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28 - C’est l’histoire d’un Arabe…

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Jean-Philippe Blanchard

Towards an ethnicizing humor : banlieue comedies (1999-2013)

Le Temps des médias n° 28, Printemps 2017, p. 100-112.


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In the wake of the success of Mathieu Kassovitz’s La Haine, several dramatic French dramatic films have taken the suburbs as set and subject. Then, starting from the 1990s, the large housing projects have served as an anchor point for several light comedies depicting a multi-ethnic and sympathetic social space. By using humor to approach themes that are generally treated seriously (such as petty crime or verbal abuse), these housing estate comedies soon formed a sub-genre of french cinema. The many installations of out-of-town multiplex cinemas, coupled with the popularity of the black-blanc-beur symbol, have encouraged the production of fictions with off-center subjects. As the films were released, characters representing the Maghrebian immigration (notably the figures of the « Arab», the « Maghrebi» or « Beur») became central in most housing estate comedies, whose humor has progressively been ethnicized. In the following text, we assess the creative, economic and political dimensions of these evolutions.

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