“Chocolate Peace”: the review of Robin’s film
For this week Film minutesKUNR Entertainment Critic Robin Holabird watches a film inspired by the true story of a family trying to make it in a new country – and a new culture.
Here is the transparency: Chocolate peace Director Jonathan Keijser asked me to watch his film and seemed happy when I said, ‘Yeah, you got me’ chocolate ‘,’ I later explained reverently. But I should have said, “You had me in peace”, because the pun refers to harmony rather than candy, and Keijser’s film promotes the idea that humans can find means of living together amicably, despite the differences that cross the continents.
This title, Peace through chocolate, refers to an actual company that Keijser was familiar with since the product is sold throughout his native country in Canada. More than the sweetness of candy, Keijser felt drawn to a real story that reflected the pleasant feeling of people overcoming obstacles to succeed in a difficult world. Co-writing a screenplay with Abdul Malik, Keijser tells the real story of the Hadhad family, forced to flee Syria and resettle in Nova Scotia. Extreme weather conditions present obvious challenges, but conflicts escalate as problems develop with family tradition and employment opportunities in a cold and isolated region.
Keijser defines his images well, starting with a photo of the fur-rimmed face of young Hadhad who appears lost in the snow. Handsome Ayham Abu Ammar suits his role well, but the highlight of the cast is with Hatem Ali as the family patriarch. Ali, a respected director in his own right, embodies his role as the man who needs to prove himself again despite the status he once held in his home country. Faced with local competition and prejudice against immigrants, Hadhad jumps into the fray with plans for success.
The uplifting nature of the story requires little subtlety, but faces problems of misreading as it lacks immediately recognizable faces. For the English-speaking market, subtitles intervene to translate the Arabic dialogue. Chocolate peace achieves its wider appeal with a portrait of people moving forward despite game-changing disruptions in their lives. As I said to the director: “You got me chocolate.” Or “peace”.
Chocolate peace premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival and currently runs the festival circuit with specific dates posted online at Peacebychocolatefilm.com/screenings. Many festivals allow online attendees for those who cannot attend in person.
Robin Holabird is KUNR’s entertainment critic, writer and former film curator for the Nevada Film Office. You can check out all of his reviews here.