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July 25, 2014

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Is Hollywood Courting Slavery?

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Slave stories might become the new black in Hollywood.

Today, the Shadow And Act film blog revealed that Paris-based Other Angle Pictures picked up a French slavery comedy for international distribution. 'Case Départ' is scheduled for a July 6 release in France and with the international distribution deal, there's the possibility that a remake could happen in Hollywood. According to an article in the film industry trade magazine, 'Variety,' executives at Other Angle say 'Case Départ' has "remake potential".

The comedy is about two half-brothers, Joel and Regis (played by actors pictured above, Thomas Ngijol and Fabrice Eboué, respectively), who travel to the Caribbean to collect an inheritance from their dying father. They are given a document that chronicles their slave ancestry and in an effort to find out its worth, they accidentally destroy the document. Their aunt curses them and sends them back in time to the Transatlantic slavery period, where they are sold as slaves and must not only try to escape their conditions but also the year 1780. The trailer (shown below) is in French with no sub-titles, so those who don't understand the language may not be able to follow along, but there is a lighthearted feel to the clip and the slavery setting is clear.



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

Meanwhile, a slave film closer to home was just given a release date. Indie-film blog, 'The Playlist' has announced the Quentin Tarantino-directed and written film about an escaped slave seeking revenge on his master in an effort to rescue his lover, 'Django Unchained,' is scheduled to come out on Christmas Day 2012. That's more than a year-and-a-half from now, but like most of Tarantino's films, this movie has been buzzed about from pretty much the moment Tarantino finished writing the screenplay.

Not since Alex Haley's highly acclaimed miniseries 'Roots' premiered in 1977 have we seen an honest (much less funny) depiction of slave life on either the big or small screen (Oprah tried with 'Beloved' but missed the mark by about 50 yards). To this day, the Roots' finale remains the third highest rated U.S. television program ever. In 2003, comedian Dave Chappelle would drum up some controversy on his 'Chappelle's Show' when several sketches touched on slavery, including one (shown below) parodying 'Roots' entitled "Roots Outtakes."

Whether a comedy or a drama, a remake or an original take, tackling the subject of slavery on film is going to be a challenge to any filmmaker or screenwriter. But the real test will ultimately rely on the audience. Even fairytale-esque black romantic comedies struggle to generate formidable box office revenue. We will have to wait and see if much darker and truer stories about the history of black folks in America will face the same dilemma.


Chappelles Show
Roots Outtakes
www.comedycentral.com
Buy Chappelle's Show DVDs Black Comedy True Hollywood Story

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