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Slavery As Comedy? French Farce “Case Départ” Acquired For International Distribution + Remake Talk

Slavery As Comedy? French Farce "Case Départ" Acquired For International Distribution + Remake Talk

A film I profiled over a month ago was picked up for international distribution by Other Angle Pictures, a Paris-based company; a French time travel/slavery comedy titled Case Départ, which I understand translates as Return To The Start (or Beginning).

I already wrote that the film will open in France on July 6th. So, could this mean we’ll see it stateside eventually? Possibly! We’ll just have to wait to find out.

Also worth noting, in a recent Variety announcement about the film that I missed, execs from Other Angle Pictures say that the film has “remake potential;” all just talk, of course, but you’ve officially been alerted to this, so don’t be surprised if we do eventually announce that a Hollywood remake is in the works.

How the original film performs at the box office will likely be a determining factor as to whether that actually happens.

As a recap… Half-brothers, Joel and Régis, have a father in common, whom they hardly know. Joel is unemployed and miserable. He feels France is a racist country, and is that the government is to blame for all his failures, because he’s black, and uses that as an excuse for not actively looking for work. Régis, on the other hand, loves France, and essentially hates his black self, and blackness in general, refusing to acknowledge his African slave roots. In his words, delinquency and immigration go hand in hand. Both are soon called to the bedside of their dying father in the Antilles, when they are presented with a document that contains information on their ancestral slave heritage – a document that has been passed down through the generations. In trying to determine the value of the document, they accidentally destroy it – an act that they are punished for for by a mysterious old woman, who has been following them since their arrival in the Antilles; the punishment being to send them back in time, all the way to, of course, the Transatlantic slavery period – 1780 specifically – where and when they are sold as slaves. The two brothers then have to work together to find a way to not only escape from the plantation, but also to find a way to return to the present day.

The film stars Thomas Ngijol and Fabrice Eboué as the 2 half-brothers. The pair also wrote the screenplay. Lionel Steketee directed the film.

Watch the wacky trailer below:

Case Départ (2011) Trailer by Afro-Style-Communication

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People in Martinique refused to make this french farce on their ground.


France is a country that is ashamed of its history, and refuses to look past his face, no reflection on this difficult period is offered at school or in French society

These guys trivialize, and insult a subject that deserves to be treated with caution and intelligence

the question is not whether we can laugh at everything, but why in France the treatment of slavery is only made on the tone of comedy ?….

The film raises a big controversy in France (people talk about boycott ) and in Martinique a French island where have been deported many slaves, the authorities have denied that the film is run on the island.


@ Misha, yeah, I hear you, and again, I believe we are on the same page. Listen to the live cast 15th June, to get my full feelings on the subject. But tell me, are you married to James? You guys sho sound alike. That boy took half the show singing the song ” I want it done my way”, and gave us a deep history lesson on slavery. *lol*


@CareyCarey Yeah, I got what JMac was saying. I was just adding to that. The premise of Life may have been about injustice but the bulk of the movie is about Claude and Ray’s evolving relationship and dare I say, the writers even romanticized prison life. It certainly wasn’t in the mold of Dave Chapelle/Richard Pryor, who were much more bold and in your face with their brand of race comedy. And I personally hope the writers of this film take that approach.


@ misha, I think Jmac was pointing to the issue of how whites react when the light is shined on them, not the issue of slavery, nor the fact that it’s a sort of “buddy” flick. In the movie “Life” many of the jokes were at the expense of evil white folks. In fact, the whole primise of the movie was based on the injustices of whites in power.

Consequently, I don’t believe the writer will skirt around the main issue (slavery/racism). How could they and why should they, it’s a comedy?

But your comment and Vanassa j’s comment brings up a very interesting issue, that I hope the podcast will address tonight. I am going to call in and see if they will address/discuss the issue of what topics, situations, issues, people and/or places should not be laughed at, mocked and/or made into a comedy?

That discussion leads me to another issue that hit the board this week and in past weeks. That is, what is the significance, payoff and rewards of expanding the black voice in film, by opening the doors on topics that might be a no-no, or disinteresting to the vast majority of black viewers. Several films that hit the board this past week, may fall in the above catogories.


i’m curious. i would check it out.


@JMac I agree. There is lots of potential here. Let’s hope it’s not wasted.

I can see the comparison with the movie, Life…a movie I love. But Life was ultimately about Ray and Claude’s friendship. Race/racism was merely the backdrop and I imagine that was intentional by Murphy, who created the storyline. For this film to be effective I think, the writers can’t skirt around the main issue (slavery/racism). In other words, less Murphy and more Dave Chappelle/Richard Pryor…

vanessa j.

Slavery… as comedy? Comedy?? Now they want to make it a joke? My we’ve become good little european / americans. You should pray, really hard, this movie never makes it to the U.S. Shame on you. Shame. Encouraging the French to make a joke out of it.


I think French films in general bring a sense of realism that is missing from Hollywood flicks. Granted, this is a fantasy/comedy flick, but I think they’ll handle it well. I don’t think it’ll be “coonery”, and I can’t front, that trailer made me LMAO.


