(Los Angeles) “The publishers, they want a black book,” the agent tells his author. “They have a black book, I’m black and it’s my book! », replies the writer, exasperated.

It’s one of the scenes from the satirical film American Fiction, tipped for the Oscars, but it could just as easily be one of the chapters in the life of its creator Cord Jefferson.

The director, who has such hits as Succession, Watchmen: The Guardians and The Good Place on his list, has suffered for years from the injunctions of Hollywood pundits who demanded that he create “blacker” characters.

The author, whose mother is white and father black, remembers a black colleague who proposed ideas for romantic comedies or erotic thrillers and who was offered a project on slavery.

“When I go to them and ask them, ‘What does blacker mean to you?’, they immediately retract, because they are terrified,” the author recently explained to AFP during a conference of press. “They realize they can’t answer the question without looking like fools. »

The hypocrisy of white executives in the entertainment industry, who want to be as virtuous as possible, and the resulting pressures on black performers to conform to stereotypes, are the main themes of American Fiction, based on the novel by Percival Everett, Erasure.

Jeffrey Wright plays the character of Thelonious Ellison, known as “Monk”, a cultured writer who struggles to find a publishing house after a promising start.

Disgusted by a profession that requires black authors to write about “absent fathers, rappers (and) crack”, he writes a novel filled with clichés, each more appalling than the last, but notes with amazement that the book achieved incredible success.

“The dumber I am, the richer I am,” Ellison laments in the trailer released Monday ahead of the film’s planned December release.

Last month, the satire won the audience award at the Toronto International Film Festival, which is seen as a good omen for the Oscar race.

Slumdog Millionaire, The King’s Speech and Green Book won this prestigious award before winning the Oscar for best film.

American Fiction addresses the challenges facing “now, today, black authors in the entertainment and publishing industry,” Cord Jefferson continues.

Too often, films that feature or are created by African-American or Latino talent delve into atrocities like slavery or drug cartels.

“I think there are a lot of people who feel that the cultural scene right now is only a small part of what their life is.”

While it is important in his eyes to educate the public about the dark pages of the past, especially at a time “when some are actively trying to erase slavery from the history books”, this should not be done “at the at the expense of everything else,” he says.

“Why don’t people of color have access to the same diversity of stories as other people in Hollywood? “, he asks.

While the film focuses on serious themes, the tone is comical. In Toronto, as in Los Angeles where the press was able to see it in preview, the spectators laughed out loud.

The work “does not scold anyone, does not condemn anyone,” the author emphasizes. “We just wanted to make a film that deals with these issues, but with a lot of lightness and humor.”

In fact, the film, which also features Ellison’s dysfunctional family, provides the opportunity for famous dramatic actors like Wright (Casino Royale, Westworld) and Sterling K. Brown (This Is Us, Waves) to demonstrate of their comic talents.

“Especially today, with the world being what it is, if you don’t find ways to laugh and have fun, then all is lost,” adds Cord Jefferson. “Sometimes you have to laugh to keep from crying.”