Film Shoot's Nazi Banner Shocks French Locals

Nazi Banner - H 2015
AP Photo/Lionel Cironneau

Unsuspecting residents and tourists in Nice were stunned after the crew of a WWII drama unfurled a large red flag with a swastika on the side of a government building.

Filming of Canadian director Christian Duguay’s A Bag of Marbles has caused controversy in France, after the crew draped a large Nazi flag over a regional government building in Nice in the south of the country.

The banner was unfurled length-wise, covering the front of the building, in the middle of Nice's Old Town area during the morning of the weekly flea market. The unveiling shocked both residents and tourists in the scenic resort town in the south of France. Witnesses told local newspaper Nice-Matin that the flag caused a commotion in the square as people didn’t know if it was a joke or some kind of political provocation.

Locals reported shouting in the crowds before it was removed. The regional government quickly released a statement following the incident and said they had previously notified local groups of the filming.

“We had taken every precaution: the city of Nice has been notified, the population alerted via Facebook. We had advised the Jewish community of Nice,” reads the statement. The regional government also said it was proud to host the shooting of the film and to remember the atrocities of the past.

Signs indicating a film shoot were visible, and several costumed guards and extras were visible in the area.

Given Nice's history it's perhaps understandable why some local residents might react strongly to a Nazi banner hanging from a government building. The historic structure was standing in for the Excelsior Hotel, which the German SS requisitioned during World War II as its local headquarters and center of deportation operations.

The film is based on the autobiography of Joseph Joffo about the deportations of Jews from France to Auschwitz.