I would reserve judgment on this film until seeing. Given that I have only three years of high school French under my belt, it seems unlikely I would. Unless, it indeed gets U.S. distribution with subtitles. But on it’s face it seems very interesting. I doubt that it would be a “shucking and jiving” movie. It could very well be a silly, funny movie that provokes thoughts on race and racism. I wish Hollywood took more risks like this with mainstream movies. Anybody remember “Blazing Saddles”? That movie touched on themes that would never be considered by Hollywood today but it was hilarious, a hit movie, and considered a comedy classic.


JMac said: “For some reason, this film slightly reminds me of the Murphy/Lawrence movie Life. Plenty of jokes on the whites and jokes on the blacks. I don’t think white people would love it- they’ll see caricatures of themselves”

I was thinking the same movie and the responses I saw from a performance I saw of Raisen In The Sun.

“A Raisin In The Sun” is a black play. Some may remember the role of Walter being played by Sydney Poitier. Others may remember Danny Glover playing the same part. There’s another clown that thought he was doing the damn thang – but he wasn’t, so I am not even going to mention his name. Okay, it was P. Diddy pretending to be an actor.

While watching the play, I glanced at the old white people (The play was at an old established barn theater. Yep, white folks)
. Their faces said it all. It quickly became apparent that many of them had never seen the play and didn’t know anything about it. I went on two different nights. The first night was a benefit performance for Healing Waters Empowerment Project: Breaking The Cycle of Domestic Violence – a black thing. The crowd was evenly mixed – whites and blacks. I accompanied a group of 50 upward bound students – mostly black. The last night was filled with season ticket holders – old white folk.

Now, the characters, Walter and Momma have very dynamic scenes. Race issues are a big part of the play, and some of the lines hit white folks right in the gut.

In one scene, Walter’s sister is reminiscing about white people and says …” that’s how the cracker crumbles”. Listen, you should have seen the looks on those white folks face. It may have been a joke but them white folks didn’t think that mess was funny – not one bit. In another scene, the family is seen discussing the fears of white people when they think a black family may be moving into their neighborhood. One character said they were afraid of losing property value and another family member said, “no, dey afraid we might marry one of them”. The black audience fell out laughing. The white audience looked as if they had just heard the O. J Simpson verdict.

I realized that most whites have not been around us in all our flavor. I got the feeling they thought every closed eye was sleep. They didn’t know we have a doctorate degree in white zoo-ology. They didn’t like hearing lines that showed them in all their glory, at least not coming from the mouth of a black person standing 10 feet away. They seemed surprised to hear that we sometimes “play them” when they think they are “playing us”.

Listen, Walter has a scene in which he says he is going to act just the way they expect him to, in order to get that money. Walter was pressed for money and the family was offered a handsome sum not to move into the neighborhood. Walter said he was going to do the best Uncle Tom they’ve ever seen. He also said the word Nigger several times (like they would say it) and did a great Chicken George, which made the white crowd very uncomfortable.

So Jmac, I’m feelin’ you on this one.


Okay I’m gonna put myself on the opposite side again and say this film might -MIGHT -be good. Why? The potential character arc of these two men. Self hating France loving negro and shiftless pro-black anti-work negro go back to slavery and come back changed men. What’s the change? The self hating one embraces his black roots and realizes his affinity for all things white was misplaced… even sees where racism exists in present day when he didn’t or wouldn’t acknowledge it before. The shiftless black guy stops using his race as an excuse and sees how much things have improved since then and that even in those days blacks didn’t just sit around “blaming the man” but hatched elaborate schemes and plots to gain freedom and didn’t take “no” or “you can’t do that” as the final answer.

For some reason, this film slightly reminds me of the Murphy/Lawrence movie Life. Plenty of jokes on the whites and jokes on the blacks. I don’t think white people would love it- they’ll see caricatures of themselves (which probably won’t be too far from the truth) and probably feel a twinge of shame especially when these guys come back to the present and see how the attitudes of the past are still affecting black folks in present day.

Wishful thinking on my part? Maybe …but then again maybe not. These black guys wrote the film and I’m not willing to believe french blacks are all sell-outs.

Winston gilchrist

Truth you are so right, white folk are gonna love this and if Oprah and Tyler Perry where in it, well ya see where I’m going with this. Right?….I sure wish I understood French.


Truth said: “White people are gonna love this!”

Well truth, quiet as it’s kept, black folks love a little lies and to talk about slaves and being one. Well, can we talk about Eddie Long and Tyler Perry, if you know what I mean?

Okay, that’s my lead-in to put myself on blast. I did a little 60 second pitch for that American Express & Tribeca film contest (the one Tambay posted on this site. Consequently, in my pitch I talk about lies. And, if you hit the link, I also have a few clips on Tyler and Steve Harvey. and Eddie Long!

If you click on the link (below) close your door because I don’t want just any ol’body to see them. But I could us your vote. :-)


White people are gonna love this!

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