Thursday, February 25, 2010

Oh No He Di’int!

You may or may not have heard about the controversy surrounding the new film The Other Dumas. Long story short--Gerdard Dipardoo, one of France’s most famous actors, will be playing Alexandre Dumas, author of such famous novels as “The Count of Monte Cristo” and “The Three Musketeers,”. There is however, one small catch: Alexandre Dumas was kinda Black. Dipardoo is not kinda Black. He’s just kinda fat and kinda ugly as all get out.

When I first heard about this I was offended for obvious reasons. One, Dipardoo makes my skin crawl, and two, he’s daring to play one of France’s most beloved and celebrated cultural icons in black face and a fuzzy afro wig. (OK that last bit was just me being dramatic.) I know it’s tough for Black actors in Hollywood to get the really interesting roles they want to play, but they’ve got it easy compared to Black French actors. Apparently French casting directors don’t even bother trying to find Black actors to play actual Black characters. They just paint the white actors browner and slap a curly wig on their head and say “Whatever. Same diff.”

To clarify, my beef with Dipardoo is not just that he isn’t Black, but that I’m just sick of seeing his bloated face in so many damn movies. I am under the impression that there some kind of French film mafia that requires he be given a role in 40% of the films made in France. I hear he almost beat out Marion Cotillard for the role of Édith Piaf in La Môme, but eventually settled for a supporting role.

There are just so many things wrong with this whole set up that I hardly know where to begin. It’s bad enough that 99% of French people don’t even know that Dumas was kinda Black, did they even try to find a Black actor for the role? My guess is no. I mean does Dipardoo even look like Dumas?




OH SNAAAAP! He does look like Dumas!

OK, that freightening fact aside, the whole thing still rubs me the wrong way. Or maybe I’m just being closed-minded. Film is art and art should be allowed to take creative liberties. For instance when they make the biopic of Barack Obama’s life...

young

Young Barack should be played by a slightly sun-kissed Zack Efron...

thewhitehouseyears

and Rob Lowe can play Obama during his white house years. No fake-bake necessary since he is already lightly toasted.

Gosh darnit! I do declare that I have truly missed my calling as a casting director. I think I really nailed this one, although I am open to discussion. Maybe Clooney would do a better Obama?

27 comments:

Sara Louise said...

The French film mafia obviously works the same as the Irish film mafia; you can't make an Irish movie without putting Colm Meaney in it. Ever.

the fly in the web said...

Depardieu has a vineyard in the Loire selling abominable wine.
The wine alone is enough to put me off him.

Aaron Grunwald said...

Charlize Theron can play Michelle Obama!! 8-)

Charlotte said...

I'm glad you're back ! I missed you :)

I, too, heard about this story and I was shocked. It saddened me, in fact. It's like they're denying the fact that Dumas had black ancestors. Well, a few days ago, on the late night tv program "Ce soir ou jamais" (France 3), they discussed about it and there was a french actor named Stephane Freiss who said that the whole controversy was ridiculous. He explained that having to take a black actor to play a black person would be like having to take a soccer player to play Zinedine Zidane... No comment. Yes, black actors in France are indeed very unlucky!

Karin (an alien parisienne) said...

I really did burst out laughing at your treatment of the Diaper-doo (my take on it, lol). You crack me up, but also at the heart of your post is a really good point: there is a kind of racism going on here, huh. Subtle. Quiet. But present. I had no idea that Dumas was kinda black, but yeahhhh, looks like it there, huh! Your post really makes me want to know more about the real Dumas, the real man and who he was. I hope at the very least the new French movie will do the same, since they bothered to make it.

I LOL'ed at Sara's comment, too. True, that!!

Madame K said...

When do we start the offical "Boycott Colm Meaney" movement?

Also--Charlize Theron would make an excellent Michelle Obama---I mean at least she's African. It'd be totally authentic, no?

And one last note: Maybe Depardieu face got like that from drinking too much of his own sh*tty wine.

BebeJardin said...

I was just talking about this with a friend of mine, and she said that as an American I am more race focused and therefore sensitive to things like this. That may be true, but my sensitivity comes from the realization that racism is often subtle and deeply imbededed in social structures. So it takes noticing it to properly uproot it! I refuse to see this movie and any other that openly defrauds people of Color from seeing one of their own on the screen. Its gross and one of the major issues with France.

PS: Gerad must be a national treasure, because this 'nig is in everything no matter how important or trival. But he was cute when he was younger. What happened to him?!

Gloria said...

This is sad on so many levels. I wonder if Frenchies would be offended if a film about Napolean had Gary Coleman playing Napolean. Is there anyone in the French film industry that is "down with the brown"? What is going on over there?!

Charlotte said...

@ Gloria : my sister and I said the same thing ! Lol

Aaron Grunwald said...

Americans are surely more sensitive to race, perhaps over-sensitive. But the French (and to be fair, this is true across Europe) are often quite under-sensitive to race. Apparently it's a tough balance to find.

sprite said...

They say the French tend to be self-absorbed; I am not surprised most are unaware Dumas had black ancestors.
It's unsettling when people bury their heads in the sand, pretending racism does not exist and telling you to become less "sensitive", blah, blah. How can we ever eliminate it fully if we refuse to acknowlegde it even exists?
I may not watch the movie which saddens me mostly because I loved reading Dumas' books as a kid and would have enjoyed a movie about his life.
Also agree 100% about how ugly Depardieu is. Why is he still playing the romantic lead in any film?
I hear Angelina has first dibs on the role of Michelle; she has some experience in that type of thing.

sprite said...

