Zarafa (movie)

Zarafa is a feature of animated French directed by Bezançon and Jean-Christophe Lie , released in 2012. The plot, loosely based on the story of the giraffe given to Charles X by Muhammad Ali in 1827, chronicles the friendship between a young boy and the giraffe, Zarafa, whom he accompanies to Paris.


The story of Zarafa is told to a group of children by a griot in a village in Sudan. The story takes place in the 1820s. Maki is a 10-year-old black slave living in Sudan . One night, he manages to escape the French slavery who held him prisoner, but he must abandon his friend Soula. During his escape, Maki meets a young giraffeand his mother. When the slaver catches him and threatens his rifle, the mother giraffe intervenes and saves him, but the man kills her. At the moment when Maki is going to be taken back, he is saved by a Bedouin, Hassan. Hassan captures the giraffon and takes him away. But Maki has promised to always watch over the young giraffe whose mother has saved him, and he begins to follow Hassan without his knowledge. The boy and the Bedouin eventually find themselves around a campfire, and only Maki manages to properly feed the giraffe, which Hassan baptizes Zarafa (meaning “giraffe” in Arabic , زرافه). Hassan is determined to send Maki home at the earliest opportunity, but is gradually discovering affection for the brave boy. At the merchant’s, Hassan and Maki meet two Tibetan twin cows, Mounh and Sounh; Hassan buys one to feed Zarafa and leaves one morning leaving Maki there, but the boy runs away with the other cow and catches up with him.

Hassan is on a mission for the Pasha of Egypt , Mehemet Ali , who wants to offer a young giraffe to the King of France, Charles X , to convince him to ally with his country against the Turks who besiege Alexandria . Arrived in Alexandria, Hassan presents the giraffe to the Pasha who is satisfied. The port being besieged, it is impossible to gain Paris by boat. Hassan persuades the pasha to trust one of his old friends, the aeronautMalaterre, who can take Zarafa to Paris in his balloon. Hassan thinks to leave Maki behind him, but Malaterre, moved by the determination of the boy, agrees to hide him in the hay which must feed the cows. Once in flight, the balloon is too heavy: taken by urgency, Hassan rushes the two cows and the bale of hay overboard, without suspecting that Maki is in the hay. Miraculously, the two beasts and the boy land on the deck of a Greek pirate ship headed by Captain Bouboulina. She collects Maki, who explains that he is in pursuit of a treasure of great value that travels aboard the balloon. Bouboulina follows the ball to Marseille. But the slave owner, who met and recognized the small group in Alexandria, also followed them and tries to force Zarafa by force. Hassan and Malaterre are saved by the intervention of Bouboulina’s pirates, accompanied by Maki, who finds Zarafa. The pirates are leaving, not without Bouboulina having proposed to Hassan to come to visit him in Greece one day. The small group continues its journey. During a perilous crossing of the mountains where the balloon crashes, one of the two cows succumbs during a wolf attack.

Hassan, Maki, Malaterre, Zarafa and the surviving cow finally arrive in Paris and are received by Charles X and his court, where the scholar Saint-Hilaire is . The king, cynical, accepts the gift but refuses to help the pasha. Zarafa is locked in the zoo of the Jardin des Planteswhere Maki can not deliver her. At a time when Hassan leaves Maki alone at the zoo near Zarafa’s paddock, Maki is taken back by the slave owner. Hassan, convinced of having failed in his mission and mortified of having lost Maki, dark in despair then in alcohol. Malaterre changes his balloon into a tourist attraction to earn a living. Several years go by. Zarafa provokes a real “giraffomania” for a few years, then falls into oblivion. Maki becomes a servant at the slave, where he is ill-treated; but he finds Soula again. One day, both manage to finally escape, hiding in particular in the elephant of the Bastille. They manage to find Malaterre, then Hassan, but he has become an alcoholic and they can not take him with them. Maki and Soula rush to the zoo to try to free Zarafa, but it has become too big for Malaterre to get her into his balloon. Maki must finally resign herself to separate from Zarafa, but swear never to forget it. The slave then finds them and threatens them with his weapon. Hassan, who regained his senses in the meantime and followed them, intervened and allowed them to escape, but the slave slaughtered him with a gunshot. The slave clings to the ball when he takes off, but finally letting go and lands in the cage of a hungry white bear … Maki and Soula finally return home and found a village that is none other than the one where the griot is telling the story. The outcome of the film indicates that Hassan, who was treated at the hospital, survived his wound and ended up going to find Bouboulina. As for the griot, he is none other than Maki himself, now very old.

