I am a fan of documentaries.
In particular, HBO has produced a number of reality-based films that I have thoroughly enjoyed. So when I saw the trailer for ‘Eagles of Death Metal: Nos Amis’ I naturally added it to my list.
What I did not initially consider when I saw this preview was how the families and friends of the 130 victims lost in the November 2015 terror attacks in Paris would receive the film, or if they would even be able to watch.
The Eagles of Death Metal were the band performing at the Bataclan music hall when the attacks commenced, with 89 victims being gunned down in a frenzy of confusion and subsequent terror.
The film explores the attacks, but also documents the Eagles’ return to Paris three months after to finish the show that was interrupted by tragedy- though they would not be performing at the Bataclan.
As is the case with any act of mass violence, there is a heated debate over whether it is appropriate to give such a horrendous act of evil more publicity. Those who produce such a film almost always dedicate it to the victims of the respective attack, but the contention that terror-related documentaries force victims and their relatives to relive the trauma has merit.
In the case of ‘Nos Amis,' the sister of one of the Bataclan victims has voiced her concern about the motives of the filmmakers, as well as how the advertisements have caused her anguish:
“I feel I am living through the nightmare of that night once again,” Nathalie DuBois-Sissoko said. “The teaser is everywhere on social media, the media, interviews and HBO has been announcing it a few times a day on its channels. I reached out to the filmmakers and got no answer. Our lives will never be the same. This is exploiting the deaths of dozens of innocent people.”
She notes a particular scene in the trailer in which the screen goes black, followed by a barrage of gunshots. She was told that her brother was one of the first victims to be struck, and that she cannot help but be reminded of this each time she hears those shots.
Not only do I completely understand her perspective, I cannot even imagine what it was like to lose her brother, Fabrice DuBois, so unexpectedly and violently at only 46 years of age.
Before I proceed, I should make clear that I am not telling those who lost friends and family how to feel, but I am going to play filmmaker’s advocate in attempting to explore how this documentary can result in some positives, the profit anybody makes from the film not being included.
I’ll start with DuBois. Had she not spoken out against this documentary I likely would have never conducted a search attempting to find out more about who Fabrice DuBois was. Prior to reading about his sister, he ceased to exist as a human in my mind. He was merely one of the 130 victims who lost their lives in the Paris terror attacks.
This may be of little consolation to his sister. But when she thinks about it, she would likely agree that her brother’s memory would be served to have more people aware of his earthly accomplishments. That he was a copywriter for a Parisian advertising agency, Publicis Conseil, for 13 years. That he worked on projects for the likes of Renault and Stihl power tools.
That he was a father of two young children, Iris and Hector, and husband to a wife named Alexia.
That this fund for his wife and children was set up in his memory.
That he looked like this.
The details of his work life seem insignificant in light of DuBois’ death and family left behind.
But they are not. They provide a more vivid image of Fabrice DuBois, and these details further illustrate the totality of what is lost in any homicide, and particularly in a mass attack of this scale.
Were it not for the upcoming documentary I would have never put a face to the stunning death toll. That is mostly on me for not doing more research, but this is how many humans function. Tragedy, by its very nature, begets avoidance of the details.
Nathalie DuBois-Sissoko understands the nature of this natural reaction all too well. The attacks on Paris trigger such a deep loss and sense of sorrow that even the reminder that it happened is traumatic- nightmarish even.
She will never forget that Fabrice DuBois was one of the 130 victims who lost their lives on that infamous night.
The feeling of how terror strikes at the very core of painful human emotion will never be lost on her.
But I hope that she understands why ‘Eagles of Death Metal: Nos Amis’ serves a purpose, including the spread of Fabrice’s legacy.
Creating a documentary that chronicles the return of the band to Paris, the completion of the show, is powerful in its symbolism.
Like seeing the survivors of the Boston Marathon Bombings returning to run the race again, strength can be drawn from merely witnessing such resilience. I can only imagine the feeling one must have being the embodiment of such resilience.
The survivors who showed up to the Eagles’ Paris show in February 2016 know how it feels.
While I have been fortunate not to have anybody close lost to a terror attack, not everybody is so lucky.
To embrace the pain of survivors and the fallen’s friends and family, and to understand the greater implications of that pain, is something that can be provided to outsiders like me only through first-hand accounts and documentaries.
The saying ‘Never Forget’ carries different meanings. Never forget the victims who never got the chance to live a full life. Never forget the ideology that causes terror, and how urgently it must be destroyed. And never forget that despite the pain, re-living these tragedies is necessary.