Omar Sy: Too much individualism in France fueling rise of far-right

Omar Sy: ‘It’s difficult to be black in France’ - citing Aya Nakamura controversy
Omar Sy: ‘It’s difficult to be black in France’ - citing Aya Nakamura controversy Copyright Rebecca Cabage/Invision/AP
Copyright Rebecca Cabage/Invision/AP
By David Mouriquand
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During interviews promoting his new book "Viens, on se parle", the French actor has spoken out about the ills of the far-right in France, how to address it, and how it can be difficult to be Black in French society.


French actor Omar Sy, the star of the hit Netflix series Lupin and recently appointed jury member at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, has said France must rebuild a sense of the collective if it is to counter the far-right. 

Promoting his new book "Viens, on se parle", written with Elsa Vigoureux, Sy said the notions of justice, equality and fraternity had been shaken, and it was hard to be a Black person in France.

The actor, 46, who grew up in the banlieue outside Paris with his parents from Mauritania and Senegal, cited the controversy surrounding the possible participation of Aya Nakamura, the most listened to French artist in the world, in the opening ceremony of the Paris 2024 Olympic Games.

“I find it distressing that we've reached this point in France. That in 2024 there's still a debate about an artist like Aya Nakamura, whose career and great talent I salute...” said Sy in French publication Le Nouvel Obs.

He added in an interview with Le Parisien on the matter that Nakamura “has succeeded in her life, she has transcended her social background and she finds herself in a position where she’s victim of racism.”

The actor, who became in 2012 the first Black French actor to win a Best Actor César award for the comedy Intouchables (The Intouchables), added that his “optimism is being sorely tested” and that he would prefer to wait and see “where France stands at the next elections” in 2027, before “making any comment”.

“All I can tell you is that my optimism is being sorely tested at the moment.”

Omar Sy was awarded the Best Actor César for the Intouchables in 2012
Omar Sy was awarded the Best Actor César for the Intouchables in 2012AP Photo/Jacques Brinon

In the same interview in Le Parisien, Sy was asked by a reader if it was difficult to be Black in France, even for him – one of the country's most popular celebrities.

Stressing that it was a question that required nuance, Sy replied: “Of course there are instances when it’s difficult to be Black in France. That doesn’t date from today and unfortunately it’s ongoing. It can happen at any time in one’s life.”

Sy now lives in Los Angeles, and his place of residence has been used by many right-wingers to discredit him by accusing him of tax evasion.

“Those who call me a tax exile are the same extreme right-wingers who describe me as ungrateful to France, a country they spit on all day long. Which is not the case with me.”

Omar Sy in Lupin
Omar Sy in LupinNetflix

The actor, whose performance in Lupin has made the show one of the most successful French series worldwide, also recently told French TV show Le Quotidien that people need to be warned against the rise of the far right in politics and those promoting an image of a “France of the past.” Sy said those ideas historically had “led France to dark places”.

“We must all ask ourselves how do we want to be together, to interact, to be part of a group,” he commented. “Because today everyone in the public space is talking about the individual, about themselves and has forgotten the group.”

Highlighting the need to accentuate the notion of the collective, he added: “They talk about themselves, about what hurts them, what bothers them, what scares them. They pretend to speak on behalf of the group, but they're just talking about their own neuroses. We have to wake up. I think we need to wake up to one thing: we've got one group to create and not lots of little groups.”

Additional sources • Nouvel Obs, Le Parisien

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