Biopic Chocolat Opens the COLCOA Festival
The French biopic Monsieur Chocolat opened the 20th COLCOA Festival.
Los Angeles. April 18, 2016
The opening ceremony of the 20th anniversary of the Franco-American film festival COLCOA attracted celebrities like Michael Mann, Jacqueline Bisset, Johnny and Laeticia Hallyday, Omar Sy, Roschdy Zem, Hélène Segara, Jean-Paul Rappeneau and Matt Pokora, as well as Ambassador of France to the United States Gérard Araud and French Consul General in Los Angeles Christophe Lemoine. For this star-studded screening, COLCOA Executive Producer & Artistic Director François Truffart chose to show Monsieur Chocolat.
Written and directed by Roschdy Zem, this biopic/drama stars Omar Sy, James Thiérée and Clotilde Hesme. Based on a true and forgotten story, this film is about the journey of Rafael Padilla, aka Chocolat (played by Omar Sy), in the beginning of the 20th century in France.
He was born a slave in Cuba, but found his way into the entertainment industry. Working in a small circus in Normandy, France, he is spotted by a famous clown, George Footit, interpreted by James Thiérée, who believes that if they worked as a duo, they would be a major hit. Chocolat accepts and the two become the main attraction in a major circus in Paris.
Their act gravitated around the white clown humiliating the black clown for the amusement of the audience. As their success grows amid a climate of colonization and racism in France, Chocolat realizes he is famous only because he is a black clown. Influenced by new ideas and people, he attempts to move away from Footit and the circus.
This movie has all the elements of great cinema, especially regarding the circus stunts. James Thiérée, who is Charlie Chaplin’s grandson, is an expert in slapstick comedy and coached Omar Sy for all the different stunts they did on the screen. Even if they were partners in the movie and on the set, according to Omar Sy, it was often frustrating and difficult to agree on what they were going to do in front of the camera. We have to highlight Omar Sy’s remarkable performance in interpreting Chocolat. He clearly depicts the evolution of a man in such a captivating way. (For his role in Intouchables, Sy won the César for Best Actor in 2012).
Even though Footit and Chocolat’s act would be too controversial to exist today, their influence can still be felt. They helped establish such clown archetypes as the “white clown” and the “auguste,” inspiring comedians like Laurel and Hardy, Shirley et Dino, Louis de Funès and Dany Boon.
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