søndag den 8. november 2015

CPH DOX 2015: "Je suis Charlie" - interview med instruktørerne

I dag har den franske dokumentarfilm "Je suis Charlie" (L'humour à mort) dansk premiere på filmfestivalen CPH:DOX.

Filmen behandler terrorangrebet på det parisiske satireblad Charlie Hebdo, der fandt sted den 7. januar 2015 og krævede 12 dødsofre. Både de overlevende og de myrdede medarbejdede får taletid i "Je suis Charlie". De sidstnævnte medvirker i form af arkivmateriale fra filmen "C'est dur d'être aimé par des cons" (= "Det er hårdt at være elsket af idioter"), som den fransk-algeriske instruktør Daniel Leconte lavede i 2007-08.



CPH:DOX' programtekst om "Je suis Charlie":

"Angrebet på Charlie Hebdo den 7. januar i år var et afskyvækkende angreb på to af det vestlige demokratis grundpiller: ytringsfriheden og satiren. I oprulningen af både det chokerende angreb og dets efterspil, og i dybdegående interviews med de overlevende, ser instruktør Daniel Leconte (der også stod bag Charlie Hebdo-filmen 'It's Hard to be Loved by Jerks' i 2009) og hans søn Emmanuel nærmere både på tragedien, hykleriet og den glemsomhed, som også satte ind i Danmark ovenpå den famøse karikaturkrise i 2005. 
Politikere og journalister har diskuteret ekstremisternes angreb på Charlie Hebdo som et symptom på en dybere, demokratisk krise, der udspiller sig midt i den selvforståelse, som er integreret i alt hvad vi forstår som vestlig kultur. Fortalt af Leconte senior selv, og med både nye interviews og gamle klip med blandt andre redaktøren Charb og tegneren Cabu fra det ikonoklastiske ugeblad, der i ugen efter drabene udkom i syv millioner eksemplarer med den nu ikoniske forsidetegning 'Alt er tilgivet'."

Daniel Leconte har instrueret “Je suis Charlie” sammen med sin søn, skuespilleren Emmanuel Leconte. Jeg mødte dem begge, da filmen havde verdenspremiere på Toronto Film Festival i september.

Til min overraskelse sad der også to Charlie Hebdo-medarbejdere ved bordet, da jeg ankom til interviewet. Dette måtte jeg ikke vide på forhånd, forklarede arrangøren mig. Charlie Hebdos ansatte svæver fortsat i så stor fare, at de holdes under opsyn døgnet rundt. Interviewet fandt derfor sted i et billardrum i en anonym beboelsesejendom. En livvagt var posteret på trappen i foyeren for alle tilfældes skyld.

De to Charlie Hebdo-ansatte, økonomidirektør Éric Portheault og bladtegner/forlagschef Riss (Laurent Sourisseau), talte kun fransk, hvorfor Emmanuel Leconte løbende måtte tolke deres svar på engelsk for den ikke-franskkyndige journalist. Selv talte både far og søn Leconte udmærket engelsk. Jeg har valgt ikke at oversætte citaterne til dansk.

Plakat til "Je suis Charlie" | foto: Unifrance Films

INTERVIEW, TORONTO FILM FESTIVAL 2015
"Je suis Charlie"
with Daniel and Emmanuel Leconte (directors), Riss and Eric Porthault (Charlie Hebdo)
All rights © Brian Iskov 2015



[To Riss and Eric Porthault] You live under protection now?

RISS: Yes. Every time, everywhere. We don't know [for how long]. We don't know when it will end.

DANIEL LECONTE: It started in January. There's too much going on.

What's the atmosphere like at Charlie Hebdo these days?

RISS: It's gotten better in the last months, because the newspaper is reconstructing itself, so it's much better than it was. But one of the main worries is of course the security of the journalists so that people can come and work in peace. You can't create in a comfortable way if you're not secure.

DANIEL LECONTE: I guess Jyllands-Posten knows about that.

Filmens instruktører, Daniel (t.v.) og Emmanuel Leconte | pressefoto

[To Daniel and Emmanuel Leconte] What's the story behind the original documentary, "Tough Being Loved by Jerks", that you made before this one?

EMMANUEL LECONTE (32): When Charlie Hebdo decided in 2006, in solidarity with Jyllands-Posten, to publish what became known the Mohammed cartoons, Charlie was one of only three outlets in France who decided to reprint them and support [Jyllands-Posten]. And Charlie was at the frontline, ringing everyone up and saying, "Guys, we have to publish this, it can't just be us doing this. Everybody [has to do it] so there is broad support, and everybody realizes that it's just something that we can do in an open society. So do it."

