They’re back, but this time with a different kind of trip.
Remember the French time travel/slavery comedy titled Case Départ (which translates as Back To Square One) – a movie that dared to tackle the gravity of slavery via comedy and some sci-fi elements, which was a hit in France, and which caused a bit of a stir outside of France, particularly here in the USA, right here on this blog, where many didn’t quite take to the idea of slavery as anything to laugh about.
This was before Django Unchained seemingly kicked off what I’ve fondly come to refer to as “slave movie fever.”
As a recap… in Case Départ, stars Thomas Ngijol and Fabrice Eboué are 2 half-brothers with a common father they hardly know. One is unemployed and miserable. He feels France is a racist country, and 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. The other, 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 generations. In trying to determine the value of the document, they accidentally destroy it – an act that they are punished for. They are sent back in time, all the way to 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 where they are housed, but also to find a way to return to the present day.
Ngijol and Eboué wrote the screenplay. Lionel Steketee directed the film.
I don’t have any confirmation of whether or not it’s ever been officially released in the USA. Although you can buy a region 2 DVD/Blu-ray disk if you’re interested in checking it out. You’ll also find it on YouTube most likely, although it may not be subtitled.
Ngijol and Eboué are back, over 2 years later, with another movie that seemingly tackles weighty subject matter with comedy.
This one is titled Le Crocodile du Botswanga (The Botswanga Crocodile), and it stars Eboué, Ngijol and Ibrahim Koma, with Lionel Steketee directing again.
Thanks to Google Translate, here’s what I was able to piece together as the film’s synopsis: it centers on Leslie Konda (played by Ibrahim Koma), a young talented French football player, discovered as a teenager by Didier, a small-time agent (played by Fabrice Eboué), who takes him under his wing. Leslie has just signed his first contract as a striker for a major Spanish football club. But he is unable to share this with his mother who died a few months earlier and to whom he promised to take her ashes home to her village in Botswanga, Africa (likely a play on Botswana, the landlocked country located in Southern Africa). At the same time, his ancestry earns him an invitation from the Botswangan president (played by Thomas Ngijol), a football enthusiast who has just taken power of the fictional country after a military coup. Accompanied by Didier, his agent, Leslie sets off to the country of his ancestors for the first time in his life, to pay homage to his mother as well as to be decorated by President Bobo who, despite his humanistic speeches, rapidly turns out to be a megalomaniac, paranoid dictator. Not long after they arrive, the president insists that Didier persuade his player to stay and play for the local national team, one that ranks at the very bottom of international FIFA rankings. The team is know as The Botswanga Crocodiles.
Naturally, hijinx and hilarity ensue, with maybe some life lessons along the way, tackling topical socio-political issues.
Produced by Ilan Goldman for Légende (who also produced Case Départ), Le crocodile du Botswanga is co-produced by M6 Films and by Mars Films, who will also release the film (budgeted at around $10 million) in France, on February 12, 2014.
No word on whether it’ll travel, but it’s worth noting that, these two actor/writers (Eboué and Ngijol) seem to be carving out a piece of the cinema pie in France, for themselves, with their last film, Case Départ, faring quite well at the box office, in the country, which likely made it easier to get this next film financed and produced. They are apparently stars in France, as I understand, so it may be only a matter of time before Hollywood comes calling, and they join their fellow Frenchman, Omar Sy, in Los Angeles.
Here are the first trailer and poster for Le Crocodile du Botswanga, although, unfortunately, without English subtitles. But I think you’ll get the gist of it from what you see here: