Too Black to be French

A film by Isabelle Boni-Claverie

France | 2015 | 52 minutes | Color | DVD | French | Subtitled | Order No. 161189


In this documentary film, Isabelle Boni-Claverie explores the role of race and the persistence of racism in France, as well as the impact of the French colonial past. Through an exploration of her personal family history, and interviews with historians and academics, TOO BLACK TO BE FRENCH peels back the layers of race relations in supposedly institutionally colorblind France.

Boni-Claverie, a French-Ivorian, who grew up in upper class French society, unpacks how socio-economic privilege doesn’t mean protection from racial discrimination. Boni-Claverie solicits anonymous individuals to speak on their daily experiences with race, class, discrimination and micro-aggressions. TOO BLACK TO BE FRENCH also features interviews with acclaimed sociologists and historians including Pap Ndiaye, Eric Fassin, Achille Mbembe, and Patrick Simon to help contextualize racial history in France. Boni-Claverie’s film starts an urgent discussion on French society's inequalities and discrimination.


TOO BLACK TO BE FRENCH is a compelling documentary that discloses, in a frank and honest way, a rarely seen example of racism outside of the U.S. Focusing on the popular debate about racism as it relates to nationality, colorism and classism, the filmmaker’s attempt to discover her own French roots takes the viewer along on her journey. Addressed from this very personal perspective makes the experience that much more captivating, yet alarming.

Michelle Materre Assc. Professor, The New School, and Curator, Creatively Speaking Film Series


  • New York African Film Festival
  • International Film Festival & Forum on Human Rights Geneva


Isabelle Boni-Claverie

Isabelle Boni-Claverie is an author, screenwriter, and film director born in the Ivory Coast. She moved to Switzerland when she was a few months old, then to France, but mostly grew up in Paris. In school, she studied French modern Literature and Art History. After graduating from the Sorbonne, she entered the Parisian film school La Fémis where she graduated in 2000 with a specialization in screenwriting. At the age of 17, Isabelle Boni-Claverie launched her writing career with the novel, "La Grande Dévoreuse" (The Great Devourer). It received an award at Le Prix du Jeune Ecrivain de Langue Française and was published in a collective book, Villes d’exil, by Le Monde Editions. Ten years later it was republished in the Ivory Coast by Nouvelles Editions Ivoiriennes (NEI). In 1994, Simon Njami asked her to collaborate with Revue Noire, a magazine dedicated to contemporary African art. Isabelle was still a student when she started a six-year collaboration with Revue Noire and was put in charge of the cinema section. Due to her growing interest in cinema, she wrote the screenplay for her first short film, Le Génie d'Abou (Abu’s Genie), which she directed in 1997. At that time she was a first year student at La Fémis and Le Génie d’Abou was supposed to be a mere training exercise. The film went on to be screened in New York, Montreal, La Havane, Perugia and many other festivals around the world, and received a special mention at the International Short Film Festival of Abidjan. In 2004, she directed POUR LA NUIT (For the Night). A film about grief and identity, it was distinguished by several awards: Jury Award of the Festival Provence, Terre de Cinéma, People’s Award of Amiens’ House of Arrest, Feminine Interpretation Award at the International Short film Festival of Abidjan, Special mention at the Festival du Cinéma Africain, d’Asie et d’Amérique Latine, Special mention by Signis oecumenic award. It was in competition at Locarno, Amiens, FESPACO and Carthage.

Isabelle has never stopped writing, notably for the small screen. She was one of the head writers of Seconde Chance (Second Chance) a TV series aired on TF1 in 2008, and nominated at the International Emmy Awards in 2009. Isabelle’s film directing career includes directing a few documentaries that tell real stories. Her film TOO BLACK TO BE FRENCH? was screened at NYU and Columbia University, with Boni-Claverie debating the issues of the effect of people’s perspectives, misunderstandings, and the contradictions nestled in French society, where the French colonial past still conditions racism and discrimination against the black citizens. Isabelle was also a juror in 2012 for the Mediterranean Short Film Festival of Tangier with Oumy Ndour and Safinez Bousbia. (01/20)


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