The Ben Barka Affair (L’Affaire Ben Barka, 2009)
Director: Jean-Pierre Sinapi
Cast: Atmen Kélif, Simon Abkarian, Hippolyte Girardot and Olivier Gourmet
Eurochannel delves into one of history’s most mysterious disappearances in the French miniseries The Ben Barka Affair. This thrilling two part series follows the intrigue and danger of 1960’s Paris, taking viewers deep into the disappearance of Moroccan leader Mehdi Ben Barka. The shocking facts surrounding his vanishing, and the shockwaves that rocked Moroccans following it will surprise viewers the world over.
Ben Barka was one of the most important political figures in Morocco’s history; he was referred to as the central piece of the movement of the third world. Then, one day in 1966 while en route to a conference which would shape the fate of his career and nation, the Third World for the Tricontinental Conference, he suddenly vanished. He was last seen being intercepted by French police on October 29th, 1965 on a street in Paris, where he was shoved into a police vehicle and spirited away into legend. He was never seen again, and when news broke of his disappearance three days later, the French Republic was quickly hurled into a devastating international scandal.
Though the crime remains, to this day, unsolved, everybody was suspect. The Moroccan officials were first thought to have planned the operation, but suspicion fell on the French authorities, the CIA, and numerous others. A retired Moroccan police officer tells all, revealing that the CIA, if nothing else, knew of the plan. These revelations were not enough, however, and 44 years later today, Barka’s abduction remains both a fascinating mystery, and a grim reminder of Morocco’s history in the 60’s and 70’s, a time which, for them, was full of both savage repression and heroic potential for reform.
October. 1965. Paris. On the eve of an historic summit, Medhi Ben Barka arrives at Paris’ Orly Airport. He converses with a journalist about a documentary. He then steps into the heart of Paris, where, unbeknownst to him, he will soon vanish out of the public spotlight and into a legend. Barka lives in exile between Geneva and Cairo for his diligent work as leader of the party opposing King Hassan II of Morocco. Having just survived a series of brutal terrorist attacks, the undaunted leader journeys to France without protection to lead a conference for the independence of Africa and Asia. However, when he goes to the Lipp restaurant on that fateful day, he is snatched up by French police and spirited into the Parisian night, never to be heard from again. Three days later, the announcement by the press of his disappearance sends shockwaves through the international community. Barka, however, is never seen again.
Tensions run high in the wake of Medhi Ben Barka’s disappearance. The Moroccan leader’s apparent abduction creates a spiral of blame and conspiracy as the press and the people wonder who could have committed this terrible crime. The blame seems to fall upon the allies of King Hassan II, whose opposition was led by Barka, but the governments of Europe are also suspect, given Barka’s anti-colonial sentiment. While French authorities deny any involvement, Barka’s friends and loved ones are torn by fear and uncertainty; the kidnappers have made no demands, released no word at all, and many fear the worst. There are many parties in Paris who would love to keep the vocal Barka silent; suspects include the two policemen who abducted him, Morocco’s authorities, and many others. Who took Ben Barka? Who silenced his voice forever?