Cannes mirrors reality as film shows hunt for teen who joins jihad

20th May 2015, Comments 0 comments

Art mirrored reality at the Cannes Film Festival on Wednesday with a French film about a girl fleeing home to join jihadists just as Canada arrested 10 teens for allegedly trying to join the Islamic State group.

The new film, "Cowboy", tells the story of a 16-year-old girl called Kelly who runs away from her home in France's rural Rhone region after converting to Islam to be with her boyfriend.

The film then follows her father and brother as they pursue her over many years into the Middle East.

"Cowboy" is likely to touch a nerve in France, where hundreds of young people have left the country to join the Islamic State group (IS) and other jihadist organisations, particularly in Iraq and Syria.

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police also announced on Tuesday that they had arrested 10 young people for trying to leave to join IS.

"I had a son who was the same age as Kelly at the time I was writing," director Thomas Bidegain told AFP.

"We do everything for a child but all of a sudden, we don't know anything about them. It's a bereavement for a parent. We can react by holding on, or by letting go."

In the film, the father Alain starts a relentless search for his daughter that becomes an obsession.

"The father, because he's a cowboy, sees Muslims as Indians that have captured his girl," said Bidegain, who was particularly influenced by classic western "The Searchers".

"That vision of a war of civilisations between cowboys and Indians is really harmful," he said.

Bidegain, a first-time director who made his name as a scriptwriter on French hits such as "Rust and Bone", said he was not particularly influenced by recent events.

"There were very few reports on young people leaving for the jihad when I started this project four years ago," he said.

"Cowboy" received positive reviews at Cannes, where it was playing in the Director's Fortnight competition.

Variety magazine said it was "tough to watch, yet continues to haunt in the weeks that follow".

© 2015 AFP

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