Antoine Leiris lost his wife in the Islamist terrorist attack on the Bataclan club in Paris. German director Kilian Riedhof has made a film of his book " You will not have my hate".

Paris Bataclan attack, 7 years on
You will not have my hate

Antoine Leiris lost his wife in the Islamist terrorist attack on the Bataclan club in Paris. German director Kilian Riedhof has made a film of his book "You will not have my hate". By Philipp Jedicke

Seven years ago, on 13 November 2015, three Islamist terrorists armed with assault rifles and explosive belts stormed the Bataclan during a concert by the U.S. band Eagles of Death Metal, taking the audience hostage and killing 90 people. About the same time, 40 people were murdered in attacks on bars, restaurants and at the Stade de France national stadium. The Paris attacks by Islamic State (IS) struck France to the core, and Bataclan has become its symbol.

On that night of 13 November, journalist Antoine Leiris lost his wife Helene. The two were young parents, their son Melvil just 17 months old. While the world tried to find an explanation for the inconceivable horror of the attacks, Leiris posted an open letter on Facebook.

In moving words, he addressed the attackers and denied them, "the dead souls", his hatred as well as that of his son. The message went around the world. Later, Leiris published a book about how he fought his way back to some semblance of normality with his son, titled "You Will Not Have My Hate".

The entrance to the Bataclan concert hall in Paris in September 2021 (photo: Siefried Modola/Getty Images)
After the terrorist attack, the Bataclan hall stayed closed for about a year while it underwent a major renovation. Then the people of Paris reclaimed the venue, defiantly stating "Je suis en terrace" (I'm on the terrasse) as they returned to outdoor cafes and bars. They refused to be intimidated or have their lifestyle taken away. Karim and Djerry, who work as security guards at the Bataclan, told Deutsche Presse-Agentur (dpa) before the start of the concert by German folk pop duo Milky Chance in October 2022: "By now we are used to working here, but it always does something to you. We always think about it"

View from the outside

Now a film based on the book, directed by German filmmaker Kilian Riedhof, has been released.

A relative recommended the book, said Riedhof. A father and husband himself, it moved him so much that he ended up making a film: "Imagining how this terrorist attack could affect you – that's a nightmare that happens to this family," he says, adding the book struck close to home right away, and that he knew he wanted to turn it into a film.

Riedhof met with Antoine Leiris in Paris. Concerns that Leiris might prefer a Parisian filmmaker were dispelled immediately. "He thought it was good that we had a certain distance from the epicentre of the action," says Riedhof. "After all, it takes a certain amount of distance to understand some things."

So the filmmaker took on the role of supportive friend, all the while "very aware of the responsibility". The trauma is still very fresh in Paris, he says, adding that an incredible number of people have stories about that night.

Avoiding sensationalism

Accordingly, Riedhof took a cautious approach to the film. Pierre Deladonchamps plays the role of Leiris; he resembles him and brings across the charm and intellect Leiris radiates despite his grief. Deladonchamps conveys with absolute credibility the shock and trauma, but also the healing of a man who is working his way back into life with the help of his son.

Kilian Riedhof at the premiere of his film "You won't get my hate" (photo: Anita Bugge/Future Image/IMAGO)
Director Kilian Riedhof at the premiere of his film "You won't get my hate": In an interview with Deutsche Welle, he talks about how much the book, which a relative had recommended to him at the time, moved him as a father and husband and finally led him to make the film: "Imagining how this terrorist attack could affect you – that's a nightmare that happens to this family," he says, adding the book struck close to home right away, and that he knew he wanted to turn it into a film

Their apartment is their cocoon, their shelter, where everything reminds them of Helene, but also gives them strength and meaning to keep going. The camera is always very close to Deladonchamps and Zoe Iorio, who plays the role of Melvil.

"It was important to us that we tell the story gently and sensitively. It was less about dramatizing and more about listening and empathising," says Riedhof. The attacks, the assassins, the corpses are not shown in "You Will Not Have My Hate". The film rather focuses on the effect such an act has on a family. "Having to deal with the feeling of hatred and despair and overcoming that... To make that a physical experience for the viewer was certainly a major task," the director says.

Reclaiming Paris nightlife

After the terrorist attack, the Bataclan hall stayed closed for about a year while it underwent a major renovation. Then the people of Paris reclaimed the venue, defiantly stating "Je suis en terrace" (I'm on the terrasse) as they returned to outdoor cafes and bars. They refused to be intimidated or have their lifestyle taken away.

At the re-opening of the Bataclan, British musician Sting said he wanted to remember the victims but also celebrate music and life. This year, a few days before the seventh anniversary of the attacks, on 23 October 2022, German folk pop duo Milky Chance played to an enthusiastic crowd at the Bataclan.

Antoine (Pierre Deladonchamps, r.) and Melvil (Zoe Iorio) reclaim their family life together (photo: Komplizen Film/Tobisfilm)
Father and son in the film "You won't get my hate": on that night of 13 November, journalist Antoine Leiris lost his wife Helene. The two were young parents, their son Melvil just 17 months old. While the world tried to find an explanation for the inconceivable horror of the attacks, Leiris posted an open letter on Facebook. In moving words, he addressed the attackers and denied them, "the dead souls", his hatred – as well as that of his son. The message went around the world. Later, Leiris published a book about how he fought his way back to some semblance of normality with his son, titled "You Will Not Have My Hate"

"By now we are used to working here, but it always does something to you. We always think about it," Karim and Djerry, who work security at the Bataclan, told German news agency dpa before the start of Milky Chance's concert.

Playing at the Bataclan was a "balancing act", Milky Chance's Philipp Dausch says, adding that perhaps that was the challenge. His band colleague Clemens Rehbein said that "after all, it's a very life-affirming response". He believes this is also a good thing. "The fact that concerts are now held here again and that the mood is so exuberant doesn't mean, or shouldn't mean, that people forget what once happened," he says.

Through his research for the film, director Kilian Riedhof observed that the night of terror is still very much on people's minds in Paris: "The wound can still be felt today, people have a very concrete connection to that night," he says. "But I think Parisians very quickly began to counter it with life, to have precisely that beer on the terrace, and to respond with culture."

The terrorists' message was "Take cover!": their aim was to instil fear. But "Parisians understood very quickly that that's exactly what you can't do. You can't let yourself be driven out of public places. They have opted to go back to life, be with each other, defend their culture – theatre, music, cinema – and that's precisely the right response."

Philipp Jedicke

© Deutsche Welle 2022

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