TRIBECA FILM FESTIVAL 2021 REVIEW! From director Jonathan Keijser, Peace By Chocolate is based on a true story about a young man who leaves Syria after his family’s chocolate factory is bombed. Three years after the bombing, Tareq (Ayham Abou Ammar) is trying to create a new home for himself and his family in Halifax, Canada. He is not accustomed to the Canadian way of living or their usage of “aye.”
What makes his life even more complicated is that Tareq wants to go to medical school. But his family, his father, Issam (Hatem Ali), in particular, thinks school can wait. This creates more friction for Tareq, a young man who is just trying to find his place in the world, hoping to fulfill his dreams and desires. Along the way, he and his family establish a chocolate factory that really takes off.
What Peace By Chocolate does well is to tell the story in an enjoyable way. Usually, films based on true events tend to have a dramatic tone. In this case, Jonathan Keijser and Abdul Malik’s screenplay about a refugee looking to accomplish his dreams is told as a drama-comedy hybrid. This dual-tone takes a potentially heartbreaking yet inspiring story and gives it a different layer by adding humor, making it more watchable to the common viewer.
“…Tareq is trying to create a new home for himself and his family in Halifax…”
A negative that I have with the movie is that when seemed like it was going to end, but it just kept going. This happened a few times, making it feel like the tale was being dragged out a bit. But, I did appreciate the pacing. There is a quick montage scene that speeds up the story but in a way that does not make it seem like a campy montage you would see in something like an early 1990s motion picture.
The cast also does a great job. Each actor knows exactly what tone this kind of film needs to work. Hatem Ali, Ayham Abou Ammar, and Mark Camacho all give A+ performances, bringing more life to the movie. Peace by Chocolate was Ali’s final picture before unfortunately passing away in December 2020. It is an outstanding last performance and should favorably add to his legacy. The believability and amazing performances are also a tribute to the great directing.
At the end, there is actual footage of the real Issam and Tareq that shows what the two have done since establishing themselves in Canada. They have not only continued to make a name for themselves in the chocolate business but also have given back to the community as well as becoming an inspiration to their country. Peace by Chocolate is an inspiring film, especially to those that want to find refuge and carry out their dreams.
"…each actor knows exactly what tone this kind of film needs..."