No, this film is not for chocolate lovers. Roschdy Zem’s film tells the tragic fate of Rafael Padilla, better known as “Chocolat”, the most famous black clown in France at the end of the 19th century. The character is embodied by a fascinating Omar Sy.
Little known today, Rafael Padilla, alias “Chocolate” was nevertheless a star in France. He was even the very first black celebrity of the 19th century revealed by the world of the circus, a former freed slave from Cuba. A sacred role therefore, which offers Omar Sy the possibility of leaving comedy to sketch the portrait of a man full of sensitivity. Chocolat is discovered by Footit (the excellent James Thierrée, grandson of Charlie Chaplin) a declining clown who offers him an alliance: a clown show, one white, one black. The opportunity for Omar Sy to try his hand at body expression, abandoning his usual chat. Obviously, seeing the duo formed by Chocolat and Footit, we inevitably think of that of Omar Sy and Fred Testot. Except that between them, no difference in treatment, no racism, no discrimination. Because if Chocolat was famous, it was above all because he corresponded well to the image that the West still had of the good black man: weak, ridiculous and easily laughed at. Like the illustrations of Toulouse-Lautrec, where he appeared with a baboon’s face, or that of Félix Potin’s famous advertisement where we saw him all smiles with these words: “Beaten and happy”. However, Chocolat dreamed of being a Shakespearian theater actor but will meet a tragic end… After “Samba”, where he played an undocumented person in Paris, Omar Sy therefore continues his questions about the place of blacks in French society with a mainstream entertainment that is sure to make you think.
With his beautiful reconstruction of a Paris awakening in the 20th century and a controlled narration that leaves little room for dead time, Roschdy Zem confirms his talent for directing actors.
> (Re)Read our interview: Omar Sy is a chic guy: our meeting