Alliance Francaise

Alliance Francaise

Grandad Jed sent me a photocopy of an old Art Directors annual showing an award for a pro-bono TV ad Y&R did for the Alliance Francaise back in (I think) 1970.

I rembember the day of the shoot (actually I remember fragments of the shoot, not the day itself). It was dark, full of strange people and bright lights being shone in my face. I think I cried and cried and refused to sit in front of the camera (and I forget, was Ohna there too?) but there I am on the storyboard, so I guess they must have got me to do it somehow. The idea was to show kids from all over the world signing “Frère Jacques” in their mother tongue and then a voice-over explains why the Alliance Francaise wants to help people learn French.

Your Dad in an Alliance Francaise ad shot in 1970

Apart from the cute picture of your dad sporting his Mum’s finest pudding bowl haircut, I was struck by the ad’s copy:

…L’enfant: Morning bells are ringing…
…L’enfant: Kolokola Kolokola…
Voix off: Et dans vingt ans comment pourront-ils savoir ce qui se dit en France, ce qui se passe en France…
…L’enfant: Schlafst du noch
Schlafst du noch…
Voix off: Ce qui se crée en France, s’ils ne comprennent pas le francais…
Voix off: Aidez le monde qui vient à parler francais
Donnez pour L’alliance Francaise

Part of me is revulsed by the post-colonial contradiction of “faire rayonner la culture Francaise au dela de la France” (the stated aim of the AF) with the reality of racism and virtual immigrant segregation in France today.

Part of me is reminded of the efforts of France to embrace the influx of immigrants. When I was a kid, the popular phrase was “La France, terre d’asile” I think today, Germany is the only European country who can make that claim, but during the Trentes Glorieuse when I was a little kid, things felt very different.

Part of me thinks the copy has a couple of wonderful twists (well it was Y&R after all) with “aidez le monde qui vient” having multiple layered meanings. It can mean “help the people that are comming” but also “help build the future world”, “help the next generation” with this idea that we’re going to be a melting pot with huge potential where anything could happen and it will be great.

Almost 50 years later that promise does feel a little hollow…

Anyway kids, next time I’m down in Devon with Jed I’ll scan the picture and post it (Jed just sent a dodgy photocopy)