In 1897, a black man, the son of former Cuban slave, plays a small role as the cannibal Kananga in the modest circus Delvaux. George Foottit, a white clown, is asked by the director to bring up his routine. He gets the idea to have an act with Kananga; a white authoritarian clown and a black scapegoat named Chocolat. They are well received and the word spreads through France, reaching Joseph Oller, director of the Nouveau Cirque. He asks Foottit and Chocolat to take their show to his Parisian establishment. The success is immediate, and Chocolat becomes the first famous black clown. The success stirs envy in his previous employer’s wife. She denounces him for being in France illegally.Chocolat is arrested and tortured by the police. «A negro always remains a negro,» the police commander tells Chocolat when he releases him. While the humiliation in the circus act is staged for humorous effect, the racism Chocolat encounters in France grinds him down. Chocolat is both celebrated as a star and made into a racial caricature. This becomes strikingly apparent when the poster for the show depicts Chocolat as a black stereotype. Faced with the hypocrisy of French society, he gives himself up to gambling, drugs and women. An attempt to end his clown duo to branch into the Shakesperean tragedy Othello ends with part of the audience booing the premiere. At the end of his life, Chocolat falls into obscurity and dies of consumption

Behind the scene