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Anglos reject 'racist' French comedy film

Joshua Melvin · 10 Oct 2014, 18:08

Published: 10 Oct 2014 18:08 GMT+02:00

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If the massive hit movie "Qu'est-ce qu'on a fait au Bon Dieu ?" (What did we do to God?) ever makes it onto cinema screens across the Channel and on the other side of the Atlantic it won’t be the version that’s sold some 15 million tickets here.

That’s because American and British film distributors, who love a good hit, aren’t so crazy about the borderline racist tone of the film, which focuses on two posh, white, Catholic parents whose four daughters marry men of other religions and races.

Here's the film trailer, but it's in French only:

A boss from TF1 International, which is trying to distribute the film overseas, explained the problem in regards to audiences in the US and UK, where a cleaned up version of the film might appear.

“They have a cultural approach that is very different than ours,” International Sales Director Sabine Chemaly told French magazine Le Point. “They would never allow themselves these days to laugh at blacks, Jews or Asians…They know that it would immediately create significant controversies in their countries.”

She added: “The sources of comedy are different (in the US and UK). In those countries they don’t know how to laugh about differences, they live with them, but caricatures are not acceptable, even with some comedic distance.”

Perhaps true, but in a couple instances in the film’s trailer the Catholic parents say racist things, but the movie presents them as humorous.

In one scene, the parents are waiting to meet their fourth daughter’s fiancé when the father looks down at his watch and remarks: “Two minutes late, at least we’re sure he’s not Chinese,” and bursts out laughing.

But when their future son-in-law arrives they realize he’s black and the laughter stops.

In a subsequent scene the parents are driving together when the mother notes philosophically: “They are going to have some beautiful mixed race children” and the begins to weep.

“What did we do to God?” she asks.

Scene like these contributed to low key controversy in France when the film came out earlier this year. The director Philippe de Chauveron was accused of using racist clichés to sell his film, while at the same time validating and waking up the latent racism in French society.

The director responded to his critics by saying it’s a “kindly comedy that is respectful toward everyone.”

Judging by the box office numbers people across Europe have had little problem with the film’s take on race and religion. It’s been a hit in Greece, Belgium, Portugal and especially Germany, where it’s sold 3 million tickets and counting.

The flick is heading next to Italy, Spain and even China in 2015. And the director is already aiming for 2016 for the film’s sequel.


Joshua Melvin (joshua.melvin@thelocal.com)

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