The Sars-Cov-2 virus? It was created in a lab by the Pasteur Institute. Covid-19? Not so different from a common flu, all part of a plan organized by the economic powers to subdue humanity. And what about the World Health Organization? It is trying to cover up the greatest conspiracy in our history, by denying autopsies on dead bodies.
Hold-Up, Retour sur un chaos comes directly from France and it quickly turned into one of the main tools used by Covid-19 negationists to support their theories. It was produced through a crowdfunding campaign launched by Pierre Barnérias, a former journalist for the tv network Tf1 with a history in conspiracy documentaries: among his most popular works, in fact, we can mention A qui profite le flou (“Who’s taking advantage from the blur”) – a short film about the alleged manipulated narrative adopted by journalists in order to downsize the scale of a protest against same sex marriages – or M et le 3ème secret (“M and the third secret”), a doc about the Marian apparitions which, among other things, spreads unfounded theories about freemansory and communist plans.
Hold-Up was published online on November 11, 2020. It was initially posted on the video platform Vimeo, and it was then uploaded free of charge on Odysee – a streaming website which offers a specific section for conspiracy documentaries – after Vimeo decided to remove the content due to policy violations.
Produced by Tprod and Tomawak, Hold-Up lasts about three hours and it promises to expose the «lies, corruption and manipulation» used by those allegedly responsible for the pandemic. The result is a potpourri of all the main points touched by conspiracy theorists who aim at denying the existence of an ongoing global health crisis.
What the documentary says
The main goal of Hold-Up is to discredit doctors, health authorities and political institutions that in the last couple of months have dealt with the health emergency in France.
As stated by the French weekly magazine L’Obs, the doc presents well-known data about the pandemic in an increasingly dramatic way, and alternates them with in-depth analysis of the contradictions that marked the management of the new coronavirus crisis.
Among other things, the doc focuses on hydroxychloroquine, an antirheumatic drug which was initially approved in France for the treatment of Covid-19 and then banned when a number of studies expressed doubts about its effectiveness and connected it with the insurgence of heart problems in patients.
The documentary also calls into question the consequences of protective masks, whose adoption is described as «not recommended by the Who.» This allegation refers to an old claim, and it’s worth noting that starting from June 2020 the Who considers masks as a valid measure when it comes to stopping the spread of the virus.
As explained by our colleagues at Check News, the fact-checking section of the French newspaper Libération, the main claim supported by the documentary comes into the picture only two hours after its beginning, and it is based on the revelation of a plan called “Great reset”, a global conspiracy managed by the Davos World Economic Forum with the goal of subduing humanity.
In order to do that, the world economic powers would have created in a lab a new virus – the coronavirus Sars-Cov-2 – responsible for a disease «not much more dangerous than an ordinary seasonal virus.»
The conspiracy theory about the “Great reset” reached Italy as well, where it obtained support from the radio station Radio Radio, well-known for its conspiratory tendencies; the philosopher and tv pundit Diego Fusaro; and the conspiracy influencer Cesare Sacchetti.
The documentary also presents several examples of disinformation linked to the pandemic, most of which have already been verified and debunked by fact-checkers around the world. For instance, the film mentions the great results obtained by the «Swedish model» in the management of the health crisis; the alleged ban posed by the Who on autopsies of Covid-19 deceased patients; and the Covid-19-related patents filed when the pandemic hadn’t even begun.
We link here the fact-checking analysis published by Libération, which verified the ten main claims presented by the documentary. Further debunking articles were published by France Culture, Le Parisien, Rtbf, Le Monde, Huffington Post, Le Figaro, FranceInfo and Afp.
What people are saying about the documentary
The release of Hold-Up represented a small victory for supporters of no-mask movements and Covid-19 negationists, but its popularity quickly overcame the limited borders of French conspiracy theorists to become a full-fledged national case.
The circulation of the doc was also encouraged by Sophie Marceau, the actress who played Vic Berreton in the movie La Boum (“The Party”), who posted the poster on her instagram page with the caption: «”‘They” say we are useless.» Her statement opened the way to discussion in France, and definitely increased the media exposure of the documentary.
According to the French network Rtbf, part of Hold-Up success is due to the wise use of television techniques: «Interviews on a black background, music that respects the rules of the genre, use of slow motion to emphasize key moments, archival documents and pictures, – Rtbf highlights – it is definitely different from the standard conspiratory clips where a synthetic voice reads a script while pictures crossfade on the screen.» Apart from Barnérias, among the creators of the project we also find Cristophe Cossé, a France 3 author well-known in France as the father of La carte aux trésors, a tv game launched in 1996 that is still airing today.
Rtbf pointed out that Hold-Up’s success can also be linked to its cast, composed by many controversial personalities who are quite popular in the online world of disinformation. «Most of the people who have a role in this documentary have something in common: their credibility has somehow been questioned during the last couple of months,» Rtbf explained. «In the film, they mix truths, lies and elements about which the scientific community is still uncertain. This is enough to reinforce the confirmation bias from the audience.»
For instance, the doc stars Christian Peronne, head of the Infectious disease department in Garches hospital (Île-de-France), who in October 2020 claimed that «Covid-19 patients represent a major source of financial advantage for hospitals;» the no-vax activist Jean-Bernard Fourtillan; the medicine Nobel laureate Luc Montaigner (a supporter of the unfounded theory according to which the new coronavirus would be the results of a failed attempt to create a vaccine against Aids, as Facta explained); and Alexandra Henrion-Caude, former Director of research at the National health institute who claimed that the virus has been willingly «manipulated.»
An actual dream team for French conspiracy theorists which also includes the former Health ministry, Philippe Douste-Blazy. After his appearance in the documentary, however, Douste-Blazy distanced himself from the claims that were made, twitting: «The film was presented to me as a documentary about the Covid-19 epidemic and, as usual, I answered the questions I was asked. I haven’t seen the film and, if there is even the slightest trace of conspiracies, I strongly dissociate myself from it.»
Hold-Up has been removed from Vimeo and Dailymotion, but it is still available on YouTube, where in just five days it got more than 5 million views, and on Odysse, where it was watched by 3 million users.
The circulation outside French borders
Currently, on November 17, we couldn’t find any version of the documentary which was dubbed or subtitled in Italian.
In order to understand whether the documentary was circulating beyond France, we got in touch with our European colleagues. According to Correctiv, Maldita.es, Newtral and FullFact, it looks like the video has yet to reach – respectively – Germany (where it was actually mentioned, but in reference to what is happening in France) Spain, or the United Kingdom.
However, our colleagues from Age Platform Ue, an organization part of the SOMA network, told us that the video is circulating in Belgium, and media outlets are publishing articles aimed at warning the public against its unfounded claims.
As we already witnessed last July and August with the two chapters of the British video Plandemic, the French documentary Hold-Up quickly became popular among conspiracy theorists who deny the Covid-19 emergency.
Hold-Up lasts about three hours and it presents the main points adopted by negationists, from the alleged superiority of the “Swedish model” to the creation of the virus Sars-Cov-2 in a lab, outlining what is presented as a global conspiracy led by economic élites in order to subdue humanity through a virus which is actually harmless. It’s the “Great reset” theory, which became popular in Italy as well thanks to a number of disinformation channels.
The success of the documentary is due to several factors, identified by the French network Rtbf in the well-paced narration employed by the authors and the cast, which stars some of the most controversial French scientists and conspiracies supporters.
Six days after its release, the doc reached more than a million views on YouTube and was seen by 3 million people on the streaming platform Odyssee. At the moment, the film hasn’t been translated into Italian and, with the exception of Belgium, it seems that it is not circulating outside France.