Media abroad: France

Gaul’s minorities have complained for years that they are under-represented in the TV and movie industries, both behind and in front of the cameras.

In a sign of how far France has lagged behind other nations, it was a major deal two years ago when pubcaster France 3 became the first French web to have a black person, Audrey Pulvar, reading the news.

Over the years paybox Canal Plus has been the only channel to give much exposure to non-white faces — but mostly to comics, such as Jamel, today a household name in France.   

The movie industry is marginally better, with a handful of directors and thesps of North African origin making their mark. Some of them — including Jamel, actors Sami Naceri and Rochdy Zem, and helmer Rachid Bouchareb — have gotten together to make “Days of Glory,” about North Africans who fought for France during WWII. The pic is slated for a berth at the upcoming Cannes Film Festival.

But the French media are now under serious pressure to become more multi-cultural.

Following last year’s politically embarassing suburban riots, which exposed the discontent of France’s minorities to the rest of the world, President Jacques Chirac summoned broadcast toppers and told them it was time to show more black faces on the box.

Last month commercial web TF1 hired Harry Roselmack, a journalist from Martinique, to fill in for its main news anchor Patrick Poivre d’Arvor during the summer holidays. And at the recent Mip TV trade show in Cannes, TF1’s broadcasting topper Etienne Mougeotte announced that an upcoming drama series “Section de Recherche,” will be about a gendarme unit headed by a captain of North African origin. Traditionally they have only had at best sidekick roles.

Senegalese-born actor Mouss Diouf was the sidekick in the hit drama “Julie Lescaut” for 13 years before quitting last year to perform in a one-man theater show, “When I was Black,” and to try his hand at other roles.

He’s now in Los Angeles looking for opportunities Stateside.

“When I turn on the TV over here in the States I see blacks, Chinese, Koreans, Mexicans, and I realize how far behind France is,” the thesp told Variety. “If anything, I think things have gotten worse since I started out, not better. I used to be against quotas but perhaps they are the only way to really bring about change.”

But for now, France is not going down the affirmative action road, because the country’s equality principle makes it unconstitutional to create laws that give preference to one group over another.

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