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‘Made in France’: French thriller too close to real life

Latest update : 18/11/2015

© © Pretty Pictures | Photo: An excerpt from Nicolas Boukhrief's film "Made in France" (2015)

Article text by Guillaume GUGUEN

The film “Made in France,” a thriller about a jihadist cell that launches a series of simultaneous attacks in Paris, saw its release postponed indefinitely in light of Friday's terrorist attacks across Paris.

The decision was taken by the film’s distributor, Pretty Pictures, who is still determined to release the film at a "later date".

Posters of the film, that had just been freshly plastered inside numerous Paris metro stations, sported a dramatic visual: a large Kalashnikov nestled against France’s most iconic symbol, the Eiffel Tower.

The film was originally scheduled to hit the big screen on November 18, and the producers wanted to make a striking impression with a powerful image. But in a cruel twist of life imitating art, Paris came under attack and within hours the posters were hastily removed by Media Transports, the advertising arm of the RATP.

Even more than the poster’s image, it’s the plot of Nicolas Boukhrief’s film that seems to echo the terror that France has just been subjected to. "Made in France" tells the story of an undercover journalist who infiltrates a jihadist cell in a Paris suburb which is preparing a series of highly sophisticated attacks in the heart of Paris.

Currently on location shooting another film, the director has not yet made a public statement regarding Friday's attacks. "But he fully understood our decision," head of Pretty Pictures James Velaise told FRANCE 24. "While it is still too early to give a date, 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."

In the making of his film, Boukhrief told AFP that he had concocted "an antidote" to Islamist indoctrination. "The movie was filmed before the attacks against 'Charlie Hebdo' and Hyper Cacher in Paris,” explained Velaise. “He (Boukhrief) did not surf the web for these events. It is a subject he has been developing for some time. It is the result of extensive research."

Funding problems

The project had been germinating in the mind of the filmmaker since the death of Khaled Kelkal, the architect of the 1995 attacks on Paris. The Algerian militant’s untimely end was covered on television, in dramatic fashion, in almost real-time. "Having been born to an Algerian father and a French mother myself, I wondered how a failure to integrate could reach such proportions," the director explained to AFP.

"Made in France" was four years in the making, enough time for the director to  research from the "banlieues" and to gather information from the police. But, most importantly, he had to seek financing. "In 2012, public funding was denied to us with the excuse that the subject matter was trivial. Today, that sounds crazy," said the director, prior to the attacks of November 13th.

Nicolas Boukhrief started writing the screenplay well before the Islamic State group, an offshoot of Al-Qaeda, came into being. "This madness of young people going to fight in Syria did not yet exist. The youth the film depicts are young French people like the Kouachi brothers (the perpetrators of the attack against ‘Charlie Hebdo’). This film was overtaken by real-life events,” he added. Little did he know lightning would strike twice.

Second Life

This is not the first time that a film anticipates drama on a grand scale. As reported in Le Monde, the 1998 American action film "The Siege" followed a terrorist group targeting New York City, executing simultaneous attacks against the FBI headquarters and a Broadway theatre. Despite an all-star cast, the film obtained mixed reviews and did not receive much fanfare at the time of its release. But following the September 11 attacks, the film benefited from a second life because of its seemingly prophetic content.

In France, the Charlie Hebdo attacks in January brought the critically-acclaimed 2012 French film "La Désintégration" back into the spotlight. The film retraced the path to radicalisation of three young men living in the Paris suburbs. Despite the widely positive reviews, Philippe Faucon’s well- esearched narrative remained relatively unknown during its original release. But three years on, critics and moviegoers alike hailed the work as a prescient film. And following the Unity March after the January attacks, the film’s distributors requested the film be broadcast on television. "We need this film to be seen!" they told the Le Monde, adding, "This is not commercial cynicism, this is our civic duty."

(This article was adapted from the original in French)

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