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Charlie Hebdo, Before the Massacre.

The documentary of the New York Times takes us inside the editor office of Charlie Hebdo. A testament that's also a cause for reflection.

0 – 5 | 2006 | Documentary | France | Observational | Politics

“For the first time ever, a worldwide chain of events has been started by a drawing.” says Jean “Cabu” Cabut, one of the cartoonist that died during the terrorist attack at the editorial office of the now infamous French satiric weekly Charlie Hebdo. And it is probably the best statement to describe the complexity of the world we live in, where everything is interconnected – not only technically. Cabut was referring to the 12 cartoons published by the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten – which Charlie Hebdo was sympathizing with – considered blasphemous by many followers of Islam and that sparked several clashes, protests and demonstrations around the world, eventually leading – according to the New York Times – to more than 200 deaths.

Once again, the wave of indignation, reaction, analysis and commentary have occupied the front pages of newspapers from all over the world, taking over every media discussion and partly obscuring some bloodiest events occured in a less “popular” region such as Nigeria, a sign that confirms a new terrorist strategy increasingly unpredictable and brutal, capable of hitting more or less everywhere and abruptly.

This New York Times documentary, shot in 2006 and re-released these days, turns out to be a kind of frightening premonition of what would happen nine years later. It hurts to watch it, but it is also necessary because it reconduct these terrible facts to the human measure that triggers them and brings back, with the faces of those who lost their lives, a bit of realism in spite of the mediatic abstraction in which  events, people and actions, are necessarily relegated. This abstraction can easily become “ideological”, fanatical, partisan, both as a condemnation of those who have been offended or in the acclaim of the extremists, and risks to make the analysis of the events way less objective than it should be.

The documentary made by the two journalists-authors Jérôme lambert and Philippe Picard, revolves precisely around the figure of Jean Cabut, one of the most popular cartoonists in France, and shows the editors of the French Magazine while they discuss an issue that will unfortunately be fatal: would they publish a satirical image of Muhammad on their cover? The image that came out of this meeting, bearing the headline “Mohammed stressed out by the fundamentalists” and a cartoon of the prophet in tears uttering the words “It’s hard to be loved by fools.” turned out to be one of the most popular in the history of the magazine and somehow epitomised the satirical, provocative, irreverent, but also intelligent and ironic spirit of the team.

A document that invites us to reflect on what’s really at stake, who are the “victims”, who are the “executioners”, the reasons of the events, the direct or indirect liability, hidden or manifest, what values really deserve to prevail in the modern world to return an harmonic form to the increasing complexity and interweaving of cultures. And finally, respect for human life.

Tommaso Fagioli

Tommaso Fagioli

Tommaso Fagioli

Founder, creative director, curator @ Good Short Films. Fond of great stories, great thinkers, great booze. My motto is, your motto.

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