attacks in Paris,” said Velaise. “Boukhrief did not surf the web for these events.”
Boukrief himself tells how he has been interested in grappling with this subject since the spate of attacks in Paris in 1995 and the live-TV hunting down of Khaled Kelkal.
“Having been born to an Algerian father and a French mother myself, I wondered how a failure to integrate could reach such proportions,” he said.
In the meantime, Velaise confirms that the film “will eventually be released. We will not bow to a band of fanatics. Made in France has a real role to play with youth who are at risk of going down the path of radicalisation, because the moral of the film is clear: if you get mixed up in this, one way or another you will lose.”