Séamas McSwiney on Made in France, a film that has had two release dates postponed due to real-life tragedies.
One of the more telling casualties of the 13th November attacks in Paris was an all too premonitory film: Made in France, directed by Nicolas Boukhrief, due for release on 18th November, was promptly withdrawn following the atrocities. The provocative film poster, showing a Kalashnikov superimposed over the Eiffel Tower was hastily stripped from the metro walls.
Beyond the generalised trauma of the 13th November mass killings, the distributors, Pretty Pictures, were immediately struck by the coincidences between the film’s story and even more specifically with their poster graphics.
Made in France tells the story of Sam, a freelance journalist who is also a Muslim, half French and half Arab. He has a deep desire to understand the difficulties between his two cultures. He infiltrates fundamentalist circles to investigate the growing phenomenon of disaffected youth joining extremist groups. He befriends a group of four youngsters and learns they have been given orders to form a jihadi cell and wreak havoc in the heart of Paris. Apart from Sam, the four others tick the appropriate archetypal boxes: the leader, Hassan, a psycho convert with a grievance; Driss, the nice guy who wants to please, Christophe, the privileged bourgeois convert who wants to hit back at his parents values; and Sidi, the African ex con who has nothing to lose….
“We had to make a responsible decision”, declared distributor James Velaise, adding that the decision was made with the producers and the director. Co-producer Clement Miserez stressed, “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, because of Charlie Hebdo and Kosher supermarket atrocities in January, this was postponed and the film was abandoned by its then distributor SND Films. Subsequently, it was picked up by Velaise’s Pretty Pictures.
“The movie was filmed before the January attacks in Paris,” explained Velaise. “Boukhrief did not surf the web for these events.”
In the making of his film, Boukhrief, a seasoned producer and filmmaker, says that he had concocted “an antidote” to Islamist indoctrination.
He tells how he has been interested in grappling with this subject since the spate of attacks in in Paris in 1995 and hunting down and killing of Khaled Kelkal. This shoot-out had practically happened live on TV. “Having been born to an Algerian father and a French mother myself, I wondered how a failure to integrate could reach such proportions”. But in 1995 he wasn’t ready or didn’t know how to broach such an important subject. Then successive attacks, notably the killing spree of Mohammad Merah in 2012 and his subsequent killing at the hands of the law, prompted him to overcome the difficulties.
Despite his sincere intentions and the urgency of the subject, along with Boukrief’s strong connections with the French film industry, funding was difficult. From the earliest application phases, “funders kicked for touch”, he says, they considered “the subject too trivial or of only marginal interest”.
Now the film’s difficulties continue; after two release delays because of corresponding all-too-real life tragedies, it’s not certain if or when the film will reach the screens.
Velaise says, “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.”
Séamas McSwiney is an Irish writer-producer based in Paris