Peace by Chocolate REVIEW – Sweet & Wonderful | Tribeca 2021

Peace by Chocolate is a film you shouldn't miss.

Peace by Chocolate
Peace by Chocolate

The 2010s ushered in the moral crisis of our time. War and national upheaval displaced millions of people from the Middle East to Africa, and the refugee crisis continues to flow unabated even today. Yet, despite the tragic headlines, many touching stories have arisen from this crisis of how refugees faced and overcame barriers in their new homes.

Peace by Chocolate, premiering at the Tribeca Film Festival, follows the true story of the Hadhad family, who fled the Syrian Civil War to Canada. There, they established a makeshift chocolate company (the titular Peace By Chocolate) with the help of their sponsors. Jonathan Keijser’s film is a magnificent portrait of how one family came together through all odds and managed to literally reach the stars with their creations (the Hadhad family’s chocolate was served on the International Space Station at one point).

Ayham Abou Ammar stars as Tareq Hadhad, who comes to Canada in the hopes of bringing his family to safety. Tareq is the first of his family to reach Canada, and he manages to successfully bring his parents and sister from a Lebanese refugee camp, albeit facing numerous legal hurdles. He also dreams of getting into medical school, which seems easily attainable in a place like Canada. However, his credits from Syria fail to transfer, due to the civil war’s disruption of his studies.

Ammar is magnificent in his performance as Tareq Hadhad. We laugh with joy as he succeeds, and we feel the punches when he faces setbacks. Ammar is thoroughly invested in the character enough that we can see it in his eyes. From the moment he steps off the plane as a refugee to the moment he steps onto a stage as a motivational speaker, Ammar successfully wins us over as both a refugee and an average young man trying to succeed in today’s overly competitive world.

Next in line would have to be Hatem Ali, who is stellar in his performance as Issam, the family patriarch who finds success as a chocolatier. Issam initially serves as comic relief upon arriving in Canada: he stumbles and bumbles through his daily life, trying to get a job at a local chocolate store but failing to speak English or learn the customs.

Ali plays the character completely straightforward nevertheless. He’s not hammed up or over-the-top, so much as he’s an individual trying to make a living in a new world and having a hard time at first. Upon finding his chocolate company, Ali allows us to see Issam’s drive to succeed as he works long hours by himself to make his products. His blunders are comedic, but his drive to make this new life work is all the more inspiring.

Of note, Hatem Ali passed away in December of last year, making Peace by Chocolate his final film.

The overall story behind the Hadhad family’s journey is masterfully told in terms of developing the characters and exploring the depth of their crisis. As a Muslim family from Syria, the Hadhads – without a doubt – faced the specter of prejudice even in a place like Canada. Yet, the film focuses less on their status as Canadian Muslims and more on the struggles of their success, be it competition from corporate bigwigs, resentment from local business owners, and rifts between young and old. Even as their business grows and becomes their primary source of income, Tareq’s resentment grows ever-present as his father outshines him.

In many ways, this gives the film a more compelling approach as it focuses on other issues at play rather than race or religion. These are issues we all face with success, no matter what our background. Anyone can relate to the risks the Hadhads face as they try to balance their business with their family life. The Hadhads are indeed vulnerable to the vices that come their way – but their resiliency as refugees from a wartorn country helps carry them through all obstacles, and this is something we can all learn from.

Peace by Chocolate is a must-watch for anyone interested in the refugee crisis or even a true story of a family succeeding through hard work. Keijser has successfully delivered a timely film that will leave you inspired, humbled and even craving chocolate.

Review screener provided.

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Peace by Chocolate
Peace by Chocolate explores the triumphs and tribulations of the Hadhad family. The cast gives solid performances, and the story is thoroughly crafted. Not one to miss.