Premiering on TVO!
Three continents and four stories, and one deep connection: the complex world of chocolate.
In the wilds of Northern Canada, Ron and Nadine are creating unique handmade chocolate that they believe can save the planet – and beyond. So far, Woody Harrelson and Sting are believers.
In Hershey, Pennsylvania, Jonathan fancies himself a modern-day Charlie in the chocolate factory. For the 4th-generation Hershey employee – who lives in a house wedged between the Hershey factory and the Hershey zoo – every day is St. Valentines.
In West Africa, Noufou and Mamoutou are considered lucky. Recently, they both came back from working on cacao plantations that supply the rest of the world with chocolate. So why are they considered lucky? Because they came back alive.
In Paris, France, top chocolatier Patrick Roger is busy creating his latest masterpiece – a 150-pound chocolate that he hopes can save the rain forests of Borneo.
Semisweet: Life in Chocolate takes us from the hyper commercial world of Hershey to the frozen lakes of Northern Canada, from the busystreets of Paris to the heat of the forests of West Africa as we follow the unique journeys of people whose lives have been transformed by chocolate.
Hip, beautiful, healthy and organic raw foodists, Ron and Nadine are the earth muffins behind “Living Libations”. Their pure source chocolate is the latest craze making waves among the environmentally conscious. It is described by Ron and Nadine as “the love child of Willy Wonka and Mary Poppins dancing in the rain forest.” And it tastes great too!
Ron and Nadine live with their 3-year old son, Leaf in a new-age retreat in the Haliburton wilderness of Northeastern Ontario. It’s in this idyllic place that the duo run their successful mail-order company called “Living Libations”, which started off a dozen years ago selling organic health and beauty products such as creams and essential oils. Their trendy organic health line includes super food chocolate. Ron and Nadine start their mornings with a ‘chocolate breakfast’, snacking on forest grown, whole cacao artisan chocolate. And the best testimony to their chocolate is that their happy and lovely son, Leaf has been raised on a steady diet of this chocolate.
Ron is a professional actor and yoga instructor turned chocolatier – He makes his chocolates with spiritual zen like devotion, using only raw ingredients.
Nadine is well-known in new-age/naturopath circles as a gifted alchemist, Nadine describes herself this way: “I’m a botanical muse shaping effable plant-light into palpable consecrations to blush senses and muse imaginations.”
Together Ron and Nadine will change the way we view chocolate, one bean at a time.
Patrick Roger is one of the top chocolatiers in the world -- known by food connoisseurs for his rochers (a contrast of smooth praline filling and crunchy hazelnut flecks), ganaches, and dark chocolate made from lime or hot peppers.
In 2000, on the merits of his chocolate-making skills, Patrick won the highest honour bestowed on any chef in France: Le Meilleur Ouvrier de France.
But, Patrick’s high-end chocolate creations are not only tasty treats – they are veritable works of art. And, as an artist, Patrick is increasingly devoting his time to sculpting large-scale chocolate statues, which he proudly displays in the windows of his 7 Parisian boutiques. Currently, Patrick is working on a 150-pound chocolate orangutan. All of his chocolate sculptures have environmental and social messages, which he hopes will transcend the very idea of chocolate. Patrick believes that chocolate is the perfect medium to change the world – and its perceptions.
Patrick: “I didn’t discover chocolate, it discovered me.”
At 12 years-old Milton S. Hershey dropped out of school. As a teenager he began an apprenticeship with a Pennsylvanian candy maker and learned the chocolate trade. Shortly after, Milton tried to make it on his own, but his first and second attempt at the candy business was a failure. On his way to being bankrupt before 30, Milton gave it one more go. And the rest is chocolate history. Today he is one of America’s wealthiest individuals.
In 1903, now a confectionary tycoon, Milton S. Hershey set out to build his personal dream -- a tree-lined model community for his employees, wrapped around his famous chocolate factory. The town of Hershey, Pennsylvania soon grew to include a public transportation system, public schools, a department store, and lots of churches. It is better known as "Chocolatetown, USA" or "The Sweetest Place on Earth." To keep his employees cheerful and content, Milton also built Hersheypark.
Today, the 110-acre amusement park includes over 60 rides and attractions – including chocolate-themed rides, shops, restaurants, a zoo, and a state-of-the-art visitor center called Hershey's Chocolate World.
For boys and girls from Mali and Burkina Faso, the idea of traveling abroad to Côte d’Ivoire to work on the cacao farms is a grand adventure. A rite of passage fully ingrained in their culture. The journey represents a move into adulthood—a chance to return home a hero or heroine matured by the grand journey abroad. But in reality the journey is not so sweet.
We meet kids who have worked in the cacao fields and a hard-working farmer with a dark view of the cacao fields.
michael — 12 weeks ago
Would you consider your self a choco-holic?
The first thing I learned while doing research for the film Semisweet is that chocolate has been around for a long, long time. The common belief is that cacao originated in a region along the border of what is now Ecuador and Colombia. As far back as 1500 BCE, the fruit and seeds from the cacao plant were used by the Olmec Civilization (who gave way to the Mayans, who gave way to the Aztecs, who gave way to the Europeans).
I highly doubt, however, that people today would be too crazy about the type of chocolate the ancients were eating back then. For one thing, they didn’t eat it – they drank it. For another, their chocolate was really bitter, not sweetened at all like the chocolate we know today. This cold, bitter beverage was the ancient world’s answer to Power Bars or Red Bull -- they would give it to their soldiers to fortify them as they left to fight in battle.
michael — 40 weeks ago
After a series of phone calls, I finally sat down with multi-instrumentalist Ohad Benchetrit, who has played and recorded with BSS over the years. Ohad turned me on to his other musical project Do Make Say Think. I loved the sprawling feel of their music. Ohad told me he wanted to bring on his DMST writing partner, Justin Small. We shook hands and dove in headfirst. These are the right guys for the job.