Combining a personal approach and specialist analyses, French-Ivoirian director Isabelle Boni-Claverie demonstrates in her film how the colonial past conditions the way in which France still perceives its black citizens. There are thought to be approximately – ethnic statistics being officially forbidden – between 3 and 5 million black French people. The distant descendants of West Indian slaves, or of “natives” of the French colonial empire in Africa, they constitute an often discriminated minority.

Of mixed race, raised in Paris’ wealthy neighborhoods, daughter of an Ivoirian female politician and granddaughter of Alphonse Boni, a black man who became a magistrate of the French Republic in the 1930s, Isabelle Boni-Claverie focuses on what prevents the social ascension of black French people and the full recognition of their citizenship.


Based on her personal memories, the director delves into her family history. She questions her white cousins about what her maternal family, originally from the Tarn region of France, thought about her white grandmother marrying a black Ivoirian. Curious to see what has changed since she graduated, she returns to her prestigious film school, La femis, where she remembers being the only black student. Filming young men and woman, she asks them about their experiences and sentiments. With the additional analyses of eminent sociologists and historians, such as Achille Mbembe, Pap Ndiaye and Eric Fassin, and ads, comic sketches, news excerpts and racist controversies, her film unveils clichés and paints a portrait of a France not yet over its colonial past; a France that, despite its generous discourses, is no more open today to the diversity of its origins, cultures and individual trajectories.

Too Black to Be French? is distributed in the USA and Canada by Women Make Movies

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Director: Isabelle Boni-Claverie

Production: Quark Productions / Arte France

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