French films soul-search over race at Hollywood showcase

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Roschdy Zem at the 20th COLCOA opening night

Roschdy Zem at the 20th COLCOA opening night

LOS ANGELES: Born in Cuba to African slaves, Rafael Padilla battled racism to become the toast of bourgeois Paris, feted by the rich and powerful for his performances as “Chocolat the clown,” France’s first black celebrity.

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Almost a century after he was laid to rest in a mass grave in the French capital, his largely forgotten story is being told in the North American premiere on Monday of Roschdy Zem’s Chocolat.

It is a bold choice to open COLCOA, the world’s largest festival of French film, as it challenges audiences to consider whether Hollywood’s notorious diversity problem is also an issue in France.

The US film industry has been facing a very public backlash over its lack of prominent ethnic minority stars, exemplified by February’s Oscars, which featured no black nominees for acting awards for the second year running.

In marked contrast, a record number of ethnic minorities competed in major categories at France’s own annual industry prizegiving, the Cesars, this year.

AFP

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