Black and White in Color (1976): Jean-Jacques Annaud’s Debut, Oscar Winning Satire of Colonialism

Best Foreign Language Film Oscar, 1956-present

1976: Year 21–Ivory Coast

In 1976, the 21th year of the best foreign-language Oscar category, the five nominees were: “Black and White in Color” from the the Ivory Coast, “Cousin, Cousine” from France, “Jacob, the Liar” from the Federal Republic of Germany, “Nights and Days” from Poland, and “Seven Beauties” from Italy.

Seven Beauties, directed by Lina Wertmueller, the first woman to be ever nominated for Best Director, and starring Giancarlo Giannini, was expected to win, but instead Jean-Jacques Annaud’s “Black and White in Color” took the top prize in this endlessly controversial category.

Black and White in Color
Black and White in Color FilmPoster.jpeg

Set during WWI, Black and White in Color tells the story of a group of French colonialists in West Central Africa.

Upon the outbreak of hostilities, a French trading post finds itself at odds with a formerly peaceful German post, for the only reason that their respective parent countries are at war.

It all begins when a conscientious geologist, Hubert Fresnoy (Jacques Spiesser), writes to Paris, complaining about the dangers of Africa, asking for books and newspapers.  When they arrive, he belatedly learns that France is at war with Germany, which poses a problem, as the colonists are friends with their German neighbors.

The xenophobic French traders attack the Germans, but they fail.  Their commander, Segeant Bosselet (Jean Carmet), has no experience of battle and they have no trained army.

Carmet then conscripts the male natives, instructing them how to speak French, how to be more civilized and wear shoes, and even how to sing the patriotic hymn, “La Marseilleuse.”

When the socialist Fresnoy is appointed in charge of the French contingent, he is forced to discard the former high ideals he was so proud of.

In the end, the natives are honored with French names.

Shot on location on the Ivory Coast, Black and White in Color is a biting satire on war, colonialism, and French patriotic pride. Showing a strong anti-militaristic perspective, the film ridicules the French side more harshly than their German counterparts.

The original French title is the first four words (the first line) of the song Le Chant du depart, a French military song.

Oscar Context

Black & White in Color won the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar, beating the French entry, Cousin, Cousine, the German film, Jacob the Liar, the Polish feature, Night and Day, and the Italian Seven Beauties.

About Jean-Jacques Annaud

This feature directing debut put on the map Annaud, who would later helm the popular adventures “Quest for Fire” (1979) and “The Bear” (1988), but also the disappointing literary adaptation “The Name of the Rose” (1986), followed by “The Lover” (1992), and “Seven Years in Tibet” (1997), starring Brad Pitt.


Running time: 100 Minutes.

Ivory Coast

Arthur Cohn Production

Directed by Jean-Jacques Annaud.

Produced by Arthur Cohn

Released: September 22, 1976.

DVD: Jun 24, 2003



Jean Carmet as Sergeant Bosselet

Jacques Dufilho as Paul Rechampot

Catherine Rouvel as Marinette

Jacques Spiesser as Hubert Fresnoy

Dora Doll as Maryvonne

Maurice Barrier as Caprice

Claude Legros as Jacques Rechampot

Jacques Monnet as Pere Simon

Peter Berling as Pere Jean de la Croix

Marius Beugre Boignan as Barthelemy

Baye Macoumba Diop as Lamartine

Klaus Huebel as Haussmann

Aboutbaker Toure as Fidele

Marc Zuber as Major Anglais

Dieter Schidor as Kraft