“Made in France”, about a series of simultaneous attacks on the French capital, had already been dropped by distributors in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo and kosher supermarket shootings in January.
Its hard-hitting poster shows a Kalashnikov assault rifle — the weapon used by gunmen in Friday’s bloodshed — superimposed on the Eiffel tower, with the tagline, “The threat comes from within” in reference to the sort of homegrown extremists now known to have been behind both attacks on the French capital this year.
The plot of the thriller has eerie parallels with reality, with an extremist cell planning a series of shootings and bombings across Paris “that will shake France” and the world.
“We are at war,” their leader says, in a chilling counterpoint to President Francois Hollande’s words to parliament on Monday.
The film’s producers ordered the posters be taken down from the city’s metro system the morning after the attacks but insisted Tuesday it would be wrong if this “brilliant picture” was never shown in cinemas.
Director Nicolas Boukhrief told AFP he made the film as an antidote to the “poison” of jihadist propaganda, aiming it at alienated youth in the country’s sometimes troubled suburbs.
“History has caught up with the film,” said the former journalist, whose father is Algerian, and who began investigating how young people on tough housing estates had become radicalised after Mohamed Merah killed seven people including three Jewish schoolchildren in the 2012 attacks on Toulouse and Montauban in southern France .
“The young people in the film are French,” he said, “just like the Kouachi brothers” who carried out the Charlie Hebdo killings and most of the attackers so far identified from Friday’s bloodshed.
Cinema ‘must open dialogue’
Doubts were also raised about the release of three other French films which touch on the sensitive subject of terror and jihadist brides.
“Les Cowboys”, which tells the story of a French father’s search for his daughter after she runs off with her Islamist boyfriend to a training camp in Pakistan, was due be released next week, with “Taj Mahal”, about a young girl caught in the 2008 attack on Mumbai, to hit the screens a week later.
But the makers of both films told AFP Tuesday they were convinced the openings should go ahead as planned.
“Les Cowboys” producer Alain Attal said it was wrong to call into question whether the film should be released because it might upset or offend.
“This film is not about what happened (in Paris)… this terrible thing which has happened in front of our eyes and which is traumatising us.
“No, we should not be doubting ourselves. We cannot let guys in cars with Kalashnikovs change the way things are,” he argued.
Bac Films, distributor of “Taj Mahal”, was equally adamant. “In the face of unspeakable terror and religious obscuranticism, the cinema is there to open a dialogue,” boss Mathieu Robinet told AFP.
‘People need to talk’
He said it was important that the story of an 18-year-old French girl stuck alone in her room in the Indian hotel as gunmen roam its corridors was seen right now.
“I think people need to talk (about the attacks) and they will need to do so for some weeks yet — just look at what is happening on social media. We need to know who these people are, and this film gives an opening to that.”
A fourth French feature film has also been caught up in the fall-out from the attacks.
After the January attacks, director Bertrand Bonello had admitted he was “troubled” about links being made with his film, “Paris is a Party”, about a group of apolitical young people who bomb the city, which has just been finished.
Bonello, best known for “Saint Laurent”, his biopic of the fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent, told the Le Monde daily Monday that it was “too complicated” to talk about how and when the film would be released in light of Friday’s events.