Of course, it didn't go that way, and Charlie was accused by Muslim organizations of defamation, and a big trial was organized. In the French society, it was like, "Ah, Charlie is again doing some trouble, being polemical" and all that. But Daniel understood very early on that they were doing something that was crucial. It was something extremely important, far beyond just one cartoon or one controversy. It was something that had to do with the core values in a democracy, and it had to do with freedom - full stop. So he decided to cover the whole debate [in his documentary].

DANIEL LECONTE (66): I published an article in Libération, which was called "Thanks, Charlie". [Because] the other titles in the press refused to publish the cartoons. After this article, Phillippe Val, the director of Charlie Hebdo at the time, said "Thank you for your article", and we had a lot of conversations about that story. After a week, I decided to join the group.

EMMANUEL LECONTE: And to film the trial. You couldn't film in the courtroom, but you could be in corridors and all that. The Mohammed controversy, it affected Denmark strongly, of course, and was a controversy all over the world with demonstrations, burning of Danish flags, violence, death threats, and the prime minister got involved, and the Muslim countries banding together to put pressure on ... All those extremely violent reactions.



EMMANUEL LECONTE: In this trial, what was incredible is that for once in this whole story, the issue could be processed within the boundaries of the law and could be argued upon. With lawyers, with people. And there was an intellectual debate taking place [in France]. Muslim organizations had the chance to be defended by their lawyers, putting up arguments saying how they the cartoons were defaming their prophet, and the lawyers of the newspaper had the oppportunity to make a stand and explain why it's very important to have the right to critic any religion, any ideology, any idea, because that's what freedom of speech is, and that's what creating debate is. That was an incredible moment.

In the end, Charlie won the trial. The justice said, of course they contributed to the debate and getting more knowledgeable in this issue of what we can or not say in the public space. At that point, Daniel filmed a lot with cartoonists, lawyers and all that, so we had this whole stock footage with the cartoonists who at that time were defending themselves on the accusation of being racist or xenophobic and all those things.

"These terrorists are trying to silence them. We have to take this footage again and have them speak"
- Emmanuel Leconte, "Je suis Charlie"

EMMANUEL LECONTE: When the attack happened, I remembered all those images and thought, these terrorists are trying to silence them. We have to take this footage again and have them speak, have people being able to listen to what they have to say.

DANIEL LECONTE: During the trial 276, there were two Danish testimonies. Mehdi Mozaffari [professor emeritus dr.scient.pol. in Islamic Studies at Aarhus University] and the director of Jyllands-Posten [Flemming Rose, then editor of Arts and Culture]. It's important for you [Danes] to remember that. They supported as testimony during the process in Paris.

Riss fra Charlie Hebdo | foto: TIFF

To Eric Portheault and Riss: What were your thoughts when you first saw the Mohammed cartoons in Jyllands-Posten?

RISS: We heard about it before seeing them. France Soir re-published the cartoons first, and the editor-in-chief got fired for doing so. Cabu, during our conference newsroom, explained that to everyone at Charlie Hebdo: "You know what, this guy has been fired at France Soir for re-printing the cartoons". That's when we thought, "Okay, there's no question. We have to publish them." Even before we saw them.

It's just the principle. You cannot fire someone or not be able to publish a drawing. In a secular state like France, it was an act of censorship to forbid cartoons on a religion. Whatever the drawings are, it's not targeting a person, but an ideology, a religion. So you cannot forbid someone to do so.

ERIC PORTHEAULT: Whether it's a good cartoon, funny or not funny. You don't have the right to.

According to the film, there was a surge of compassion and support within the French public after the killings, but then it subsided again, at least among the elite, the clerics. Do the people of France still support Charlie Hebdo?

RISS: There are more people who support Charlie Hebdo than we imagined. Much more. Nine months later, I still have people coming up every day to me saying, "Hold on. We're with you. Don't drop the ball. Keep going." You probably don't hear them in the media, but we hear it. You don't have any demonstrations anymore with millions of people in France, but people still have it in their head. It really created something, and they remember it.

DANIEL LECONTE: I agree with Riss. The elite were the traitors in this story, really. When you see the story, don't forget that most of the journalists felt a little bit ... They feel guilty a little bit, because they didn't support Charlie at all, when Charlie supported Jyllands-Posten. And I think there is something very strange in this story [and the attitude]. They don't wanna support Charlie Hebdo [for] too long after the attack.

