We arrived from Paris only with a broad idea of what happened on January 29. The French media hardly covered this event, they carefully avoided to raise this issue of islamophobia as it is linked to some problems that exist in France.
When we arrived at the Islamic center of Quebec for months after the attack, we walked through the door as if we were entering any other mosque in the word.
We took off our shoes, everything seemed normal, even the smiles on the faces of the mosque representatives who welcomed us with a great warmth and hospitality.
We found only very few physical traces of the attack, everything had been repainted, covered, hidden.
Almost everything… some signs where obviously still present in the eyes, in particular in the eyes of those who have seen. With our team, we immediately understood that we did not want to begin an investigation, or to make an institutional film for commemoration. What we had to do was to place the camera at the right distance to capture what the eyes had to tell. It was the only way to seize and understand the griefs that flashing media events and trepidation cannot portray. The idea of the documentary was set although the time to do it was short. In five days only, we witnessed what could have been days and months of emotional sharing while being absorbed by the mosque environment.
This is probably at this moment that we started to question our perspective: most of the stories we were gathering were shaped by a particular state of mind we did not catch right away and were not expecting. Since the beginning, we had to face something beyond simple testimonies: the resilience of the witnesses, the survivors and families of those who perished. This resilience had to be understood not only as a psychological post traumatic concept but rather as a true spiritual vision about life and death, a vision amplified by the meaning and symbolic value of the place the tragic event took place in. The fact of dying in a mosque has a strong and important meaning for this community who choose to keep – we noticed it once the mosque was empty – few pairs of shoes on a shelf, at the entrance, the boots of the ones who perished on the mosque carpet. “We did not want to take them off” told us Mohamed Haroun, one of the mosque representatives.
Finally, the last physical traces of this tragic night are the stains of salt and snow yet in evidence on these boots sitting there for months. Everything else has been covered and cleaned, set to remain only in the memories and hearts of this community, and we hope partly in this film that pays tribute to those who left.