Cannes puts the Paris attacks in the spotlight

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Cannes (France) (AFP) – The Cannes Film Festival has brought to light one of the darkest moments in recent French history – the Paris terrorist attacks of November 13, 2015 – with two films that tackle the subject in very different ways.

“November” is a tense crime thriller that follows the five-day hunt for surviving assailants, after 130 people were killed in the worst such assault on France in modern history.

It stars Jean Dujardin, known from Oscar winner “The Artist”, as the officer in charge, desperate to prevent further violence.

“These people aren’t really heroes, it’s the group that’s heroic,” Dujardin told reporters in Cannes.

This was echoed by the film’s director, Cedric Jimenez: “There were so many deaths, the witnesses were forever traumatized, many of the police officers involved never returned to their jobs…

“These are not heroes, they are just people who have had five horrible days, with enormous responsibility – and all of them, in one way or another, have been damaged by it,” he added. .

The film, played out of competition, received a thunderous ovation when it premiered on Sunday, although critics were more circumspect – with most describing it as a solid but limited thriller.

“A black hole”

At the other end of the spectrum was “Paris Memories”, which played in the Quinzaine des Réalisateurs section of the festival.

Director Alice Winocour was inspired by her brother’s experience as a survivor of the Bataclan bombing ANDER GILLENEA AFP/File

Frenchwoman Alice Winocour’s film is a much more understated affair than “November,” but perhaps even more touching.

It contrasts two survivors who meet in a support group: Thomas, who remembers everything in great detail, and Mia, who has lost her memory of the attack.

Winocour was inspired by the story of her brother, who was at the Bataclan concert hall where 90 people were killed.

“The characters of Mia and Thomas are kind of like ghosts to me, in limbo, no longer part of the human community…gradually returning to the real world,” Winocour said after the screening.

“The attack is like a black hole. A mirror exploded and then we have to put the pieces back together,” she added.

humor and hope

The events of November 13, 2015 also began to appear in other films, such as “One Year, One Night” about the survivors of the Bataclan, which premiered at the Berlin Film Festival in February.

Despite the heavy subject matter, “Paris Memories” injects moments of humor and hope.

Winocour said she cast Virginie Efira, who recently rose to worldwide fame as a lesbian nun in “Bernadette,” to play Mia because she looks like someone “who doesn’t feel sorry for herself- same”.

Belgian actress Virginie Efira plays Mia, who has lost all memory of the attack
Belgian actress Virginie Efira plays Mia, who has lost all memory of the attack Valéry HACHEAFP

The film also addresses the difficulty of relatives, who struggle to communicate with the survivors.

“How can your partner or your wife understand such a thing? That’s why they need to be with other survivors,” actor Benoit Magimel, who plays Thomas, told AFP.

“It reminds me of ‘The Deer Hunter’ – Robert De Niro needs his friend Christopher Walken, he’s going back to Vietnam to take him home, to heal together,” he said, referring to the Oscar-winning film by 1978.

Ninety people were killed by gunmen who burst into a concert at the Bataclan on November 13, 2015
Ninety people were killed by gunmen who burst into a concert at the Bataclan on November 13, 2015 SWIMMING POOL BENOIT TESSIER/AFP

Sure, it didn’t end well in “The Deer Hunter,” but “Paris Memories” opts for a bit of light in the dark.

“Everything the terrorists wanted to destroy is still there: human warmth, the lights of Paris,” Winocour said.

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