They try to make the point on other questions, for example the question of money, what they are doing with the money, a lot of things. But not the main point - the attack. When we talk about the elite, we talk about the journalists. But all of the journalists are part of the intellectual [elite]. Most of the journalists, not all, but most of them play that role. I think they are feeling guilt. You know, to avoid the real question.

Still fra "Je suis Charlie" | foto: CPH DOX

There's the argument that if the general press had had the courage to publish the cartoons when Charlie Hebdo did, none of this would have happened.

RISS: We wouldn't have been the only target.

EMMANUEL LECONTE: Had it happened, it would have been the responsibility of the whole society.

DANIEL LECONTE: If you multiplicate the target, [it becomes too big].

EMMANUEL LECONTE: You understand that the reason why they picked Charlie was because they were the only one to make a stand. Even though the majority of French people agree on that, they were the only ones to take a stand at that point, and to give support. It became an easy target. By not doing anything, the press designated the target. It's sort of an indirect responsibility, but it still is a responsibility.

"By not doing anything, the press designated the target."
- Emmanuel Leconte, "Je suis Charlie"

Is there more islamophobia in France today, after the attacks?

DANIEL LECONTE: I don't think so. No. The French people know what the difference is between a fundamentalist and a Muslim.

RISS: If you defend the principle of liberty, you cannot be islamophobic. Liberty by definition is something that is addressed to everyone on the same terms. Including Muslims. So the accusation of islamophobia, in any case, is always a construction. It's a way of silencing, a way of preventing freedom of lifestyle. The first victims of the fundamentalists in France were French moderate muslims who wanted to live normally. Because they're taken hostage in this very violent streak.

DANIEL LECONTE: Don't forget there were two Muslims dead. Mustafa, the corrector of Charlie Hebdo, was one. And a cop, Ahmed Merabet.

RISS: Actually, Mustafa was an Arab of Algerian origin, but not a Muslim.

DANIEL LECONTE: He was Atheist, he wanted to be Atheist.

RISS: They exist. (laughs)



Monty Python had the same problem with "Life of Brian", when they were accused of ridiculing Jesus Christ. But as John Cleese so eloquently explained on TV [in the above clip], they were really targeting fanatics.

RISS: Since January, there has been several attacks in France on the train, in Belgium, in different places. Basically, these people have decided to attack us in any way, by any means possible, to attack our freedom because they, precisely, are not free. They live in fear, and they wanna contaminate the society with their fear. It's a fear they have inside themselves. Their fundamental fear for them is the fear of God, and they want to dictate this fear to everyone around. So it's now not only a problem of cartoonists, it's a problem [for] every citizen. Every citizen is the target of such crazy guys.

What's the way forward for freedom for expression?

DANIEL LECONTE: I think we have no choice. They have to accept, those people, that you don't kill somebody for his ideas. That's the boundary. That's the frontier. You haven't the right to prevent us from doing it.

RISS: Of course, we are not even thinking about the eventuality of not saying or doing or restraining ourselves. We'll never gonna change. Crazy ideologists will just have to adapt.

EMMANUEL LECONTE: And of course, there's no question of restraining any perimeter of the freedom of expression, as long as you stay within the boundary of the law. What it comes down to, what happened and the threats that are given every day, it goes back really far. Basically, it's exactly what the Nazis said. Who was it, Goebbels, who said, "When I hear the word 'culture', I pull out my gun". What the terrorists did is exactly applying the words of Goebbels. So what you do against that? Do you restrain yourself from saying stuff, or do you fight?

Has Charlie Hebdo ever discussed whether you would do it again?

RISS: If we would do the same drawing or do another? I don't know. Perhaps yes, perhaps no. It depends on the circumstance. It's not an objective or an obsession to draw Mohammed for Charlie Hebdo. What's important is that justice gave us the right to do so. That's very important. But it's not that they have the right to do it, they're gonna do it every day just to piss people off. It's the principle. But it's not a contest. And there are many other things to draw. Funnier things to draw as well.




Dette års udgave af dokumentarfilmfestivalen CPH:DOX løber fra 5. til 15. november.

"Je suis Charlie" vises 8., 10. og 14. november. I aften, søndag 8. november, deltager instruktørerne Daniel og Emmanuel Leconte i en debat med Jyllands-Postens tidligere kulturredaktør, Flemming Rose, i Teltet i Kongens Have, København.


> Bestil billet til "Je suis Charlie" hos CPH:DOX
> Læs om arrangementet "10 år efter tegningerne" hos CPH:DOX
> Se det fulde festivalprogram på CPH:DOX's hjemmeside

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