This year marked the 20th anniversary of the release of Mathieu Kassovitz’s iconic movie, La Haine. For many in France and the rest of the world it became the reference point for banlieue life and race relations in Paris. As an Algerian in the diaspora, it has always been one of my favourite films and like many others I’ve been following whispers about the possibility of a sequel which Kassovitz said he has been inspired to make following the attacks on Charlie Hebdo earlier this year. Speaking to France24 he said:
“The weight of religion plays much more of a role [today]...If we were to take three twenty year-olds today, life would certainly be more difficult for them than it would have been 20 years ago. We see many more divisions now. So I think the (the sequel) would be much more black than white.”
The original film followed three young men of different ethnic backgrounds in the aftermath of a riot. It dealt with themes of anger, police brutality, poverty and the alienation of minorities in Paris - two decades after its release, it remains relevant to a young audience around the world.
Saïd was the first Maghrebi character that I’d ever seen playing an integral part in the storyline of a European film and the writing on the walls bolstered my colloquial French vocabulary. I memorized the phrase “ta mere suce des ours”, just in case. Other iconic phrases remain at the forefront of my mind when I think of La Haine: “Baise la police”, “Le monde est a nous” and “jusqu’ici, tout va bien”.
So far so good, until Friday night.
Kassovitz took to Twitter with his reactions to the Paris attacks on Twitter and I was stunned. I’ll take you through his (swiftly deleted) Twitter rant, and explain to you why I will never look at his work in the same way.
At around 10.45pm Kassovitz started with this:
“Il faut un million de musulmans dans la rue demain pour marquer clairement la difference entre islam et barberie”
There need to be a million Muslims in the street tomorrow to clearly mark the difference between Islam and barbery.
“Les musulmans de France et d’ailleurs ne peuvent plus se proteger derriere l’amalgame dont ils sont victimes. Ils doivent prendre un parti”
Muslims in France and elsewhere can no longer protect themselves behind the parallel [between Muslims and ISIS] which they are victims of. They must choose a side.
In saying that Muslims cannot be protected from this lack of distinction which ignorant people make, he starts to sound like one of these ignorant people.
The reality is that often Muslim voices are drowned out by violence towards them and media that doesn’t represent or understand them, even though they are just as likely targets as non-Muslims for terrorists.
I have for you, two important points to consider.
These gunmen weren’t asking people about their religion before shooting.
Muslims are fleeing ISIS in Syria are Muslim.
Sorry if you think I’m stating the obvious but apparently ignorance trumps facts these days.
Whilst Kassovitz was tweeting, #porteouverte was trending and authorities were saying that everyone should stay at home, and that the city was on lockdown. A state of emergency was declared by Hollande and the borders were being closed. No one knew who or where the gunmen were exactly or whether more attacks were about to happen, and Kassovitz wanted to push the Muslims out the door to satisfy the doubts of ignorant people, such as himself.
Just to really ram his point in, Kassovitz continued:
“Mes amis musulmans. Descendez dans la rue et faites vous entendre. Sinon vous méritez l’amalgame dont vous êtes victime”
“My Muslim friends. Go to the streets and make yourselves heard. If not you deserve to be the victim of this confusion”
He clearly has no real Muslim friends. If he did they would have checked him before he made a statement like that. Go back, re-read and just imagine what it feels like to be on the receiving end of such a bold statement, at such an emotional time.
This is, by the way, the man who 10 years after directing La Haine, called Sarkozy a “little Napoleon”, in a blog post following the 2005 riots in Paris. He also said that:
“If the suburbs are exploding once again today, it is not due to being generally fed up with the conditions of life that entire generations of "immigrants" must fight with every day. These burning cars are [in direct response to] the lack of respect the minister of the interior has shown towards their community.”
When I first read this blog I thought “yes kho, you’re down with the cause”, but alas, with Twitter the mask slips quickly and true colours show when people are overwhelmed.
“Un million de musulmans et d’enfants des quartiers suivis par les français de souches. Tous sous drapeau français Pour éviter le pire.”
One million Muslims and children of the projects followed by the native [white] French. All under the French flag in order to avoid the worst.
Perhaps Kassovitz was drunk-tweeting like Adele. Or maybe other people can help with a few suggestions as to why the man who has made serious money selling a story of minority communities, back to minority communities seems bent on alienating his audience of minority communities.
I’m not even going to get into the politics of why this last statement is absolutely ridiculous. It just is. I expected more from Kassovitz and even though he deleted these tweets and subsequently apologised (an apology which has also since been deleted), I think it is important to know what was said.
What happened in Paris was tragic. Like many others I was frantically calling loved ones to check that they were safe, closely following the news and getting more and more worried as the events unfolded. Yesterday night I took a break from the 24 hour news and went to the vigil in Trafalgar Square. I went because it felt marginally more pro-active than sitting and home and tweeting about it or clicking a button to turn my Facebook picture red, white and blue. I went because it’s important to show that attacks like this will not scare people from going out to the street and continuing with life. I went because I felt like it was important to stand collected with other people who were touched by what happened. I went for the same reasons as everyone else.
I did not go to show that there is a difference between my Islam and ISIS.
Mathieu Kassovitz, your “masterpiece” implied that you had a deeper understanding of the context in which this tension is built. The way that we respond to situations like this ultimately guide the course which we will follow. Further alienating young French Muslims is probably not the approach you should be taking.
I can’t say that I’m going to boycott his work for now on, but I definitely won’t be paying to watch it.