Technical sheet

  • Title: Zarafa
  • Director: Rémi Bezançon and Jean-Christophe Lie
  • Scenario: Rémi Bezançon and Alexander Abela
  • Music: Laurent Perez Del Mar
  • Mixing: Fabien Devillers
  • Production: Christophe Jankovic, Valérie Schermann
  • Production Companies: Pathé , Prima Linea Productions
  • Distribution Company: Pathé Distribution
  • Country of origin: France
  • Budget:  8,520,000 1
  • Original language: French
  • Release dates:
    •  France : (L’Alpe-d’Huez Festival),  (Funny place festival for meetings in Bron),  (national release)
    •  Germany : (Berlin)
    •  Belgium :
  • DVD release dates:
    •  France :


  • Max Renaudin 2 : Maki
  • Simon Abkarian : Hassan
  • Vernon Dobtcheff : the wise old man
  • Thierry Frémont : Moreno
  • François-Xavier Demaison : Malaterre
  • Ronit Elkabetz : Bouboulina
  • Mostefa Stiti: the Pasha Mehemet Ali
  • Deborah Francis : Adult Zarafa
  • Mohamed Fellag : Mahmoud
  • Roger Dumas : Charles X
  • Philippe Morier-Genoud : Saint-Hilaire


Rémi Bezançon directed the film in collaboration with Marie Caillou 3 and Jean-Christophe Lie 4 . For the scenario, Rémi Bezançon draws freely on the story of the giraffe offered to Charles X by Mehemet Ali , without seeking to correspond to the historical truth, but in the idea of developing “an extraordinary adventure, a little inspired from Jules Verne » 5 . The script is written by Alexandre Abela and Rémi Bezançon, with the collaboration of Jean-François Halin and Vanessa Portal 6 . The final budget of the film amounts to 8.2 million euros 6 .

Zarafa is one of the films selected for the Berlinale 2012 7 .


Home Review

Among the favorable critics, Florence Colombani, in Point 8 , has a very favorable criticism, where she considers that “pretty and entertaining, the film is primarily intended for the under ten years but satisfy the educational aspirations of parents” , all reminding that the directors have “transformed enough” the true story of the giraffe to make it a “humanist tale and tender” . She appreciates the beauty of the graphics and the lack of flashy special effects, as well as the script’s ability to tackle serious topics without becoming sententious. In Le Journal du dimanche 9 , Jean-Pierre Lacomme sees in Zarafa “A success as much scenaristic and visual” . He brings the film of Lawrence of Arabia closer by his spectacular shots and his Orientalizing music, and indicates that the film, fighting against racism, “is aimed primarily at children but not only” . In Première 10 , Christophe Narbonne gives the film three stars out of four; he considers that the part of exoticism and pedagogy specific to the genre of the tale to which he relates the film is added “without excess” ; he particularly appreciates the graphics and the animation, which “gives a true visual identity” to the film and shows that “the 2D still has nice days in front of her”. He brings the film closer to the world of Michel Ocelot for his African imagery, but also to Sylvain Chomet for the character of Charles X and his court, thanks to which the film gets a share of “humor plus adult ” and thus finds a ” balance (…) between tale and satire ” . Caroline Vié, in 20 minutes 11 , recalls the freedoms taken by the creators of the film with the true story of the giraffe, and sees in the film “an animated fable original and tender to enjoy with family” .

Among the more mixed criticisms, that of Isabelle Régnier, in Le Monde , appreciates the beauty of the sets and the colors, a well conducted narrative and a “beautiful galaxy of characters” . She regrets that the film reflects a “folkloric vision of Africa (as well as the xix th century, the world in general)” and lack “substance, truth, emotion ‘ 12 . For Catherine Vadon, of the National Museum of Natural History , interviewed by the free daily 20 minutes , the film does not correspond to the historical truth, the animal having according to her been treated well, both during the trip and during his stay atJardin des Plantes , and the museum has chosen to respond to the film through an exhibition entitled “The Real Story of Zarafa” 5 .

