'Sarkoland' satire surprise box office hit

28th August 2009, Comments 0 comments

A satire movie “Neuilly-sa-Mere” telling the story of a Muslim kid from the ghetto moving to the French President’s posh hometown, is a mega hit just two weeks since its release.

Paris – A French comedy that pokes fun at President Nicolas Sarkozy's posh hometown while up-ending clichés about the country's immigrant housing projects, has scored a surprise summer hit at the box office.

"Neuilly-sa-Mere" tells the story of a 14-year-old Muslim kid from a rough area who is packed off to the plush Paris suburb of Neuilly-sur-Seine to stay with his aunt and aristocratic uncle, who owns a pork processing plant.

Some 880,000 viewers have flocked to see the film, whose title is a play on the ghetto colloquialism "your mother", in the two weeks since its release.

Homesick for the rough-and-tumble of his estate, young Sami Benboudaoud is parachuted into a world where no one can pronounce his name, weekends are spent at the country club, and blonde upper-class ruffians terrorise his school.

Set in Neuilly, the town where Sarkozy grew up and cut his political teeth as mayor from 1983 to 2002, the film is peppered with political references and catchphrases borrowed from Sarkozy's stump speeches.

Sami's young cousin, Charles de Chazelle, is a pint-sized version of Sarkozy who dreams of being president, has turned his room into a shrine to the French right and jogs while listening to the hits of popstar first lady Carla Bruni.

But Djamel Bensalah, who co-wrote the movie and describes it as a French take on Will Smith's hit US sitcom "Fresh Prince of Bel Air," insists it is meant as light entertainment, not social commentary.

"It's a family comedy – it plays with clichés better to subvert them. It's not about mocking this or that person, but laughing with them. Building bridges between communities, linking people and breaking down prejudices."

Neuilly's only cinema did not initially book a copy of the film – sparking suggestions that officials had taken offence – but the mayor insisted this week the theatre was simply waiting for the end of the summer holidays.

"We weren't sure what to expect – because Neuilly is an easy target," said Jean-Christophe Fromentin. "But the result is pretty smart. You have to laugh at satire, when it's not done in a mean spirit."

AFP / Expatica

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