Paris attacks turn cinematic fiction into real horror

French Police officers patrolling near the Eiffel tower in Paris on Nov 23.
French Police officers patrolling near the Eiffel tower in Paris on Nov 23. PHOTO: EPA

PARIS • The gunmen and suicide bombers who killed 130 people in Paris on Nov 13 turned into reality the horror scenario of a soon- to-be-released movie.

Made In France, directed by Nicolas Boukhrief and which had been slated for a Nov 18 release, tells the story of a French journalist who infiltrates a terrorist cell that is preparing to create havoc in Paris. Posters for the movie featuring a Kalashnikov rifle in the shadow of the Eiffel tower with a tagline, "The threat comes from inside", could still be seen in Paris metro stations a few days after the assaults.

The fictional attack takes place on the Champs-Elysees, the city's best known avenue, rather than Paris' bohemian eastern end, where the assaults happened on Nov 13.

Still, the parallels were close enough to prompt producer Pretty Pictures to postpone the film's release.

"A new date will be set," the company said on its Facebook page the day after the attacks. "Today, we are sad, along with the rest of France."

Delays and changes to movies and television series are not unusual in the wake of major events and releasing the film so soon after the attacks would have been in poor taste, the director said.

"A thriller such as Made In France requires, for instance, to show violence in a way that can't be offered to the public when victims, injured people and their families are going through an unspeakable tragedy along with millions of Frenchmen," Boukhrief said in an interview with Gala magazine. "The time will come to see this movie, but it can't be one of mourning."

In Made In France, one of the lead actors, Ahmed Drame, says he accepted the role last year, a year before the Kouachi brothers went on a shooting spree at the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo's headquarters in Paris and Amedy Coulibaly attacked a kosher supermarket, together leaving 17 dead.

In fact, the film's plot draws its inspiration from the actions of Khaled Kelkal, the main suspect of a series of bombings in 1995, and Mohamed Merah, who killed paratroopers and children and a teacher at a Jewish school in 2012.

Police investigations have suggested that the attackers of this month's assaults were plotting yet another strike, this time in the business district of La Defense, on or around Nov 18, when the French army and police forces raided the Paris suburb of Saint-Denis, killing Abdelhamid Abaaoud, a Belgian national and the suspected architect of the Nov 13 massacre.

Abaaoud, the son of a Moroccan shopkeeper, grew up in a working-class district of Brussels before he joined the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

His father Omar told La Derniere Heure newspaper how he could not understand how or why his son had turned to radical Islam.

Another Paris terrorist, who died after he activated his suicide belt, was Samy Amimour, a French citizen whose father was interviewed a year ago by newspaper Le Monde about his failure to tear his son away from ISIS.

Those tales mirror that of the protagonist of another film, which was released as planned on Nov 22. In Les Cowboys, a father travels the world to try and find his daughter, who has run away to join jihadist fighters after converting to Islam.

"These are ordinary people who find themselves caught up in the world's chaos," Thomas Bidegain, the film's director, said.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 02, 2015, with the headline 'Paris attacks turn cinematic fiction into real horror'. Print Edition | Subscribe