the story of the Joyful Cafés, a social and solidarity initiative

“The Joyful Epic” produced by Eric Toledano and Olivier Nakache on Canal+.


We knew the “gentle organizers” (GO), these Club Med employees who symbolized the emergence of the leisure society; we wish the same notoriety to the “happy team members”, these 90 employees with mental or cognitive disabilities who run the nine Happy Cafés, open in particular in Rennes, Paris, Bordeaux, Lyon and Lisbon.

Their story, The Joyful Epic, is broadcast from tonight in the “Les Éclaireurs” collection. An invigorating pleasure, to be savored in small sips, which reveals itself, over the course of four episodes, to be emblematic of our changing society.

Here, profitability is not a dirty word. The founder of the Joyful Cafés, Yann Bucaille-Lanrezac, claims it in order to encourage the hiring of employees with autism or with Down's syndrome (first episode). But it is about a different profitability: the objective is not to pay dividends, but to include.

The sequences, numerous, are preceded by an indication of date and place, which allows a certain chronological flexibility. So if the first Café Joyeux opened in Rennes in 2017, the series begins with the images of the inauguration, on March 21, 2018, of the one located near the Opera, in Paris, in the presence of prestigious guests, such as the Macron couple, the starred chef Thierry Marx, the actor Samuel Le Bihan, father of an autistic little girl. Before devoting a large part to the job interviews that preceded, in February 2020.

"A CDI is incredible"

Amid the smiles – always – then appears the glaring need for such an initiative. Because if specialized structures exist for young people, adults with disabilities often find themselves without solutions after 23 years. This is the case of Augustin, who tolerated his life in a home very badly and will be hired on a permanent contract. "A CDI is incredible"comments Sophie Cluzel, Secretary of State for People with Disabilities (from 2017 to 2022) and recurring speaker.

The relationship to time is also different. Some scenes allow time to observe a view or soak up an atmosphere. “I am happier at work than at home”, explains, while peeling vegetables, Louis Declercq, happy crew member. The viewer will find them all in episode 2, which begins with a particularly successful photo shoot.

“A smile, always! », launches Yann Bucaille-Lanrezac. Even when it has to close, due to confinement. The cameras do not abandon the happy team members during this very difficult time. A forced break used by the founder to explain, in episode 3, his choice to become a social and solidarity entrepreneur. We then better understand his sense of communication and his relationships – the series is produced by the trio Eric Toledano, Olivier Nakache and Nicolas Duval Adassovsky (Untouchables, 2011)

Read also: "We Are People", on Canal +: when sport overcomes disability

The difficulties are not avoided. Some, financial, are harsh, but understandable. Others less so, such as the opposition of a condominium to the opening of a Café Joyeux in Bordeaux. But the teams are holding on.

Episode 4 projects itself into the future, in Lisbon, New York… In France, out of the 750,000 people with mental disabilities, only 0.5% work in an ordinary environment, including 90 in a happy café. A drop of water bringing hope.

The Joyful Epicby Paul Frère (Fr., 2022, 4 x 40 min). "Scouts" on Canal+.

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