Samba Schutte is Dutch-Mauritanian. He is an actor, comedian, and writer who grew up in Ethiopia. He grew up with a multicultural, international and global mentality. He lived in Holland before moving to Los Angeles, 8-years ago, where he started his successful career within the film, TV and comedy realm.
His recent project, the video game “Battlefield V” series, “Tirailleur” is the third single player War Story. The video game is developed by EA DICE and published by Electronic Arts. It was released in November.
In “Battlefield V” series, “Tirailleur” Schutte worked with the performance Director Tom Keegan which he also worked on games “Wolfenstein 2” and “The New Colossus.” “When I heard one of the stories “Battlefield V” was going to be handling, namely the story of the Senegalese Tirailleurs soldiers who fought for the French in World War 2, I immediately wanted to be a part of it. My Mauritanian grandfather had fought in that war and I knew a lot about it, and especially about how they were ignored for their efforts.” “Tom knew I had a lot of knowledge about the story. We traveled to Sweden and I was brought on board as a cultural expert. I know a lot about West African culture, and I helped the Actors with their accents and cultural ways. I also worked as an additional Writer to help make the story more authentic, accurate and not shy away from difficult issues to address.”
The stories are told in their local language, with English subtitles, to add to the authenticity. “Tirailleur” was is in French, but it had to be ‘West African French’, which is slightly different. I made sure I stayed true to how people spoke back home, with expressions, gestures, and sounds.” “EA DICE, the company developing the game, made it a point that they wanted to do justice to all their War Stories in the game, and they were so open and great to my input and feedback. Everyone working on this story really cared and wanted to do justice to these forgotten African soldiers.”
How does an Actor go from film to working on a video game? Video games use Actors all the time, in a medium called ‘motion capture performance’. Basically, that’s how they shot Avatar. Once you’re in that suit, you record scenes in a studio surrounded by motion capture cameras that literally capture your performance from all angles. The Designers can then make you into anything they like; a dragon, a magical elf or a tough soldier. Film acting is not that different from motion capture acting because you are still performing a scene and focusing on the characters. The main difference is that you have to be slightly more physical, and you have to have a great imagination because the set is basically empty. You have to ‘create’ your environment, and you’re wearing a motion capture suit with a camera mounted on your head. I love it!”
Battlefield is one of the largest franchises of video games. “Battlefield V,” tells stories about World War 2 from new and fresh perspectives. Everyone knows the American, British, French or Russian perspective. Here you get the perspective of a Norwegian female rebel, a German tank operator, a British convict in North Africa and the West Africans who were brought to Europe to fight for France. “Usually when you see Africans in a video game they are the villains and we don’t care much for them. Here Africans are finally the heroes who you get to play. Everything is authentic, from the way they talk (in West African accented French) to the way they interact with one another in the game.”
“The story of the Tirailleurs is a sad one. They were recruited by the French army in their African colonies and brought to Europe to fight on the side of the Allies. Many were on the front lines, dying for a country they were not even from. Many did very brave and courageous deeds, and it was largely also thanks to them that France managed to push back the Germans and gain victory in France. The sad part is, once they had won and had the march of victory down the Champs Elysee in Paris, the French government and Europe as a whole, decided to remove all black soldiers from these victory images, so it wouldn’t be recorded in plain history that Europe won the war also thanks to black soldiers.”
“The Tirailleurs were sent back home, and after a few years, the French government stopped paying them their retirement wages. They were largely ignored only until a few years ago when the French government finally acknowledged their involvement in the war. By then most of them had passed away, including my grandfather.”
History is written by the victors, but with a game like this, at least some justice is done to all those who fought but were ignored. It will not only educate some people and shed light on the role Africans played in the war, but also show heroes we never thought of before. And hopefully, give players of different races and ethnicities pride and joy.”
Schutte was able to give his input from an African perspective. DICE were very receiving of his ideas, so he was not only brought on as a cultural consultant, dialect coach but also as a contributing writer.
“The goal was to make the scenes, the dialogue, the accents and the performances as authentically Senegalese as possible and do justice to the African point of view. Also for the background soldiers helping you out on your mission. We were recording these voices in Paris and I was serving as the dialect and voice coach. They almost just had French actors record those voices, but I intervened and made sure even those characters were authentically West African. Everyone agreed the end result was so much more powerful. And I’m so proud of how it all turned out. It’s the first time I see true, authentic African characters in a game like this.”
The “Battlefield V” series has several campaigns. It has a multiplayer campaign where you can play with or against the online community. It has the single-player campaign, where you play War Stories. There are 4 of them. The first one ‘Under No Flag’ is about a British convict who helps to fight in North Africa. The second, “Nordlys’ is a story about a Norwegian female rebel who helps fight the Nazi’s in Norway. One of the first times a woman is highlighted as a hero in a war-game. The third, “Tirailleur” tells the story of the African Tirailleurs who were brought from French colonized Africa to France, to fight for them in the war. There were black soldiers but also North African soldiers who were part of the Tirailleurs.
This story particularly tells the story of Deme, a young Senegalese soldier, who arrives in France and rejoins his childhood brother in arms Idrissa to fight. They immediately experience racism, discrimination, and are only sent to the frontlines when the French have no options and their own soldiers can’t do the job. You follow these characters as they accomplish heroic feats, doing more than the French soldiers could, to prove their worth, for their pride of who they are. Tragically though, these feats were erased from history.
The 4th story ‘The Last Tiger’, just released at the start of December, tells the story from a German soldier’s perspective. “It will be very interesting to see. Usually, you don’t play a Nazi in a game like this, so I’m excited to see what they have done with it.”
What makes this game so powerful? “We all seem to think we know what happened in World War 2 because of what our history teaches us. These new perspectives in “Battlefield V” are not only fresh, insightful and exciting but also educational. They show that everyone was affected by this war, in several different parts of the world. My favorite line from the game: “Not everything that is written is true, and not everything that is true is written.” With the Tirailleur story, hopefully, it will inspire some ideas for re-telling this story in a bigger and more accessible way to the global media, like a movie or TV series.”
You will see Schutte in the movie, “She’s In Portland.” He will also be taping his American comedy special in February.