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 U.S. 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.”
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“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 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.”