[INTERVIEW] Omar Sy, and Roschdy Zem for CHOCOLATE

To read also our review of the movie CHOCOLATE.

The last premiere of the movie CHOCOLATE was held in Bordeaux, on the trail of the Cirque Arlette Gruss, in the presence of the director Roschdy Zem and Omar Sy. This presence had a value highly symbolic for the team of the film as Rafael Padilla, said Chocolate, died in misery in Bordeaux in 1917. The two men returned with us about this character, his story and building the film around him.


Tell us what you want to tell this story ?

Roschdy Zem : We lack a lot of inspiration in France, we do sequels, but it doesn’t really create. It was at this iconic character, darling of Paris, and died in oblivion, all the ingredients to tell a moving story extraordinary. I mostly wanted to avoid the pitfalls of pathos and victimization. It was not to denounce, but to tell the life of a man. Chocolate has a profile of sensualist, exactly like a Rock Star : he is a big-time gambler, megalomaniac, he does not deal well with women…

I am so attached to tell two love stories : that of the comic duo and the one with Mary. I wanted to show the life of a circus, behind the scenes, the living together. It was important to tell the report the dominant-dominated, which has an intimate aspect to me, until the emancipation of Chocolate in the colonial empire. But I also wanted to mention his skin color. I wanted the film tells the story of a man and feel as a backdrop, watermark, the setting in light of his artist status. Especially as it was also a pioneer : he was the first to go into the hospitals to make the children laugh !

The cinema is a means of transmitting, to trigger a reflection, a debate, open a dialogue. It is an element that allows us to join hands.


You have taken a few liberties in the scenario compared to the real life of Chocolate, for what reasons ?

A. Z : It often takes liberties with the timeline, even if one clings to the reality. But it is to tell more truths. It was hard to find the trace of Chocolate, it is so fallen into oblivion. Then we have, with the writers filled in the blanks of his life by our imagination. For example, he has never played Othello, but it is known that he tried to play Moses, and that he had a lot of difficulty playing its text.


How did you feel playing this character ?

Omar Sy : You always feel a responsibility to embody a character that has existed. I felt a sense of injustice in the face of the oblivion of Chocolate, and I wanted to fix it. It is a little of what we are doing here, coming to Bordeaux. It is difficult to talk about racial hatred, but accepting the role was a bit forced to talk about it, to feel the things. This is my contribution.

A. Z : It’s very symbolic for us to be here in Bordeaux , there is a lot of emotion.


“I felt a sense of injustice in the face of the oblivion of Chocolate and I wanted to fix it.”


Playing this duet with Footit, have you seen a resonance with the duo you formed with Fred Testot ?

O. S : Yes I’m actually competed in it. In a duo, there’s a fraternity, of love, of the complexity and of the ego also.


How have you worked out the characters of the clowns ?

O. S : This is not so natural to move as a clown, it takes a lot of work. We do not have the right to be approximate. There are precise gestures. It is a music that we learn. I have had the chance to work with James Thiérrée, which was instilled in me the rhythm (editor’s NOTE : Footit in the film).

R. Z : At the time of the preparation of the shoot, we have many looked at the five films made by the Lumière brothers. It was important to see Chocolat and Footit in motion. It was very physical, very explosive even, but it was also very enjoyable and moving. James has helped us to modernise the numbers of clowns. He accepted the role with great suspicion. It has, in effect, an approach to sacred circus. And then he took this mission with great energy. I witnessed something wonderful : the birth of a true duo. Omar and James were repeated for 4 weeks, very intense. It was a little perverse on my part, but I managed to have the conflicting relationship, the pressure, the tension that I wanted for my characters.


What role is there a cape in your career and do you play on at the theatre, why not Shakespeare ?

O. S : This is the first time that I’m wearing a great film and that I am present as much in an upstream project, even before writing the screenplay. It is a drama that makes me touch lots of things, as a summary of several films. I learned a lot working alongside Roschdy, and I speak today as my business differently.

As for the theatre, anyway, I nabbed a sacred fear by playing Othello in the film. I asked myself if I would be at the height, if I would be legitimate, if I had the right to touch it… I don’t want to touch them right away, but what I do know is that it was a very intense time and that this intensity there interests me.

Interview by Sylvie-Noelle


+ Review of the movie

+ Interview with Roschdy Zem and Omar Sy

Original title : Chocolate

Achievement : Roschdy Zem

Screenplay : Cyril Gely, based on the work of Gérard Noiriel, the adaptation of Roschdy Zem, Olivier Gorce and Gérard Noiriel

Main actors : Omar Sy, James Thiérrée, Clotilde Hesme, Olivier Gourmet

Country of origin : France

Released : February 3, 2016

Duration : 1h50min

Distributor : Gaumont

Synopsis : the circus in The theatre, and from anonymity to fame, the incredible destiny of the clown Chocolate, the first black artist of the French scene. The duo unheard of forms with Footit, will encounter a huge popular success in the Paris of the Belle époque before the fame, easy money, gambling and discrimination do not wear out their friendship and the career of Chocolate. The film recounts the story of this extraordinary artist.

Category: Uncategorized

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