French Theaters to Screen Film About Charlie Hebdo

French Theaters to Screen Film About Charlie Hebdo

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PARIS — More than a week after Charlie Hebdo lost members of its staff in a terrorist attack, movie theaters across France will screen a documentary on the satirical newspaper’s 2007 trial for public offense in an effort to support the newspaper and defend freedom of speech.

The 2008 documentary, “It’s Hard to Be Loved by Idiots,” directed by Daniel Leconte, will be shown for a week starting on Sunday in more than 100 theaters, including ones in cities like Paris, Marseille, Strasbourg and Le Havre. It will also be screened in smaller towns like Plouescat, in Brittany.

Mr. Leconte’s documentary is centered on the 2007 trial of Philippe Val, then the managing editor of Charlie Hebdo, on charges of “public insult” against Islam.

In 2007, a group of French Muslim associations, including the Great Mosque of Paris, filed a legal complaint against Mr. Val and Charlie Hebdo after the newspaper published several cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad that had originally appeared in the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten. The publication of the Danish cartoons had triggered a wave of protest in the Middle East.

But judges later dropped charges against Charlie Hebdo, arguing that the drawings did not target Muslim people in particular, but rather extremists.

At the time of its release, Mr. Leconte’s documentary did not make much noise.

But after terrorist attacks that resulted in the deaths of 17 people in Paris last week, directors at several movie theaters decided to pay tribute to Charlie Hebdo by reprogramming Mr. Leconte’s documentary. They approached Pyramide, its original distributor, as well as France’s main independent movie union.

“They called me spontaneously,” said Roxane Arnold, the programming director at Pyramide. “We were all so emotional after the attacks, and there was a sense of emergency. So we sent them a DVD,” Ms. Arnold said, adding that the revenues would go to Charlie Hebdo.

Ms. Arnold said the movie showed “the spirit” of Charlie Hebdo. “We want people to understand why the paper decided to publish the cartoons,” she said.

MORE ON THE PARIS SHOOTING

For Romain Neveu, a projectionist at a movie theater in the northern city of Le Havre that will show the documentary on Sunday: “It shows that we support Charlie Hebdo.

 

“We aren’t seeking to get 10 million viewers, but if we are not Charlie now, we will never be,” said Mr. Neveu, referring to the now famous rally cry “Je suis Charlie,” or “I am Charlie.”

Some movie theaters in southern France said they had already screened the documentary. “In Pessac, 500 people showed up,” said Béatrice Boursier, the general delegate of the independent movie union.

The documentary features some of the cartoonists who died in the terrorist attack last week, including Jean Cabut, who went by the name Cabu. Mr. Cabut is seen in a meeting with his colleagues, showing his cartoon of the Prophet Muhammad. In a speech bubble, Mr. Cabut’s drawing of Muhammad says: “It’s hard to be loved by idiots.”

But the documentary is mostly a compilation of interviews with cartoonists, intellectuals and lawyers, many of whom participated in Mr. Val’s trial, who comment on freedom of speech and religious tolerance.

The documentary also features President François Hollande, then the head of the Socialist Party, who defended Charlie Hebdo as a witness.

“There are freedoms that can’t be discussed, that can’t be bargained,” Mr. Hollande said.

Correction: January 17, 2015
An earlier version of this article misstated the number of staff members killed in the attack on Charlie Hebdo’s offices. Eight employees were killed, not 12; the other four victims were not staff members.

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