Huffpost WorldPost
Bernard-Henri Lévy Headshot

And Iran? Utopia's Understanding of the Word Culture. Hands up, With Romain Goupil

Posted: Updated:

Iran. Why so little mention in the Western press of the demonstrations that still took place this Saturday and Sunday, in the streets of Tehran? Thanks to the Franco-Iranian writer Armin Arefi and his dissident friends on the inside, we followed them, live, on the website of my online magazine, minute by minute, street by street, twitters, photos, videos captured on cell phones and immediately posted, messages of distress and hope, calls for help, minuscule and pathetic victories. Even if there were only a few thousand, even just a few hundred, demonstrating, even if only a handful defied the Basiji paramilitaries on their motorcycles and the combat helicopters swooping down over Behesht-e Zahra cemetery, even if only a small minority disobeyed their leaders, who, fearing the threat of a bloodbath at any moment, called on them to stay home, still it was up to us to be at their side in thought, to salute them, support them, count them when we could, name them. And in the place of that, nothing. Or, shall we say, almost nothing. Well, that's the norm for mass media coverage. One day, bright lights, the next, an inexplicable shadow. And on this stage, where world peace and the future of democracy in the Muslim world play out, in this tense space where the only worthwhile battle, pitting the obscurantist, fanatical, fascistic Islam of Ahmadinejad and his allies against the immense majority of those who adhere to a modern Islam, friend of the Enlightenment and of human rights, is taking place, a bell jar of leaden silence. A shame.

More than a shame, this debate on the boycott that, in Europe, is like the comet's tail following the "flotilla affair" in Gaza, is infamous. The blockade of Gaza is one thing. We can discuss it, deplore it, pronounce it counter-productive, make it more flexible. Hamas being what it is, that is to say a totalitarian and fascistic party, we can open the same debate that took place over the sanctions against Milosevic, against the racists of South Africa before Mandela, or against the jailers of the tropical gulag of Cuba. "Is it effective, or not? Are there perverse effects, and if so which ones? In our intent to topple a dictatorship, don't we risk inflicting even further suffering on a people this dictatorship has taken hostage and oppressed?" What we do not have the right to do is 1) to reverse the roles and transform people of the same ilk as yesterday's Serbian nationalists, day-before-yesterday's Afrikaner racists, and day-before-the-day-before-yesterday's Cuban torturers (Hamas) into nice democrats; 2) to distort the meaning of words in a semantic sleight-of-hand, thereby transforming a military blockade (of arms and of any other product considered, wrongly or rightly, useful in their production) into a humanitarian blockade (we must not tire of repeating: there is no humanitarian crisis in Gaza); and 3) to mix everything up, confuse everything and, in an effect of false symmetry that's palmed off on us as patently obvious, answer the blockade with the boycott and, when one is stopping arms, respond by refusing works of the mind. I refer, of course, to the affair of the Utopia chain of French cinemas which, after a good deal of prevarication, shabby cowardice, and sordid calculations, has simply called off the screening of Israeli Leon Prudovsky's film. During the war in Iraq, did anyone think of boycotting a single American film? On the pretext of Turkey's occupation of Cyprus, has it occurred to anyone to deprive the French public of Yilmaz Güney's films? Why the double standard? In the name of what obscure reflex are a people and its artists demonized ? When infamy rhymes with idiocy, according to the Sunday fedayin's conception of culture.

Cinema, precisely. If there's a film well worth seeing this week in Paris, it's Romain Goupil's «Mains en l'air» (Hands Up), a treat, full of mischievousness and humor, a concentrate of insolence, freedom, cheekiness and wit, anger as well, true utopia, how not to give up when you have your hands in the air, with stubbornness to spare, as has been said of childhood--for it's the story of an old lady in a far-off future who remembers her childhood in France. She cannot recall the name of the President at the time (Nicolas Sarkozy), but on the other hand, she remembers very well that children without papers were expelled from the country. It's the return of Goupil of «Mourir à trente ans». It's the eternal rebel, the unrepentant sixty-eighter I have so often encountered in the many struggles I have joined over the past thirty years. It's the little Romain of long ago «high school combats» who must have decided, one day, never to betray the dreams of his youth and who, it should be remarked, has never tired of keeping his word. A film of children, without the soppiness that goes with it. A film about children, but lacking the usual complacencies about childish innocence. There's something of a hooky player in the tone, a classroom rowdy in the narration and the rhythm, yet all escape falling into the effortless banality of a schoolboy mentality. Imagine François Truffaut's "Les 400 coups» in Monsieur Hortefeux's* France. Or the same director's «Les Mistons» at a time when the Gallic cock, his hackles up more than ever, is afraid of other children whose only fault is their slightly darker complexion. Or else a version of Marcel Carné's "Les Tricheurs», for sombre times when the foreigner becomes the enemy and when it is sometimes necessary to become an outlaw to be straight with Justice. A powerful film. Unexpected. And one that breathes a pleasant wind of freshness and revolt in an era where we are constantly confronted with stupidity, cowardice, or simply the serious-mindedness of French ideological crowing.

*Brice Hortefeux is France's Minister of the Interior.