The son of slaves and darling of bourgeois Paris, Rafael Padilla – known as “Chocolat” – has long been forgotten. A century after his death, France’s first black star is back with a bang, the subject of a film, a play, a book and an exhibition.
Hardly anyone noticed when Rafael Padilla was laid to rest in a mass grave in southwest France, in 1917. Few remembered that the son of African slaves, born in Cuba, was once France’s first black celebrity. Long before Josephine Baker, Padilla had become the toast of Paris, befriended by the rich and powerful, adored by the press and known to all as “Chocolat”.
It would take a century for the black artist to reemerge from oblivion. “Chocolat”, a biopic by French director Roschdy Zem, opened in French cinemas on Wednesday. Padilla’s extraordinary life is also the focus of an exhibition (“They called him Chocolat”), currently on show at the Maison des Métallos in Paris, a play by historian Gérard Noiriel (“Chocolat Blues”), and a book by the same author (“Chocolat: the true story of a man with no name”).
Link to Full Article on France 24.