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Film Review: Peace by Chocolate
by Karen Pecota

The Nova Scotia filmmaker Jonathan Keijser, who now resides in Los Angeles, California,read a true account of the Hadhad family and immediately knew he wanted to bring their voice to the world via the moving picture. In collaboration with Pakistani screenwriter Abdul Malik, the two accomplish the goal with their latest feature film Peace by Chocolate.

The Hadhad family are real-life Syrian refugees who have a remarkable story to tell. Keijser says, "I am proud to share their story with audiences. It's an aspirational story that shines a light on complex narratives and characters, combining drama with humor and hope." Adding, "A story like the Hadhads isn't just a story about what happened, it's a story about what is possible." Continuing, "There are enough existing stories that amplify fear in our already divided world. I believe audiences want to watch solution-based stories of love, inclusion, and hope, which are the exact sentiments this film exemplifies."

Keijser's first feature narrative film he directs, co-writes and produces brings him so much joy to showcase because it is not a down-and-out story of the refugee struggle that is often characterized in the media, but an uplifting scenario of a people group displaced. It's a message of hope!f


The infamous Syrian Chocolatier, Issam (the late Hatem Ali) is heartbroken when his factory is bombed, and his family's livelihood destroyed. A legacy not to be forgotten but Issam knows it's time to seek refuge in another country. Their lives are at stake!

His son, Tereq (Ayham Abou Ammar), already abroad to pursue his life-long dream of being a doctor, is struggling to make his way in Antigonish, Nova Scotia. Though he is a charming Syrian young man and thankful to the people of Antigonish for welcoming him into their community, Tereq has a hard time adjusting to small-town life.

Soon Issam and his wife join Tereq in Antigonish leaving their daughter and granddaughter behind until they receive proper paper work to seek asylum. What Tereq does not anticipate is the pressure his father puts on him to rebuild the only livelihood Issam knows, to make Chocolate.

Issam is concerned about survival in a new land. He needs Tereq to help him and the family. Tereq underestimates his father's keen business sense and tenacity to build another factory. The main issue is that Issam cannot speak English and Tereq is his lifeline as the interpreter for all matters. Every time there is a chance for Tereq to attend medical school it is derailed because of his responsibility to assist in the new family business. Tension between father and son rise. Issam and Tereq struggle to find common ground so much that it threatens to tear their family apart.

Tereq is torn for which to succumb: the complex traditional family duties to assist his father in a new booming Chocolate business or leave the family to deal with his absence in order to take-up an offer to attend medical school. A townsman and new friend of the family named Frank (Mark Camacho) speaks words of wisdom into the situation to both father and son. If they listen intently to his perspective and each act selflessly, it could be their saving grace for survival.