They say the French tend to be self-absorbed; I am not surprised most are unaware Dumas had black ancestors.
It's unsettling when people bury their heads in the sand, pretending racism does not exist and telling you to become less "sensitive", blah, blah. How can we ever eliminate it fully if we refuse to acknowlegde it even exists?
I may not watch the movie which saddens me mostly because I loved reading Dumas' books as a kid and would have enjoyed a movie about his life.
Also agree 100% about how ugly Depardieu is. Why is he still playing the romantic lead in any film?
I hear Angelina has first dibs on the role of Michelle; she has some experience in that type of thing.

It's Cold Outside said...

Hear, hear. It's ridiculous.

I think their (the film makers) main defense would be that the popular well know actor would attract an audience and recoup cost at the box office. While hiring a lesser known actor would be a financial risk. It's the age old Profit Vs Art argument. I completely disagree with it. It becomes counterproductive in my mind to reduce art to commercial shittery.

I remember a similar controvesry here in the US over the casting of the French journalist Marianne Pearl. Marianne Pearl wrote a memoir called "A Mighty Heart" about her husband, Daniel Pearl, who was murdered by extremists in Pakistan. The memoir was adapted into a film. Marianne Pearl is black and Cuban and so the actress playing her should have been black or at least similar in looks (mixed race). And the actress cast was...Angelina Jolie. Who is WHITE.

Major WTF.

In the film, Angelina Jolie wore a kinky wig and was in brown face.

Repeat: she wore an kinky wig and was in brown face.

Her skin was darkened for god's sake and yet the role garnered several awards for her in the U.S. and the only backlash was from bloggers and public radio, which very quickly became irrelevant once the film came out.

Sad. The whole thing leaves a nasty taste in my mouth. They should have just kept their dignity and cast a black actor for Dumas.

It's history! Isn't accuracy important here? Even in Art, Art is supposed to somewhat reflect truth, no?

Dedene said...

Yep, ole Gerard has lost my vote as a decent actor.

The african man who played 2nd to Brad Pitt in "Blood Diamond" is French. He stated that in France, he could only get roles as an SDF or a drug-addict, while in the US, he's done all kinds of movies.

deiala said...

I feel really bad now, because I, too, didn't know that Dumas was black. However, now I know.
I have to agree that there must be a census on the cast of French movies. For the male role it's Gerard Dipardoo and for female roles it's Audrey Tautou...
But it seems really strange to me that the wouldn't cast a black person to play Dumas...

Madame K said...

For those non-francophones:
SDF = Sans domicile fixe = homeless person.

In France, Djimon Hounsou could only get roles as a junkie or a homeless person. I have 2 things to say abotu this:

1. All the junkies I've ever seen in France are white kids.

2. Djimon Hounsou is so yummy I want to bite him. And now he's gone to Amerika and he's never coming back.

Curses to all French casting directors! I curse thee!

Madame K said...

WAI WAIT---There's more:

"In 2004 Djimon Hounsou was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor, for In America, becoming the first African to be nominated for an Oscar".....

but in France he could only get roles as a junkie or a homeless person.

*scratching head*

Non Je Ne Regrette Rien said...

gerard used to be such an intriguing lad ... what a slide...at least physically ... when interviewed, he still seems vaguely interesting.

but no substitute for a substantial black actor for such a meaty role.

KLS said...

Sara Louise said...
The French film mafia obviously works the same as the Irish film mafia; you can't make an Irish movie without putting Colm Meaney in it. Ever.
_________

That is the first thing I thought of when I started reading this post!

tonton_flaneur said...

Oui, oui...I have heard a lot about this on TV5 Monde here in San Francisco also!! The funny thing is that my expat friends that live here tell me that ALL of France was OVER Depardieu a long time ago, thanks to over-kill!! His female counterpart is Isabelle Adjani[more in the past], but I think she will make a swell Michelle!! LOL!!

Jess said...

I was coming to say the same thing about Angelina and Mariane Pearl. It's redic.

Diasporique said...

This is shocking. Is this film being produced in France?

Heidi said...

Le Frog looks like Le Ummpa Lumpa.

I agree, Obama and Rob Lowe are both dashingly handsome men, but no amount of spray-tan will create a resemblance.

Frenchie said...

Thanks for posting on this. I was really annoyed that the director chose a white actor and claimed no other actor was good enough! Not only was Dumas black, but he eas Haitian...another thing the French like to conveniently forget!

http://blackincairo.blogspot.com

Roaming Gnomette said...

It's Cold Outside: "I think their (the film makers) main defense would be that the popular well know actor would attract an audience and recoup cost at the box office. While hiring a lesser known actor would be a financial risk."
________________

It just occured to me that I'm not sure if France even has any really popular or highly respected black actors. That in itself is saying something.

anji said...

That's kinda funny, haha!

I learned this week that Russia's greatest author/novelist/literary genius, was of African descent. He's kinda like the Shakespeare of Russian literature... He died in a duel because his wife was a big, fat cheater. That part was pretty cool too.

(His great-grandfather was a gift to the Russian Czar years back... from some African nation *sigh* but at least he had some kick-ass education and people LOVED him despite his colour... oh, did I mention this was in the 1800s??)

Lita said...

reminds me of this: http://www.afterellen.com/blog/sarahwarn/satire-tina-fey-to-play-Michelle-Obama-on-SNL