PARIS — Less than three months after France’s deadliest terror attack, “Salafistes,” a documentary shedding a raw light on the lives of jihadists in Africa and the Middle East, has sparked a massive controversy in Gaul upon its limited theatrical release.
Ever since it premiered at Fipa festival, the documentary has been plagued by criticism because it depicts jihadists living under Sharia law and includes ultra-violent videos showing acts of torture perpetrated, as well as footage promoting the radical Salafist ideology without featuring any counter-points or voiceover commenting the footage. Some eight seconds showing the execution of Ahmed Merabet, the cop who was in charge of protecting the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, have been trimmed by the filmmakers, François Margolin and Lemine Ould M Salem.
The documentary feature, produced by Margo Films, has received a NC18 rating, which usually applies to pornographic films and greatly limits – if not extinguishes — the commercial life of movies. Appealed by the directors, the rating was nevertheless maintained by the classification board and backed by France’s culture minister Fleur Pellerin.
In its note explaining the rating, the commission said “the entire film exclusively gives a voice to Salafist leaders, and doesn’t clearly criticize the anti-occidental, anti-democratic speeches which legitimize terrorist acts, incitation to murders of infidels presented as Jews and Christians.”
“Due to the (filmmakers’ ) choice to show scenes and speeches of an extreme violence without any comments, I have decided to follow the opinion of the classification commission,” concurred Pellerin.
Industryites have pushed for the docu to be banned from theaters, condemning the non-editorialized treatment of the topic and claiming it could be used as propaganda for ISIS.
Margolin and Lemine Ould M Salem, meanwhile, have been appalled by the rating. “We risked our lives, we did it in incredibly difficult conditions because no one else had done it up to this point,” the directors told BFMTV.