Arab film world reacts with outrage – Paris attacks force theatre closures, high-profile screening cancellations

LOS ANGELES, Nov 15, (RTRS): The Arab film community is reacting to the tragic Paris attacks with shock, outrage and fears of a global backlash.  “It’s another 9/11 that we are living again,” said Egyptian auteur Mohamed Diab who is shooting a film titled “Clash” about Islamic extremism. “I feel so bad for France and everyone who is not going to feel safe at home. It’s the worse feeling in the world.”

Diab added that “as an Arab and someone who lived in the US post-9/11, I feel that we are also going to pay the price for all of this.”

Speaking from Cairo he noted that “here in my country I’m faced with terrorist attacks and unbelievable life conditions. Now when I go abroad I will be running from terrorists and from people who think that I am one.”

“And that’s not just me, all Arabs and Muslims are in this condition. And still, with all this craziness, I can’t blame anyone for judging me right now.”

Paris-based Arab cinema producer and agent Daniel Ziskind, who lost two friends killed by bullets on Friday evening while at the Eagles of Death Metal concert at the Bataclan Theatre, pointed out that in Paris “there is a generation of young people who will be shocked for the next ten years.”

“For me the main target was young people who go out and drink in bars and see films and music events. It will affect cinema; it will convince people to stay home for a while. It’s going to affect a big part of the economy because this is a war!,” Ziskind added as he boarded a plane from Paris to Cairo to attend the Cairo Film Festival. All movie theatres in Paris were shut down on Saturday.

Cairo fest President Magda Wassef and Artistic Director Youssef Cherif Rizkallah in a joint statement strongly denounced the attacks and expressed their solidarity with the French people.

“Against all form of sectarianism, it is more than ever necessary to stress the importance of culture as a bridge between people and a tool to build a better world,” their statement said.


Prominent Paris-based Lebanese/Syrian actress and writer Darina El-Joundi, who in the current fifth series of “Homeland” plays the wife of a Syrian general, had just returned home from the American hospital in Paris when the attacks took place. “I spent half my life in the civil war in Lebanon so I was more than shocked to have to relive these feelings in Paris, which is my other country,” she recounted. All her friends from Lebanon were calling her in shock, to ask if she was safe. “It was like a reversal.”

“The repercussions of this will be horrible,” El-Joundi underlined. “My friends’ kids are speaking English now in the streets of France because they are afraid to speak Arabic. It’s horrible!,” she exclaimed.

Speaking from a movie set on the Red Sea, prominent Egyptian producer Mohamed Hefzy (“My Bother the Devil”) also underscored the damage inflicted by the Paris attacks on the Arab world, besides expressing his heartfelt condolences to Parisians.

“This is not a war of Islam against the West or a clash of civilisations,” Hefzy said. “I think this is as much an attack on Islam itself as it is an attack on the peaceful, loving people of France.”

“This is not going to do Islam any good. And it doesn’t characterize Islam. There is a quote in the Holy Quran which says that he who has killed an innocent life, it’s like killing all of humanity. This is very much against the core of what Islam is. I hate to see catastrophic events like this tarnish the image of Islam,” he noted.

“Although this will leave a huge psychological scar for years and years to come, I think that we have to stick together and get over this and defeat whoever is behind this,” Hefzy added.

Amr Waked (“Lucy”), who is Egypt’s biggest international star, passionately pointed out that “terrorism tries to collapse societies through threats that destroy confidence and courage and faith in social fabric.”

“They use hate as part of their scheme to make societies not just hurt, but also self-implode.”

“The most important thing we should be focussing on is not to collapse against fear and hate,” Waked underlined.

“We have much more love and are far braver than people who are snatching an opportunity to kill civilians who have nothing to do with any conflict whatsoever.”

Paris cinemas are going dark after a series of terrorist attacks targeting crowded public locations have raised safety concerns in the French capital. Furthermore, upcoming red-carpet film events — including screenings of Nanni Moretti’s “My Mother” and Steven Spielberg’s “Bridge of Spies,” as well as a weekend press junket and Monday night sneak preview for Natalie Portman western “Jane Got a Gun” — have been canceled for reasons of safety and sensitivity.


“In light of the tragic events in Paris, Monday’s preview screening and filmmaker Q&A for ‘Steve Jobs’ has been cancelled,” a Universal spokesperson said Saturday evening, referring to an event director Danny Boyle was scheduled to attend. “Our hearts and prayers go out to all the victims, families and the people of France during this difficult time.”

The timing of the attacks directly affects a high-profile French pre-release run of Pixar’s “The Good Dinosaur,” which was set to open Nov 14 in Paris’ classy Grand Rex theater a full 11 days before the rest of the world. The screenings would have begun Saturday morning, preceded by an elaborate water and light spectacle — a beloved holiday tradition. Instead, the Grand Rex will remain closed all weekend.

In a live press conference given Friday night while the hostage crisis at the Bataclan concert venue was still unfolding, French president Francois Hollande declared a state or emergency that gives the Minister of the Interior the right to order the temporary closure movie theaters, bars and meeting places of any kind at his discretion. By law, the state of emergency can last for up to 12 days.

Paris’ city hall set the example early Saturday morning by ordering all public institutions to close for the day, an edict that extended to several public cinemas, including the Forum des Images in Les Halles, one of the city’s biggest and most central shopping centers.

French distributor Pretty Pictures took action early Saturday, swiftly announcing the decision to delay indefinitely the release of terrorism-themed thriller “Made in France,” about a journalist who infiltrates a jihadist cell on the outskirts of Paris.

The city’s residents remain jittery and uncertain following the tragic events of Friday the 13th, shocked by the violence but also determined to go on with life, lest the terrorists get their way. The majority of shops appear to be closed, with large chain stores such as Printemps and Galleries Lafayette shutting their doors, though some businesses remain in operation.

Museums and cultural institutions have followed city hall’s command, resulting in the temporary closure of several important events, including the Paris Photo international photography fair that opened Thursday at the Grand Palais expo hall.

Though the emergency state forbids the sort of public demonstrations seen after the Charlie Hebdo tragedy, many have emerged to light candles and show their support. At Place de la Republique, not far from where one of the shootings took place, graffiti artists sprung into action, installing a mural that reads “Fluctuat nec mergitur” — or “Tossed but not sunk,” a Latin expression that accompanies the sailing vessel depicted on the city of Paris’ coat of arms.

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