Stallone joins US invasion of French ghettoes

The actor Sylvester Stallone will venture tomorrow to a place where even his tough-guy alter-egos Rambo and Rocky might fear to tread: the suburbs of greater Paris.

The visit to Rosny-sous-Bois, a multi-racial town close to the epicentre of the 2005 French riots, is a stop on Stallone's promotional tour for his new film "Expendables".

It forms part of a pattern of American political and cultural "outreach" to the troubled – and dynamic – "banlieues" (suburbs) of French cities which, according to local people, puts French government efforts to shame.

Mr Stallone will arrive by helicopter to a red carpet reception at the Rosny branch of French cinema chain UGC, possibly accompanied by two other "tough guy" stars of the film, Dolph Lundgren and Mickey Rourke. A large crowd is expected to welcome Mr Stallone to Rosny-sous-Bois, a typical slice of the jumbled, multi-racial, northern suburbs of Paris which ranges from prim bungalows to grim council estates. A brief visit by John Travolta to a similar district last year attracted a noisy and racially-varied crowd of mostly young people.

Mr Travolta was advertising his thriller "Paris with Love". Film industry executives are said to have been impressed by the reception that he received in the "banlieues", compared to the limply polite reaction that Hollywood stars receive when they make visits to Paris proper.

The Stallone and Travolta visits are part of a, perhaps surprising, surge of American political and cultural interest in the French urban ghettoes since the riots of October and November 2005. In April, Barack Obama's ambassador to France, Charles Rivkin, a former Hollwood producer, brought Samuel L. Jackson, star of "Pulp Fiction" and "Shaft", to Bondy, just north east of Paris proper, to talk to young people about how he escaped poverty and racial prejudice in Tennessee. Ambassador Rivkin, one of Mr Obama's earliest backers and his chief fundraiser in Hollywood, used to run The Jim Henson Company, the maker of The Muppet Show and Sesame Street. "I had been in La Corneuve (just north of Paris) asking students what they like about America," Mr Rivkin said. "They replied, 'We love Samuel L Jackson, we love Will Smith, Jay-Z', all these guys – and I had said, 'Well, who knows? Maybe one day I'll bring one of them back to see you.'"

But what was the US ambassador to Paris doing in a place like La Courneuve in the first place? The town is where Nicolas Sarkozy promised to use a Karcher – or high-powered hose – to clear out the drug gangs in 2005. Ambassador Rivkin has taken advantage of the popularity of Mr Obama in the banlieues to make personal visits which would have been ill-advised in the Bush era.

But even under the Bush presidency, the US embassy in Paris had started to reach out to the multi-racial French suburbs. This was partly prompted by fears that the fanatical anti-Americanism which produced the 9/11 attacks in 2001 was being fostered by extreme Islamist groups in Paris and Lyons. But it was also prompted by a belief that the next generation of movers and shakers in France might come from surprising places. "The Americans are betting on socio-demographic change in France," said Vincent Geisser, a French sociologist. "They reckon that the French elites – now white and ageing – will have to change and the leaders of tomorrow may come from the periphery of the system."

The US embassy has, since 2001, built an extraordinary network of contacts among the young, non-violent political and cultural leaders in the Paris suburbs, many of whom contrast the US interest in them with the relative inaction – despite many promises – of successive French governments since the 2005 riots.

Rokhaya Diallo, 32, of a group called "Les Indivisibles", which promotes racial harmony, said: "A foreign country identifies us as potential leaders. Here we receive no recognition."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Class 2 HGV Driver - with CPC

£26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Haulage company based on the Thorpe Indu...

Recruitment Genius: Electronics Test Engineer

£25000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An SME based in East Cheshire, ...

SThree: Graduate Recruitment Resourcer

£20000 - £22500 per annum + OTE £30K: SThree: SThree Group have been well esta...

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Manager - OTE £40,000

£28000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A fantastic opportunity has ari...

Day In a Page

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

Aviation history is littered with grand failures

But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

Fortress Europe?

Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

Never mind what you're wearing

It's what you're reclining on that matters
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence