To the attention of Mr. Georges Mothron, Mayor of Argenteuil

By Gilles Porte, AFC

by Gilles Porte AFC newsletter n°264

[English] [français]

Dear Sir,
You live in Argenteuil… I live in Paris, in the 18th arrondissement… So we are neighbours and have grown up together in France, where both of us were educated to “the right to freedom of expression” and “the right to create”?

On January 7th, 2015, a newspaper paid a very high price believing in this idea. Rather than accepting what was imposed by those bullets, France stood up in the streets… A number of men and women with blue, white and red sashes were also among the crowd...
Not in the lead, but “together”... No dividing politics that day, Mr. Mayor, just a desire to shout to the whole world that in France we are still allowed to draw, write, make music, dance and film without necessarily swimming with the tide.

Today, Thursday April 28, I received two notifications in parallel.
The first, from the other side of the Atlantic and the second, from the other side of the street, my street! Both related to the same subject but nonetheless poles apart...
The first comes from Washington, and rather than explain it, I will share it with you:
“Dear all… 3000 Nights just won the Circle Special Jury Award at the Washington DC International Film Festival, USA! Congratulations to you all, this is the 5th international award so far! Check out the details and photos on Facebook link. […]

Wonderful statement by the jury of the festival: “An accomplished documentarian, 3000 Nights is the first feature from director Mai Masri, who constructs fiction rooted in reality. Filmed entirely on location in an actual prison, the story is depicted with sensitivity, subtlety and conviction. A compelling mother’s love is matched with integrity and resilience. The power of the characters, the touching dialogue, the cinematically poetic frames touch on the larger universal humanity. Raw emotions are mixed with deeply moving interactions between mother and son. Despite the storyline this is not a dark film. The final feeling is one of female strength and power.” (Mai Masri)

Mai Masri is the director of the film 3000 Nights, which will be officially released in France in September. She has addressed her email to the film’s crew who is scattered all over the world… The premiere of 3000 Nights in France will inevitably be fragile taking into account the laws of the market... And without a doubt this is one of the reasons that prompted Mai to tour the world festival circuit with her film before releasing it in cinemas. 3000 Nights has premiered at the Toronto Film Festival (Canada), Busan Film Festival (South Korea), London Film Festival (BFI - Great Britain), Palm Springs (United States of America), Dubai (United Arab Emirates), Stockholm (Sweden) and has received a number of awards (Circle Special Jury Award, Washington DC International Film Festival, USA, 2016 - Jury Award at the WIFTS (Women’s International Film & Television Showcase) in Los Angeles, USA , 2015 - Audience Award at the Valladolid International Film Festival, Spain – 2015 - Audience Award at the Annonay International Film Festival, France – 2016 - Young Jury Award at the International Film Festival and Forum on Human Rights in Geneva, Switzerland – 2016).

The second came from “You”... A letter (see attached document) from The Observatory of Creative Freedom informs me that “your cabinet has just ordered the Argenteuil cinema team to remove 3000 Nights from the program …”
Is this cancellation, not an abuse of power Mr. Mayor? Is this not simply an act of censorship and a “serious violation of the Freedom of Creativity and dissemination of works”? Should you not, instead, be offering the best conditions for a debate about this work in order for different viewpoints to coexist?
Moreover Mr. Mayor, I propose that I voluntarily participate in this debate… I would be delighted to discuss with you, your cabinet and your fellow citizens respecting more than ever the words that have educated and guided me until today…Words attributed to Voltaire: I don’t agree with what you say, but I will fight to the end for your right to say it...

Words that one day inspired me to put a camera on my shoulder to become a filmmaker Mr. Mayor. I was even among the few French people involved in 3000 Nights (French co-production) as the Director of Photography… I even kept a blog:
Two Pictures a Day in Amman.
Besides being committed to those who make films, I am also committed to those who distribute them. Therefore, your cabinet’s interference with the programming choices of your cinema are difficult to understand! Do you not trust the professionals working in the public sphere? Do you attach no importance to our Minister of Culture, one of whose duties is whether or not to authorize image and sound broadcasting?

Yours sincerely,
Gilles Porte (Director of Photography, AFC)

NB : In addition I learnt that your cabinet is not allowing the broadcast of the documentary La Sociologue et l’ourson (The Sociologist and The Bear Cub), by Etienne Chaillou and Mathias Théry, which offers “a reflection on Marriage For All”... Could you not imagine that what sometimes differentiates your fellow citizens might interest them not seclude them?