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'Hold Up': French coronavirus film gives floor to the 'usual suspects of conspiracy'

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The film promoted several conspiracy theories on the COVID-19 pandemic.
The film promoted several conspiracy theories on the COVID-19 pandemic.   -   Copyright  AP Photo/Thibault Camus
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A controversial new film in France has been widely criticised for featuring and promoting conspiracy theories about the COVID-19 pandemic.

French politicians and non-governmental organisations have condemned Hold Up, which claims to reveal "the errors made by the highest public authorities".

The film falsely concludes that a global conspiracy plot had been formed by the world's elites against citizens through the pandemic.

The majority of claims featured in the film have been widely debunked by fact-checkers.

In one example, the film suggests that France "is not applying the World Health Organization (WHO) recommendations" and "the WHO does not say that everyone should put on a mask".

'Not a documentary, not journalism'

The latest health advice, updated on 20 October, urges citizens to "make wearing a mask a normal part of being around other people".

In June, the WHO also advised authorities "to encourage the wearing of masks by the general public in particular situations and places", as part of a comprehensive approach to fight against the transmission of the virus.

Coralie Dubost, deputy president of Emmanuel Macron's La République En Marche! party (LREM), has led condemnations of the film and is contributors.

"'Hold Up' is not a documentary, it is not journalism, it is blockbuster budget conspiratorial propaganda," tweeted Dubost.

Fellow politician Laetitia Avia also described the project as "mind-blowing" and "fake news on fake news".

"We could laugh about it if the situation was not so serious," Avia tweeted on Thursday.

Other politicians and celebrities in France have promoted the film, criticising the government for its health policies during the pandemic.

Hold Up was launched in August through a crowdfunding campaign on Ulule, aiming to raise over €180,000 for the film's production.

The project was finalised in November and brought together sceptics and theorists to attack the measures taken by France in response to the coronavirus health crisis.

The nearly three-hour documentary was directed by former journalist Pierre Barnérias, and produced by Christophe Cossé, who has described COVID-19 as "no worse than another seasonal flu".

Film gives the floor to 'usual suspects of conspiracy'

Hold Up also features testimonies from well-known personalities and former government ministers, including former Health Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy, who has since distanced himself from the project.

"I have not seen this film and if there is the slightest conspiracy, I want to say as clearly as possible that I disassociate myself from it," Douste-Blazy said on Twitter.

"The health crisis we are going through is serious enough not to add confusion to the painful moments we are going through."

The co-founder of the Ulule funding site has also said the film was has been pulled from any advertising on the platform.

"The initial pitch was mainly positioned on the mode 'other voices are possible', and the point became politicised as the project progressed," said Alexandre Boucherot in a statement.

"Very quickly, we realised that it went beyond the supposed initial framework and became a banner of conspiracy theories very far from what we defend on Ulule."

Ulule says that the entire commission received from Hold Up will be donated to an association for the "defence of information".

Hold Up has been removed by other video-sharing platforms, such as Vimeo and Dailymotion, while links to the film have also since been blocked on Facebook.

A full version of the documentary that remains online has been watched more than 150,000 times, while a trailer for Hold Up also remains visible on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.

"The documentary gives the floor to the usual suspects of conspiracy," said Tristan Mendès France, associate lecturer at the University of Paris.

"The success of this conspiracy film can also be explained by the fact that it is particularly well-polished."