Is Profile a True Story?

‘Profile’ is a thriller film that revolves around Amy Whittaker, a journalist who investigates the recruitment tactics of ISIS by creating a fake Facebook profile under the assumed name of Melody Nelson. Her investigation leads her into the dark world of radical and extremist ideas, and she begins to succumb under the pressure of living a double life. It is directed by Timur Bekmambetov and stars Valene Kane, Shazad Latif, Christine Adams, Amir Rahimzadeh, and Morgan Watkins in the lead roles. If you are wondering whether the movie is inspired by any real events or true stories, you have come to the right place. Here is everything we know in that regard.

Is Profile Based on a True Story?

Yes, ‘Profile’ is based on a true story. The movie is inspired by the non-fiction novel ‘In the Skin of a Jihadist’ by Anna Erelle. Erelle is a French journalist who investigated ISIS and its recruitment of young European girls who had recently converted to Islam. Erelle’s journey into the web of ISIS’s activities began around 2013. She had extensive experience in covering events in the Middle East. She spoke to several young girls in the Banlieue suburb of Paris. There she first realized the extent of the radical religious ideals that had spread among the teenagers.

According to Erelle, the girls idolized the jihadists. They knew almost nothing about religion and were only aware of the propaganda spread by radical organizations. Erelle wished to take a further look into the situation and came across a Belgian woman whose daughter had disappeared. While searching for the young girl, Erelle learned that ISIS recruited young girls, mostly converts, through social media. The girl had apparently run away to Syria to marry her radical Muslim boyfriend she met online.

To understand the allure of the radical organization, Erelle decided to enter the online community and dig deeper into the matter. She created a Facebook profile under the pseudonym Melodie, a twenty-year-old girl who recently converted to Islam. Initially, she observed online exchanges and developed an idea of how French teenagers were being radicalized. One afternoon, she received a string of messages from Abu Bilel, a senior ISIS commander. The ISIS fighter of Algerian descent was a right-hand man of the organization’s leader, Bakr al-Baghdadi. He later Skyped with Erelle, and their first interaction is recreated on the screen, as mentioned by the author in her book.

Through her interactions with Bilel, Erelle started grasping how young girls were being radicalized. In an interview with the Guardian, Erelle said, “Multiple reasons. First, these are girls who are maybe too naive. They really think they will help the population, so they go for that. But now, for one year or so, we have seen a lot of girls going to Syria or Iraq because they think they will make a good marriage and become somebody very important when they are married to a powerful man. The scary stuff is that the girls are now as drunk on power as the men.” She also mentioned fame as one of the aspects that attracted these young girls.

Soon, Bilel proposed marriage to Erelle, and she played along, agreeing to join him in Syria. As per Bilel’s instructions, “Melodie” and her fictionalized friend “Yasmine” were to travel to Syria via Amsterdam and Istanbul. However, once she reached Amsterdam, Bilel changed the plan. He revealed that the person supposed to escort Melodie and her friend to Istanbul wouldn’t be arriving, and the girls will have to make the trip alone. Erelle had an argument with Bilel, after which she returned to Paris and cut off all ties. She began to receive death threats and lives under police protection. “Erelle” is a pseudonym of the writer, and her real identity is kept hidden to protect her from ISIS’s “fatwa.”

A significant portion of ‘Profile’ is based on the true story of Anna Erelle. Most of these elements of Erelle’s story are preserved in the film’s narrative, with some cosmetic changes to details such as names and locations. Certain key elements have been changed to make the story more dramatized. Events depicting how Bilel learns that he is being catfished have been altered. Most of the events from this point onwards are works of fiction to create a taut, high-stakes thriller.

Read More: Where Was Profile FIlmed?