On the left Gérard Depardieu on the right Alexandre Dumas
A fierce controversy broke out when white French actor Gérard Depardieu played black French cultural icon Alexandre Dumas in the film "L'Autre Dumas" (the other Dumas). Dumas is the "official" writer of the famous novels “The Count of Monte Cristo” and “The Three Musketeers”.
Dumas (1802 - 1870) was the son of a Hatian/French bi-racial father, Thomas Alexandre, and a white French mother.
According to TheRoot Patrick Lozes, France's Representative Council of Black Associations, objected to Depardieu in the role, saying black actors are not given an opportunity to play white roles in French cinema. "It's very shocking and it is insulting," Patrick Lozes told the London Daily Mail. "It is a way of saying that we don't have any black actors who have the talent to play Alexandre Dumas.
"The other Dumas. The history of Alexandre Dumas and (ghostwriter) Auguste Maquet"
But the film is entitled "The other Dumas. The history of Alexandre Dumas and Auguste Maquet". August Maquet is Dumas's ghostwriter (or "literary Negro" as the French said it back in the 18th and 19th century). He was the ghost writer of “The Count of Monte Cristo” , “The Three Musketeers” and other novels and plays. In fact the film deals with the relationship between August Maquet , “other Dumas” , and Alexandre Dumas.
According to the Guardian the film shed new light on the man who fans say was the true genius behind The Three Musketeers and The Count of Monte Cristo.
In an interesting article in Suite101 "The French Film Industry and Race Discrimination" the author analyses the question whether the choice of Gérard Depardieu is racism or artistic freedom.
In suite101 the author also writes:
Dumas himself was often the butt of jokes,caricature and a frequent target of cartoonists who emphasised his facial features and hair, exaggerating them to accentuate his Haitian heritage. Victoria Foote-Greenwell in her article "The life and resurrection of Alexandre Dumas" in The Smithsonian of 1 July 1996, relates the story of a leading lady once saying as he left, "Open the windows. It smells of Negro."
I agree with Patrick lozee (CRAN) that Dumas had to be played by a black actor, considering France's history with black actors. But I have to admit that Gérard Depardieu is not a bad choice.
According to TheRoot Gerard Depardieu thinks the controvery is “ridiculous” and “unnecessary”. I think Depardieu doesn't want to know the history of Dumas, or better he doesn’t want to know the history of his own country France.
Dumas was reburied in 2002 in the Panthéon of Paris, the place where al the great French are buried. Former France President Jacques Chirac had to acknowledge that racism was the reason why Dumas hadn't been enshrined in the past.