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French Producer on His Fear of a ‘Terrible Racist Backlash’ After Paris Attacks

I was at home watching a football match on TV with my 13-year-old son when I heard a strange noise that sounded like an explosion. I immediately called my 21-year-old daughter. She always goes to the 10th Arrondissement, where young people go for a night out on weekends, and where three of the Friday attacks on Paris took place. Fortunately, she was not there. As soon as I turned on the news, the first thing I thought is that there is generation of young people in Paris that is going to be really shocked for the next ten years. For them, it will be like 9/11.

Over the next hours, as I prepared to travel to the Cairo Film Festival, emails from actors, directors and producers in the Arab world came pouring in. So many of them, that I was really moved. They were all worried about me, and all of them wrote, “We are French!” Alas, as a French citizen who has been working with Arab directors and actors, I’m afraid this is going to be a major disaster.

I fear that this terrorism is going to create a terrible racist backlash against the Arab community. Right now, my heart is divided in two: as a French citizen I am worried for my kids whom I raised to be against any form of racism; and as a professional who works with Arabs I feel that, more than ever, we have to stand together to make anti-fundamentalist films like Abderrahmane Sissako’s “Timbuktu” to fight the extremists.

This is an attack on the way of life we have in France. And I hope that the attacks will not be exploited by the National Front for political purposes to ghetto-ize Arabs and have them looked upon like they are terrorists.

I lost two friends to bullets who were at the Eagles of Death Metal concert at the Bataclan Theatre on Friday evening. They used to make fun of me, saying that because I work with Arabs, I would have problems. I would tell them, “I will never have any problems because the Arabs I work with are much more open than anyone you can imagine, and they dream about freedom.” Yesterday, I told my son, “Our ancestors fought for Democracy. We should be proud of them.”

More than ever, France and Europe will have to stand up against any ghetto-ization and prejudice, and judging people by their face and look, and be involved with films that fight racism and all kinds of extremists.

Daniel Ziskind is a French producer and agent who is currently the European rep for Cairo-based production company Film Clinic. The shingle’s titles include “Microphone,” about Egypt’s hip-hop scene, gay-themed gangster pic “My Brother the Devil” and “Excuse My French,” about a Christian kid enrolled in an Islamic public school.

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