The French circus is a cultural institution, an enduring tradition documented lovingly – if only occasionally – through the years in movies like The Walk. Less well-known are some of the pioneers of the tradition. Also unknown is the life and culture of the 19th century black French community. That’s why Chocolat is such a treat: as a historical biopic of the first famous black circus clown in France, and one half of a famous duo, Chocolat follows the rise of an incredibly talented and complicated person. It does a great job of setting the clown Chocolat in the context of 19th century France, stuck between the image of Africa and the image of himself, anxious to make a name for himself, and torn apart by what’s required to do it. As a reflection of Europe’s view on Africa at that time, it’s powerful and heartbreaking, and well done to the filmmaker to take the issue head-on. As an artist biopic, it doesn’t disappoint in showing the pain and struggle and euphoria and genius and naked ambition of its central character, whose real name you don’t even know until halfway through the film. The circus scenes are a delight to watch, beautifully costumed and acted and shot as a love letter to the French circus tradition.