Simply Black review – every laugh comes with an element of truth

By Daniel Hart
Published: March 17, 2021 (Last updated: January 26, 2024)
Netflix film Simply Black or known as Tout simplement noir


There’s plenty of irony in Simply Black as Jean-Pascal Zadi swaths through many difficult conversations.

This review of Netflix film Simply Black or known as Tout simplement noir contains no spoilers. The comedy was released on the streaming service on March 17, 2021.

Jean-Pascal Zadi plays himself in Simply Black as an activist attempting to reveal the role of black people in French society. In the opening scenes, he reveals he’s organising a march for black men, and his social media exposure has caused positive and negative publicity. The comedy is angled as politically incorrect, as the camera crew follows Jean-Pascal Zadi like it’s a documentary. The Netflix film is essentially a mockumentary.

Netflix’s Simply Black reminds me slightly of Hulu’s Woke, where the character’s introspection overrides his necessity for activism. Everything is through a satirical lens, but the only difference is, there’s more sympathy for Jean-Pascal Zadi than the lead character in the mentioned series; his determination to organise this march while scything through identity complexities of Black French society makes him an ironic meme. There’s plenty of irony in Simply Black as Jean-Pascal Zadi swaths through many difficult conversations.

The film works because of Jean-Pascal Zadi’s lack of self-awareness. For example, in one scene, he meets a journalist who is a black woman. He keeps reminding her that she’s a “black journalist”, but she keeps pushing back, reminding the activist of her credentials, and that she’s a “journalist”. With his strong activism running through his veins, he’s unable to reflect on the conversations he’s having. The Netflix film thematically discusses labels, and there’s a lot in the story where black people do not want to be put in a box — again, ironically put in a box, inadvertently by someone who is fighting against it in French society.

Simply Black is funny throughout; the mockumentary angle works, but every laugh gained comes with a pinch of salt because there’s an element of truth behind each calamity that Jean-Pascal Zadi experiences. This is hardly groundbreaking, but it does continue to raise the subject matter at hand. Jean-Pascal Zadi owns every scene, but the supporting cast, some also playing themselves, gives a space of realism for the story to breathe. All JPZ wants to do is organise a march for black men, and the story unfolds from there.

Movie Reviews, Netflix