Box office

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When it was released in France on February 7, 2012, Zarafa is exploited on 477 copies 13 . In Paris, where the film is exploited on 19 copies, Zarafa gathers 2,723 admissions on the first day, which is the second best start of the week in the capital after that of the spy film La Taupe (2,907 admissions on 23 copies ) and in front of the 3D embossed space of the science fiction blockbuster Star Wars, episode I: The Phantom Menace (1,000 entries on 14 copies) 14 . At the end of the first week, the film gathers 256 052 entries 15. In the second week, an additional 304,554 entries allow you to cross the 500,000 entries 15 . In the third week, with 329,595 new entries, it totals 890,201 15 . After 219,015 additional entries in the fourth week, the film over one million entries, totaling 1,109,216 entries after the first month of operation 15 . It brings another 107 160 entries in the fifth week 15 .

In Belgium, the film was released February 15, 2012 and is distributed in 26 rooms 16 .


At the time of Zarafa’s trip, Sudan as a country did not exist, so this term was an alternative term for a larger region, Nigritie , which encompassed the present Sudan [ref. necessary] . Moreover, there was no European slavers in this part of Africa, the addresses 17 are being practiced by the Arabs (the triangular trade European touching other parts of the world).



  • The film is nominated for Césars 2013 in the César category for best animated film . But it is Ernest and Celestine (film) who wins the Caesar.

Notes and references

  1. ↑ Exclusive: the tops and flops of French cinema in 2012 [ archive ] on BFM TV .com, published onSimon Tenenbaum and Jamal Henni.
  2. ↑ VF sheet of “Zarafa”  [ archive ] on Allodoublage
  3. ↑ Christopher Career , ” The 30 that make French cinema in 2009: o 24: Rémy Bezançon  [ archive ] ,” L’Express , May 13, 2009.
  4. ↑ Alexandre Le Boulc’h, ” Zarafa, the giraffe Prima Linea  [ archive ] “, Charente Libre , March 2, 2010.
  5. ↑ a and b Audrey Chauvet, “Zarafa, the controversial giraffe”  [ archive ] , 20 minutes, February 7, 2012
  6. ↑ a and b ” Zarafa : Rémi Bezançon tries to animate”  [ archive ] , article by Fabien Lemercier on Cineuropa July 25, 2011. Page consulted on February 9, 2012.
  7. ↑ Unifrance film fact sheet  [ archive ] . Page accessed February 9, 2012.
  8. ↑ ” Zarafa : for the sake of a giraffe”  [ archive ] , article by Florence Colombani in Le Point February 7, 2012. Page consulted on February 8, 2012.
  9. ↑ Zarafa the giraffe adventurer  [ archive ] , article by Jean-Pierre Lacomme in The Sunday newspaper on February 5, 2012. Accessed February 8, 2012.
  10. ↑ Criticism of Zarafa on First  [ archive ] by Christophe Narbonne. Page accessed February 8, 2012.
  11. ↑ Zarafa : Route giraffe spoiled  [ archive ] , Article Vié Carolina in 20 minutes on February 8, 2012. Accessed February 8, 2012.
  12. ↑ Isabelle Regnier, Zarafa : road movie giraffe and young Bedouin ”  [ archive ] , Le Monde , February 7, 2012.
  13. ↑ ” The Mole and a burst of quality titles”  [ archive ] , article by Fabien Lemercier Cineuropa on February 8, 2012. Accessed February 9, 2012.
  14. ↑ “The first sessions at the Taupe! “, Article on AlloCiné February 8, 2012  [ archive ] . Page accessed February 9, 2012.
  15. ↑ a , b , c , d and e French box office of the film on AlloCiné  [ archive ] . Page accessed February 18, 2012.
  16. ↑ A father, a son, and films for children  [ archive ] , Article Aurore Engelen Cineuropa on February 15, 2012. Accessed March 18, 2012.
  17. ↑ Michael Allin, The Giraffe Charles X .

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