Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Omar Sy Addresses Charges Of "Uncle Tom Racism" In French Comedy "Intouchables"

Via Shadow and Act
The French film Intouchables is a hit in France. White and Black French alike, love the film. Even in (Francophone) Africa it is a great succes, wrote Sibo in his review. But the American film magazine Variety called it "The kind of Uncle Tom racism one hopes has permanently exited American screens." It's clear that French people love it and Americans probably will hate it?

The Weinstein Company is planning to release it in the USA next month, May 25. But Variety warned, "the Weinstein Co., which has bought remake rights, will need to commission a massive rewrite to make palatable this cringe-worthy comedy about a rich, white quadriplegic hiring a black man from the projects to be his caretaker, exposing him to 'culture', while learning to loosen up. Sadly, this claptrap will do boffo Euro biz."

In an interview with Anthem Magazine Omar Sy addresses the US critiques of Intouchables.
ANTHEM MAG - The Los Angeles Times has said that the film has some ‘crying racism.’ Variety proclaimed that your role as Driss is ‘a role barely removed from the jolly house slave of yore.’ I don’t personally share these views, but I would love to get your thoughts on what certain American critics are saying.

OMAR SY - I didn’t see any racist elements. Otherwise, I wouldn’t have done this movie. I would need to see what those critics are talking about, specifically. I did read a few things here and there, but I want to make it clear that, in France, things are very different than the U.S. on a social level. The two societies have not evolved in the same way. In France, when you look at the poor and the privileged in the city suburbs, all immigrant communities live together and share the same environment. You’ll find people from places like Northern Africa and Portugal living together. In the U.S., it’s not like that. I would need more information on what these critics are saying, but we should look at all the details. Then we could explain the reasons behind it. It would take a long time and we would need a whole new movie about that.

Sibo, who is Francophone,  wrote in his review. "It is true that the film is full of clichés and racial stereotypes. As the film is rather kind than harsh it seems from this perspective that the film is a French version of Uncle Tom's Cabin. But I don't think that's what the film is about. Race is used to accentuate differences but race is not the subject of the film. 'Untouchables' is about lonely human beings with very different backgrounds finding friendship and love. However, Variety sees race as the center element of the film."

And also a French speaking couple who commented on the posting loved the film.

I must admit that when I saw the trailer I immediately saw the racial stereotypes, the cultivated white person versus the uneducated black man from the streets. But maybe a lot of French people also saw the stereotypes, but didn't label them as racist.

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