Back in January, I told you about the popular French film, “Intouchables.” The film, which broke box office records across the country and was hailed by the French press, follows a black man from the projects in Paris who gets a job taking care of a rich, white quadriplegic.

The film was widely praised across the county, and France’s president Nicolas Sarkozy loved it so much he invited the cast to the dinner at Elysee Palace.

While French audiences and critics ate it up, American critics found the film quite problematic.

Devorah Lauter of the LA Times wrote:

Yet even as the Cinderella story has audiences applauding, a few critics scolded its unrealistic take on the struggles of France’s poor, as well as its “easy stereotypes” of minorities, shown through the fun-loving hero, Driss. Driss is of Senegalese origin, and with his charming wit — but also unabashed ignorance of fine French foods, art and music — he livens up the stuffy world of his wealthy counterpart, Philippe.

“This film dates to the 1930s, when it was thought the black man has no culture and spends his time laughing at everything,” philosopher Jean-Jacques Delfour said after reviewing the film for the French daily Liberation.

And Jay Weissberg of Variety had a hasher critique, taking the film to task for pandering to stereotypes:

He writes:

Driss [the main character] is treated as nothing but a performing monkey (with all the racist associations of such a term), teaching the stuck-up white folk how to get “down” by replacing Vivaldi with “Boogie Wonderland” and showing off his moves on the dance floor. It’s painful to see Sy, a joyfully charismatic performer, in a role barely removed from the jolly house slave of yore, entertaining the master while embodying all the usual stereotypes about class and race.

The nadir comes when Driss dons a suit and Magalie tells him he looks like President Obama, as if the only black man in a suit could be the president; what’s so distressing is that the writers mean for the line to be tender and funny. (For the record, Sy and Obama look nothing alike.)

But because Hollywood loves a good hit and an opportunity to make money, they are remaking ‘Intouchables’ for an American audience.

According to Variety, ‘Bridesmaids’ director Paul Feig is in early talks to write and direct an American remake of ‘Intouchables.” Apparently, Colin Firth is already in the running to star in the film, but I wonder who will be cast in the other leading role of Driss, the Senegalese man tasked with taking care of his wealthy boss.

While there is no script just yet, I hope this remake–which is based on a true-story–isn’t filled with easy, cliched stereotypes of a black man from the ‘hood experiencing culture shock in the rich, white world. What I hope is conveyed, however, is the genuine feeling of the friendship of the two men. But I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.

Check out a English-subtitled version of the ‘Intouchables’ trailer via Shadow & Act. Who do you think should play the role of Driss?

  • Dalili

    My sentiments exactly!

  • Unity

    And they’ve also dealt with real and crippling xenophobia and racism. While you make a point that is generally valid (context is key), in this case it isn’t. As the article even highlighted, not all French critics having been raving about the idea to quietly enjoy excessive stereotypes about Black French people:

    “This film dates to the 1930s, when it was thought the black man has no culture and spends his time laughing at everything,” philosopher Jean-Jacques Delfour said after reviewing the film for the French daily Liberation.

  • Africanqueen

    gosh you african american people will go nowhere obsessed with your colors issue! you keep seeing color everywhere and therefore not at all openminded.
    have you ever thought about that poor white man on a wheel chair? that man abandonned ignored by his family and his friend and society? did you ever thought that black people in france are sometimes not even french but still have their african passeport and are not at all looking to be seen as white are accepted by the white french because some have their own family in africa? black french make a lot of fun of the white as well because in france people make fun of breton, of corse, of lillois, of asian, of parisians, of senegalese, etc but at least even if we dont have a black president yet people here actually do mix! there are far more interracial family here then there are in the state. so stop comparing your country with other peoples country we french people are african first we therefore dont have much of history to share with you americans beside we are black.

  • CHE

    Boy-no offense-but you Africans are ummm interesting and ill leave it there……so all Black French are African? and you all are happy and mixing?….so what were the riots in France about not too long ago (heavily African) and all the stories of Blacks not having access and do you really think you will have a Black president especially an African descended one in France anytime soon?….I mean Im just a descendant of slaves(quite proud of their strenght and balls) so I cant possibly know what I am talking about, so i defer to your superior smarts.

  • UMM…

    **Applauds** Very well-said Che

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