Noirs et blancs en couleur (Black and White in Color)  (1976)

 

 

Director:  Jean-Jacques Annaud

Starring:  Jean Carmet (Sergeant Bosselet), Jacques Dufilho (Paul Rechampot), Catherine Rouvel (Marinette), Jacques Spiesser (Hubert Fresnoy), Maurice Barrier (Caprice), Benjamin Memel Atchory (Assomption), Peter Berling (PPre Jean de la Croix), Marius Beugre Boignan (Barthelmy), Claude Legros (Jacques Rechampot), Dora Doll (Maryvonne), Baye Macoumba Diop (Lamartine), Jacques Monnet (PPre Simon), Dieter Schidor (Kraft), Aboubakar Toine (Fidele), Marc Zuber (Major Anglais)

 

 

Excellent movie. 1976 winner of the Academy Award for best foreign language film.  This is a black comedy making fun of white Europeans and imperialism and their misuse of the native peoples.   

Fort Coulais, January 6, 1915.  The French colonialists in French Equatorial Africa get along with their German colonialists next-door.  There is a certain unity of the white men over the blacks who the whites think are members of an inferior race.  Hubert Fresnoy (Jacques Spiesser), the French geographer and former socialist, writes to a friend that the whites should not be so sure of the inferiority of the black race.  "At the risk of shocking you, I daresay that in many respects, the natives are not far from meriting the honored name of 'men'."  Dangerous sentiments indeed. 

Seven months after the start of World War I, the French colonialists learn that France is at war with Germany.  And, of course, if France is at war with Germany then Frenchmen in Africa must also be at war with the Germans in Africa.  Since the number of French was small, they come up with the idea of using the natives to fight for their side. And the Germans do the same.  So you have a very few white men leading blacks to their slaughter.  

The process of the training and outfitting of the natives, gives the movie a chance to ridicule the colonists and imperialism.  Making the natives into "proper" French troops is not as easy as the colonists thought and is quite strange from a larger prospective. 

The French outnumber the Germans by 10 to 1 and the French think they will readily trounce the Germans.  But they had not counted on the Germans having a machine guns.  And just as in Europe, the two warring sides have to resort to trench warfare.

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.

 


Historical Background:

 

French Equatorial Africa consisted of a somewhat J-shaped strip of land in central Africa consisting of today's nations of Chad, Central African Republic, Gabon and the Congo. 

1905 (March) to 1906 (May)   --  the Tangier Crisis (or First Moroccan Crisis) was an international crisis over the colonial status of Morocco. 

1906  --  the Algeciras Conference upheld France's pre-eminence over the North African kingdom.

1910  --  French Equatorial Africa established, consisting of Gabon, Middle Congo, and Ubangi-Shari. 

1911 (July 1)  --  the German gunboat 191Panther was deployed to the Moroccan port of Agadir. 

1911  --  France ceded parts of the French Equatorial Africa to German Cameroon as a result of the Agadir Crisis. 

after WWI  --  after Germany's defeat, the French got back their ceded territory. 

1920  --  Chad was separated from Ubangi-Shari to form a fourth colony of French Equatorial Africa.

 

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