As the world reacted to the killings at French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo, the European media community took to social media to express outrage, sympathy and solidarity with the slogan #jesuischarlie (I Am Charlie). Thousands also took to the streets of Paris and other European capitals, and political cartoonists around the world also published reactions. Artist Banksy’s sketch of what many have tried to put into words drew more than 1 million retweets.
One of Paris’ most prominent Arab filmmakers, Nabil Ayouch, who operates out of Paris and Casablanca, said he certainly wouldn’t back down after the Charlie Hebdo slaughter. “It’s a sad day. I’m still very shocked. This attack will reinforce my determination to move forward by denouncing in my films the craziness of those who believe that they can act and kill in the name of a religion,” Ayouch told Variety.
Ayouch’s last film, 2012’s “The Horses of God,” was a frontal attack on religious fundamentalism as it analyzed what drives four kids from the slums to become the suicide bombers behind the 2003 Casablanca terrorist attack that left 45 dead. “Horses,” one of the French film industry’s highest-profile cinematic denunciations of terrorism, was co-financed by France’s Pierre Ange Le Pogam and Wild Bunch, and unspooled in Cannes’ Un Certain Regard.
“As a film director, my only duty is to express what I think with no censorship of any kind, like I did in ‘Horses of God.’ Freedom of speech is not negotiable,” Ayouch added.
Mark Herbert, CEO of U.K. production company Warp Films, produced Chris Morris’ “Four Lions,” a satire about British Muslim suicide bombers.
The film, which played at Sundance in 2010 and won Morris a BAFTA for outstanding debut by a British writer, director or producer, mocks the jihadists. Would Herbert make the film now? He says yes.
He told Variety: “If I had another script as funny as ‘Four Lions’ land on my desk tomorrow, I would still use all my energy and resources to try and make it. We made that film because it was funny and entertaining and only poked fun at stupid groups of men, who are everywhere still.”
Germany — which is home to about 3-3.5 million Muslims, second only to France — has seen anti-Islam demonstrations that have drawn tens of thousands in the last week as well as huge counter-demonstrations. On Wednesday, many TV networks pre-empted their regular schedules with special programming about the Paris killings. Executives at Arte, the German-French TV network, issued a statement relaying their shock about the attack and their solidarity with the staff of Charlie Hebdo.
In Italy’s creative community the first to react to the Paris massacre have been the country’s cartoonists. Popular political satirist Vauro updated his Twitter profile with the hashtag #JeSuisCharlie and published a cartoon in which a cloaked character with a sickle laughs while turning the pages of Charlie Hebdo magazine.
The Italian film community is proving a bit slower to respond, but the Cinecitta News trade website and several Italian artists have expressed their solidarity with the thousands gathered in Paris in protest.
Concerns in Italy about whether the Paris massacre may lead film and TV producers to avoid tackling topics that might offend Islamic terrorists seem to be marginal mainly because Islam has not featured frequently in current Italian cinema so far.
That said, Islamic fundamentalism-themed comedy “Che bella giornata” (What a Beautiful Day) broke the Italian box office record for a locally made film in 2011 , pulling in more than $50 million via Medusa, a unit of Silvio Berlusconi’s Mediaset. The mildly politically incorrect feel-good pic is about a lovably goofy security guard at Milan’s Duomo who becomes romantically entangled with a young Arab female terrorist who plans to bomb the Madonna statue on the cathedral’s spire.
In 2004, controversial helmer Theo van Gogh, the enfant terrible of the Dutch film industry who was notorious for his anti-Islamic views, was shot and stabbed to death by Muslim Mohammed Bouyeri.
Van Gogh was notorious for his anti-Islamic views. After the screening on Dutch TV in August of his film “Submission,” which focused on violence against women within Islamic society, Van Gogh received numerous death threats. The film caused an uproar among those in the Dutch Muslim community.
John Hopewell, Nick Vivarelli and Leo Barraclough contributed to this report.