Paris attacks documentary shows victims’ defiance in face of horror
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Paris attacks documentary shows victims’ defiance in face of horror

Filmmakers were in the World Trade Center with firefighters on 9/11, and shared trauma helped them connect with survivors in Bataclan

People gather around flowers and candles laid next to the Bataclan concert hall in Paris on November 12, 2016, a few hours before the reopening concert by British musician Sting to mark the first anniversary of the November 13 Paris attacks.(AFP PHOTO / FRANCOIS GUILLOT)
People gather around flowers and candles laid next to the Bataclan concert hall in Paris on November 12, 2016, a few hours before the reopening concert by British musician Sting to mark the first anniversary of the November 13 Paris attacks.(AFP PHOTO / FRANCOIS GUILLOT)

PARIS (AFP) — “I’m not going to be killed by some guy in jogging pants,” one of the Bataclan survivors told herself as jihadists raked the Paris concert hall with gunfire.

Remarkable testimony from dozens of survivors of the bloodbath form the core of a new three-part documentary about the November 13 carnage by the French brothers who won an Emmy for “9/11,” the inside story of the heroics of New York firefighters on September 11, 2001.

Although filmmaker Jules Naudet was in the World Trade Center when the second plane struck — after already filming the first one hitting the North Tower — he and his brother were not in Paris when the attackers struck in November 2015 , killing 130 people.

But their documentary miniseries, “Attack on Paris” — which starts on Netflix on Friday — tells the story through the eyes of those at the heart of the drama.

French documentary film makers and brothers Gedeon (L) and Jules Naudet pose during a photo session on May 25, 2018 in Paris. (AFP PHOTO / STEPHANE DE SAKUTIN)

Through 40 interviews with survivors, the first police and ambulance officers at the scenes and former French president Francois Hollande, the pair try to recreate the terrible night which began with a suicide bombing at the Stade de France football stadium.

Connection with survivors

“You get the feeling that (the survivors) are all looking you in the eye” as they tell their stories, Jules Naudet told AFP.

“It was about creating a bubble where you forget the outside world” and are plunged back into the events which “are told in the present tense,” he added.

His brother Gedeon said the fact they themselves had lived through a major terror attack — the pair were with the firefighters as they tried to evacuate the towers — helped create a bond with the survivors.

“They talked about things that you share between survivors. They themselves were surprised that they were so open, like you would be in therapy,” he said of the interviews, which were filmed over the course of eight months.

“We told them about what happened to us on September 11, the stages of trauma we went through, and they were very curious,” Gedeon Naudet added.

This file photo taken early on November 14, 2015 shows a rescue worker speaking to an injured person lying on the pavement near the Bataclan concert hall in central Paris, during the terrorist attacks. (AFP PHOTO / DOMINIQUE FAGET)

One of the most surprising things to emerge from the documentaries was the manner in which many of the survivors talk about the gunmen.

None of the jihadists are ever named — nor is the Islamic State mentioned — so “the films can never be used as propaganda,” the brothers say.

‘The angry little git’

Instead, the Bataclan survivors refer to the killers with barely concealed derision, remembering “the big dumbo” or “the angry little git,” describing them collectively as blundering “donkeys.”

One woman taken hostage as the attackers holed themselves up at the end of the siege had a typically Parisian take on their dress sense.

“I not going to be killed by some guy in jogging pants,” she said to herself.

But others made no attempt to hide the horror that was unleashed as the gunmen burst in on a concert by US band Eagles of Death Metal.

A woman is evacuated from the Bataclan concert hall after a terrorist shooting attack in Paris, November 13, 2015. (AP Photo/Thibault Camus, File)

“The room transformed into an immense collective cry of agony,” one survivor recalled, while another talked of the “discreet heroism” of people trying to help each other in the most dangerous of circumstances.

“It was so horrible that after a while my brain just cut off the sounds because it was unbearable,” said a third.

Christophe Molmy, head of the police intervention brigade (BRI), said what he and his officers saw when they stormed the building will be forever “chiseled into our memories… It made me think of Dante’s ‘Inferno,'” he said.

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