When the French-Jewish film director Yvan Attal titled his much-hyped comedy about anti-Semitism “They Are Everywhere,” he did so in reference to how some anti-Semites feel about Jews and vice versa.
By Cnaan Liphshiz, published on JTA May 23, 2016
But the French-language title applies in another way, too: Though the film has yet to be released, Attal and the star-studded cast have been all over the French media, which are abuzz over the irreverent take on a problem that’s seen — by some, at least — as a scourge of French society.
“The Jews” — the English title for the film — stars Attal, an Israel-born actor-director who grew up in Paris, and his life partner, actor-singer Charlotte Gainsbourg. The mere fact of the film’s existence has been the subject of dozens of news articles by major publications in recent weeks, including Le Figaro, Paris Match and the Agence France-Presse.
The cast – including famed comedians in France like Dany Boon, who is Jewish, and Benoît Poelvoorde — have appeared on several prime-time talk shows.
Given the high profile of the movie, I could hardly believe my luck when CRIF, the umbrella group of French Jewish communities, invited me to a pre-premiere of the film — it had not been screened before any audience — followed by a Q&A with Attal.
In the movie, Attal attempts to deconstruct or spoof major anti-Semitic myths, such as “Jews killed Jesus,” “Jews have money” and “Jews play up the Holocaust.” Each stereotype provides a theme for a short cinematic tale. The seemingly disparate stories are connected by a narration by Attal, who portrays himself in therapy discussing his obsession with Jews and anti-Semites.
The security outside the rented cinema for the May 17 screening was tight. Our bags were inspected at the entrance; some people were patted down and questioned. A casually dressed Jewish man in his 50s – the main age group represented — swore to the guard he wasn’t smuggling in any homemade popcorn before opening his bag with a smile.
Such security has become commonplace at Jewish events; it’s now a standard precaution following the slaying of 12 people since 2012 in jihadist attacks on Jewish targets in France and Belgium. Hundreds of nonfatal violent hate crimes against Jews have been recorded in Paris since that year, when an Islamist killed three children and a rabbi at a school in Toulouse.
It was the school tragedy that indirectly inspired the movie, Attal said at the post-screening Q&A.
“I was in a taxi not long after Toulouse listening to the news about the arrest of some Islamist ring when the taxi driver said, ‘one of these days they will attack a school.’” When Attal reminded the driver that they already have, “he shrugged and said, ‘yeah, you’re right'”... Read more