Still from movie peddled as photo from protests in France

By: Ishita Goel
July 4 2023

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Still from movie peddled as photo from protests in France


The Verdict False

The image is from a scene from the 2022 film “Athena.”

Claim ID dc26e928


Widespread unrest engulfed France after the police on June 27 shot dead a 17-year-old teenager of Algerian descent for purportedly attempting to drive away from a traffic stop in the suburb of Nanterre near Paris. Several government buildings have been damaged as the country saw successive nights of violence. Thousands of police officers had to be mobilized to patrol cities and quell the protests. Over 2,000 protestors, many of whom are minors, have been arrested so far. 

Several false and misleading visuals from France have gone viral on social media in light of these protests. An image of a police van driving down a street with people inside is going viral with the claim that it is from the protests in France. In the viral photos, one of the passengers is armed with a rifle, and someone sitting atop the van is waving the French flag. However, this image is a still from a movie and is unrelated to the ongoing France protests.

In Fact

A reverse image search led us to a tweet by the entertainment news website Vulture. Posted on March 3, the tweet carried the same photo with the caption, "BEST STUNT IN AN ACTION FILM." The tweet went on to read, "2. ATHENA (The Opening) "An impossible choice in a great year for stunts, but the Athena opening melted my brain" — Anonymous Voter." The tweet also included a link to a report about Vulture's inaugural 'Stunt Awards.' Published on February 9, the article also included the viral screengrab in a collage used for the cover image. The article said that the French action drama film "Athena" was nominated in the 'Best Stunt in an Action Film' category for its opening sequence involving vehicular stunts.

Elements and the setup in the viral photos can also be spotted in trailers of the film. The film, directed by Romain Gavras was released on the streaming platform Netflix in September 2022. Netflix had posted a trailer of the film on its YouTube channel on August 4, 2022. At the 1:27 timestamp, we can spot the police van and the people in it from a different angle. We also watched the first few minutes of the film's opening sequence and found several matching frames with the same people and the police van between the 6:00-6:26 timestamps.

Talking about the film, Vulture had written that it opens "with a press conference outside a police station, plunges into the madness that erupts when a group of young people raid the station and eventually ends a little over a mile away against the castlelike ramparts of a housing estate that has been taken over and fortified for an epic, inevitable clash with the cops." Film reviewer Roger Ebert had described the film as a "non-stop opus examining the racism, inequality, and police violence that wreak havoc on France's banlieue communities of color." 

All the above sources prove that the viral image is not from the protests in France but a still from a film.

The Verdict

The image showing a police van with armed people holding a French flag is from the 2022 action drama film "Athena," and it is not related to the ongoing protests. Therefore, we mark this claim false.

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We rely on information to make meaningful decisions that affect our lives, but the nature of the internet means that misinformation reaches more people faster than ever before