Bienvenue chez les Ch'tis
|Bienvenue chez les Ch'tis|
French film poster
|Directed by||Dany Boon|
|Produced by||Claude Berri
|Written by||Dany Boon
|Music by||Philippe Rombi|
|Distributed by||Pathé Distribution|
|Budget||€ 11 million
(approx US$15 million)
Bienvenue chez les Ch'tis (French pronunciation: [bjɛ̃vny ʃe le ʃti]; English: Welcome to the Sticks or Welcome to the Land of Shtis) is a 2008 French comedy film directed, co-written by and starring Dany Boon, co-starring Kad Merad and Zoé Félix.
The film broke nearly every box office record in France: it debuted as the top film at 793 sites. As of 28 February 2010, the film had been seen by 20.5 million people in 23 weeks, thereby breaking the long-standing record held by 1966's La Grande Vadrouille (17.27 million admissions).
Philippe Abrams is the manager of the postal service (La Poste) in Salon-de-Provence, Bouches-du-Rhône, in southern France. He is married to Julie, whose depressive character makes his life miserable. Philippe does everything to get a job at an office on the Mediterranean seaside to make her happy. As this favourable position will be granted to somebody who is disabled, Abrams decides to pretend that he is. However, the management finds out. As punishment, he is banished for two years to Bergues, a town near Dunkirk in northern France. Northern France – and the Nord-Pas-de-Calais region in particular – is considered "the sticks" – a cold and rainy place inhabited by unsophisticated ch'tis who speak a strange language (called "ch'ti" in local parlance, and "cheutimi" in the South). He has to spend his first night at the home of Antoine, a co-worker of his. Philippe initially dislikes Antoine for his rude behaviour and because he thinks Antoine is gay (he found photographs of Antoine dressed as a woman, but they were taken during a carnival party). However, later in the film, Antoine and Philippe become best friends.
To Philippe's surprise, Bergues proves to be a charming place teeming with warm, friendly people and co-workers. Soon, he is completely won over, eating smelly Maroilles cheese; talking to virtually every local (by delivering their mail, and accepting the recipient's invitation for a drink); playing at the beach; playing the bells at the bell tower together, drinking beer like a local, going to an RC Lens football match and so forth. He tries to describe the happy turn of events to his wife who has remained in the South with their young son, but she does not believe him. This inspires Philippe to tell her what she wants to believe: that his life is wretched there.
Everything goes fine until Julie decides to join him in the North to relieve his gloom. Philippe is forced to confess to his new friends and colleagues that he has described them as barbarians to his wife. First, they are angry, but they then decide to help him by behaving as such to cover for his lies and to scare Julie so she will depart quickly. Also they let her stay in the old mining place of Bergues, pretending it is the main town. Julie has a very bad weekend, but decides she will move to Bergues to stay with Phillipe, to be supportive.
Just when she's ready to go back south, she discovers that she has been tricked when a local biker tells Julie that the actual town of Bergues is several kilometers away. When Philippe finds Julie at his real Bergues home, he tells her the truth about the happiness and friendship that the town has brought him. Julie is disappointed at first, but after realising her husband is happy, she decides to move north to be with him.
Meanwhile, Antoine and Annabelle had been dating for over a year, but had broken up due to Antoine's passiveness towards his mother. Despite their split, Antoine still has feelings for Annabelle, who now has a new boyfriend. Upon learning this, Antoine cheers himself up by drinking alcohol during his work hours and behaves in an erratic manner. When Phillipe urges Antoine to take courage and be assertive, Antoine finally confesses to his mother that he loves Annabelle and is planning to move to a new place with her. Unexpectedly, his mother is happy about it – she has waited all these years for Antoine to stand up for himself. As a result, Antoine proposes to Annabelle by the bell tower when it is playing a Stevie Wonder song. Annabelle accepts, and they get married.
Three years later, Phillipe receives a transfer to move south. Accepting the offer, Phillipe and his family move south. Just as he is about to say goodbye, he is reduced to tears, proving Antoine's theory on the Ch'tis proverb ("A visitor brays [cries] twice up north: once on his arrival and once at his departure.")
- Kad Merad as Philippe Abrams, Head of the local postoffice
- Dany Boon as Antoine Bailleul, postman and carillon performer
- Zoé Félix as Julie, spouse of Philippe Abrams
- Lorenzo Ausilia-Foret as Raphaël Abrams
- Anne Marivin as Annabelle Deconninck
- Philippe Duquesne as Fabrice Canoli
- Guy Lecluyse as Yann Vandernoout
- Patrick Bosso as Policeman on A7
- Zinedine Soualem as Momo
- Jérôme Commandeur as Inspector Lebic
- Line Renaud as Antoine's mother
- Michel Galabru as Julie's uncle
- Stéphane Freiss as Jean
- Alexandre Carrière as Tony
- Jenny Clève as The old lady who sings the P'tit quinquin (Northern French hymn)
- Fred Personne as M. Vasseur
- Nadège Beausson-Diagne as The employee
- Christophe Rossignon
- Guillaume Morand
Awards and nominations
- César Awards : Nominated for best Writing – Original (Maxime Quoilin)
- European Film Awards : Nominated for Audience Award of the Best Film
- London's Favourite French Film 2008 : Best Film Award
An Italian remake, Benvenuti al Sud ("Welcome to the South") was produced and released by Medusa Film in 2010. The plot was similar to the original: Alberto (Claudio Bisio), the manager of a Poste Italiane office in Lombardy is banished for two years to Castellabate, a small town in Campania. Dany Boon appeared in a cameo. Unlike the French original, the Italian franchise led to a sequel: Benvenuti al Nord ("Welcome to the North"; 2012).
Negotiations regarding a proposed English language version of the film were officially abandoned in 2015. As early as 2008, Will Smith was negotiating with Dany Boon regarding a remake; the US film was to be called Welcome to the Sticks. While few other details were revealed, there were suggestions that the plot would revolve around a multinational company rather than US Mail.
Notes and references
- Box Office Mojo "Total Lifetime Grosses"
- The French word Ch'ti is slang for someone from Northern France. See Picard language.
- Welcome to the Sticks at the Internet Movie Database
- Bienvenue chez les Ch'tis : Box-Office. Retrieved 30 July 2008.
- Box Office Mojo
- (Italian) Article on the Corriere del Mezzogiorno
- Marine Delcambre, 2015, "'Benvenue Chez Les Ch'tis': Will Smith Abandonne Le Remake", GQ France (30 January). (via Google Translate; access 17 August 2015)
- "Les Ch'tis americains (pg 17)" (PDF). Grenoble&moi. Archived from the original (PDF) on February 13, 2012. Retrieved 30 May 2008.
- "Will Smith va co-produire un remake du film "Bienvenue chez les Ch'tis"". Le Matin Online. Retrieved 22 May 2008.
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