“Peace By Chocolate” is based on a true story. The film could have easily taken the route of another food namely cheese but it does not. Yes it has a happy ending but after many struggles between the characters.
Tareq (Ayham Abou Ammar) and his family flee war in Syria which has destroyed Tareq’s father’s chocolate factory in Syria. His father Issam (the late Hatem Ali) owned a renowned chocolate factory in Damascus employing some 50 people. The family flees to a refugee camp in Lebanon. Tareq is the first to arrive in Canada followed by Issam then his sister and her daughter. They settle in Antigonish in Nova Scotia. I have been in Antigonish and it is certainly not the mecca for refugees that Toronto is. It is a small town.
Poor Tareq, Issam and his mother arrive in the winter freeze of Nova Scotia and that is the first struggle they face. Tareq then struggles to fulfill his dream of completing medical school but is rejected by all the medical schools he has applied to save one. Issam does not want his son to leave the family fold especially as he has just started his chocolate business in Antigonish and requires both physical and intellectual assistance. A bitter struggle ensues between father and son. Tareq has a dream of being a respected and admired physician and not helping Issam run the chocolate business. Syrian patriarchal society requires he follow his father’s wishes so Tareq is struggling against his culture in addition to his father.
Then there is a struggle amongst certain members of the local community who are suspicious of the newly arrived Muslims. But there are more supporters than detractors including Frank (Mark Camacho) who forms a bond with Issam. It is Frank that raises money in the community to help Issam start his business in earnest. Issam is encroaching upon a local’s chocolate business and Frank gets rebuked by the local chocolatier for assisting newcomers as opposed to neighbours. Many immigrants struggle against discrimination particularly if they don’t speak the language, have different religions and dress differently despite being in Canada that favours separate cultural identities as opposed to the American melting pot.
The chocolate business is called “Peace By Chocolate” and gathers steam after newspaper and television coverage of a remarkable Syrian refugee success story. Even Canadian Prime Minister Trudeau mentions the family and their chocolate company in a United Nation’s speech.
So who prevails in the struggle by Tareq to finish his medical studies? Can he reconcile his dream with commercial realities and opportunities? Can Issam take his little chocolate operation to the next level?
Ali, Ammar and veteran Canadian actor Mark Camacho sparkle in the film which is more than chocolate and certainly not cheese.
Theatrical release is on April 29 followed by a digital release on June 10, 2022. It is directed by Jonathan Keijser a graduate (like me) of McGill University and has a Master of Fine Arts from USC’s School of Cinematic Arts. There is an authentic Canadian streak to the filmmaking which I might call raw human honesty and some grit a tradition evident since the seminal 1970’s Canadian film “Goin Down the Road” and more recently in “Away from Her”. Watch “Goin Down the Road” which will express better what I am trying to say!
You can see the trailer here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5YN5ZXrCkik
RKS Film Rating 86/100.