14 November 2011 | guy-bellinger
An original way to spend your holidays in the Antilles: become a slave there!
On the one hand meet Regis, town counselor, house, big car, wife and kid. On the other meet Joël, an inner city tosser, who hides his own uselessness behind an easy excuse: it is the whites who are to be blamed for his problems. Two men who, at first sight, are light years away from each other except they are both colored, except that they both have the same father, a West Indian aptly named Grosdésir (Biglust), a stud who has scattered his small seeds toward every wind. Two half-brothers who have opted for two dramatically opposed attitudes to French society, either integration at any price (including the price of rejection and intolerance of one's own colored brothers) or total rejection (to the benefit (?) of claptrap, laziness and petty crime). The good idea of "Case Départ" is to have these two extremes confronted through the main characters who are forced by circumstances to mix with each other (a pattern once successfully followed by Stanley Kramer in his 'Defiant Ones', in a much more dramatic style of course). Their permanent conflict, which generates laughs throughout, also helps to examine the more profound aspects of the issues at stake (slavery, emigration, roots, integration...). Thanks to this well-mastered device, a fine mix of humor and reflection is guaranteed. Another pleasant find is to have our two "heroes" propelled into the past by an East Indian witch aunt who, outraged by their mutual disrespect of their ancestors, undertakes to make them not only understand but feel in their flesh what their forebears went through because of slavery. What better way indeed not to forget one's past is there than to have to toil from dawn to dusk,to be the object of contempt, to be treated like cattle, punished by lashes or threatened by the noose. After a brilliant introduction set in France, in which the two protagonists are presented with biting humor, ruthlessly satirizing all the negative attitudes from certain immigrants (only two sons of the immigration could afford that, a white would have been accused of racism), the bulk of "Case départ" follows Régis and Joël in their hilarious tribulations in the Antilles 200 years before 2010, as they are sold as slaves (still owning a cell phone, but without network coverage!), discover the hard way what their condition actually means. It goes without saying that the two fellows will travel back to 2010 but there is some suspense as to HOW they will do it. Tomas N'Gijol, as Joël the layabout, and Fabrice Eboué, as Régis the cowardly collaborationist, two comedians revealed by the Djamel Comedy Club TV show, are priceless clowns who complement each other extremely well. There is a good supporting cast around them : examples include Etienne Chicot in the interestingly nuanced role of Monsieur Jourdain, the plantation owner, and Franck de la Personne in the shoes of a ridiculous priest. If Lionel Steketee's direction is nothing more than serviceable, much pleasure can nevertheless be derived from this excellent offbeat comedy, acted to great effect and intelligently written by two future stars of French cinema, Fabrice Eboué & Thomas N'Gijol.