'Peace by Chocolate': Syrian actor Hatem Ali's final movie to premiere at Tribeca Film Festival

The refugee drama is based on a true story of the Hadhad family who rebuilt their business in Canada after their factory was bombed in Syria

Ayham Abou Ammar, left, and Hatem Ali in the film 'Peace by Chocolate'. Instagram / peacebychocolatefilm
Ayham Abou Ammar, left, and Hatem Ali in the film 'Peace by Chocolate'. Instagram / peacebychocolatefilm

A heartfelt refugee drama featuring Syrian actor and director Hatem Ali in his final role, will premiere online at the Tribeca Film Festival on June 17.

Based on a true story, Peace by Chocolate is Canadian director Jonathan Keijser’s debut feature and tells the story of a Syrian family who flee their war-torn country after their chocolate factory is bombed, and attempt to make a new start in a rural town in Nova Scotia, Canada.

Watch a clip from 'Peace by Chocolate' below:

Ali, who died in December last year in Egypt after suffering a heart attack at the age of 58, plays Issam Hadhad, the patriarch of the family who decides to restart the chocolate business, called Peace by Chocolate, despite his family’s opposition. Meanwhile, his son Tareq, played by Syrian actor Ayham Abou Ammar, is torn between his dream of becoming a doctor and his obligation to the family business.

The film “encompasses the themes of immigration, refugees from a war-torn country, the power of food to bring people together, the ‘Canadian Dream’ of growing a small business and prospering, and choosing between your passion and your family”, Tribeca Film Festival says in its description.

The real-life Hadhad family’s chocolate factory in Damascus, Syria – which they had been running for 30 years – was destroyed by bombing in 2012. The family then fled to a refugee camp in Lebanon, eventually landing in Antigonish, Nova Scotia, in 2016, where they attempted to rebuild their business.

Initially selling at local markets, with chocolates made from the family’s small kitchen, the business soon thrived, eventually landing them a distribution deal.

The Hadhad family’s inspiring journey even caught the attention of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who told their story at the Leaders Summit on Refugees at the UN in New York in 2016.

“The Hadhads said that they knew what it felt like to flee their country, to flee their homes and lose everything and they wanted to help by giving back what they could,” Trudeau said. “Last month, just eight months after arriving in Canada, the family realised their dream and opened a small chocolate factory in their new hometown. It's called Peace by Chocolate, and you can follow them on Facebook.”

Tareq Hadhad documented his family’s story in a book, also called Peace by Chocolate, which was released in 2020.

Filming for Peace by Chocolate began in 2017 in Montreal and wrapped in early 2020. While the movie’s release has been delayed by the coronavirus pandemic, it will now premiere as part of Tribeca Film Festival’s Tribeca at Home online series.

"The pandemic shattered our dreams to be in-person launching the movie with our community, but I'm so glad we were able to finish it,” director Keijser told Canada’s CBC last month. “I hope this movie is going to change a lot of minds and uplift others, because our story is all about hope towards a bright future.”

The Tribeca Film Festival will be held from Wednesday to Sunday, June 9 to 20 in New York and feature both in-person and online events.

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Updated: June 1, 2021 11:49 AM

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