Sugar and Stars (À la belle étoile) is a film based on a true story that is showing at Alliance Française French Film Festival 2023 (Silver Rockers and Country Cabaret were also inspired by a true story). Director Sébastien Tulard’s debut feature film tells the story of aspiring pastry chef Yazid Ichemrahen, who fights against the odds to become the 2014 world champion of frozen desserts.
It’s an adaptation of the book Un rêve d’enfant étoilé (subtitled How pastry saved his life and educated him), an autobiographical book by Yazid Ichemrahen. Growing up with a toxic mother who can barely look after herself, let alone him, shuttled to a foster family, and later a group home with other troubled adolescents aren’t exactly the beginnings of a great life. Battling homelessness while on a quest to be the best also doesn’t sound promising, yet Yazid did just that.
Sugar and Stars flits between new and old memories taking us from adult to child to adolescent Yazid and in between. At times that felt a little jarring but we soon got used to it. We see him in the company of a family, which we later work out is that of his aunt, her partner and their son but whether they have fostered or adopted him, or if he’s even living with them full-time isn’t explained well.
Having an influencer take on the main role was a bold move and luckily Riadh Belaïch acted the role well. He even undertook training as a pâtissier and ice sculptor for it. In an interview with Riadh he said that the director told him after the audition that he had been given a chance to make his first film and that Riadh deserved one too and that even though the director didn’t know if he could do it, he liked what he saw and wanted to believe in it. Going from his usual comedy skits on social media to a more serious cinematic role was quite a big step and Riadh nailed it.
Marwan Amesker who plays Yazid as a child is great and gives a powerful emotional performance. His facial expressions really make us feel for the troubles and toxic living environment that he is faced with. Ésteban as Yazid’s nemesis of sorts in Sugar and Stars was also convincing and we found ourselves disliking him more and more throughout the film. When you want to hit the bad guy, you know they must be playing their part well! You may recognise him from Employee of the Month (Irreductible) from AFFFF 2022 and Just to be Sure (Otez-mois d’un doute) (2016 release).
The juxtaposition of music, chosen by Brice Davoli, that is played when Yazid makes his desserts (classical music) to that played when he’s in the rough areas and the group home where he lives as an adolescent (rap) is quite interesting. We wonder though whether it could be considered as stereotyping of the rap genre. The cinematography by Pierre Dejon with slow motion, zoomed in shots of the delicious dessert creations only adds to the audience drooling at them.
An inspiring film about overcoming obstacles and achieving your dreams, Sugar and Stars will uplift you watching Yazid’s journey from hard beginnings to sweet victory. It will also make you suddenly have a craving for dessert so we recommend not seeing it on an empty stomach!
Matilda Marseillaise viewed a screener of Sugar and Stars for the purposes of this review.
To find out when Sugar and Stars is showing in your city, click on the link below and choose your location once prompted to do so: https://www.affrenchfilmfestival.org/film/sugar-and-stars
FYI, Sugar and Stars was only just released in France on 22 February 2023 so the Australian premiere is closely following the French one.
KEY INFO FOR AFFFF 2023
WHAT: Alliance Française French Film Festival 2023 (AFFFF 2023) – the 34th edition of the largest celebration of French film outside of France!
WHERE & WHEN:
Sydney, NSW: 7th March to 5th April – Palace Central, Palace Verona, Palace Norton St, Chauvel Cinema, Hayden Orpheum Cremorne
Melbourne, VIC: 8th March to 5th April – Palace Cinema Como, Palace Balwyn, Palace Brighton Bay, Palace Westgarth, The Astor Theatre, The Kino, Pentridge Cinema
Perth, WA: 8th March to 5th April – Luna Leederville, Luna on SX, Windsor Cinema, Palace Raine Square, Camelot Outdoor Cinema
Canberra, ACT: 9th March to 5th April – Palace Electric Cinema
Hobart, TAS: 9th to 19th March – State Cinema
Brisbane, QLD: 15th March to 12th April – Palace James Street, Palace Barracks
Byron Bay, NSW: 16th March to 5th April – Palace Byron Bay
Adelaide, SA: 23rd March to 19th April – Palace Nova Eastend Cinemas, Palace Nova Prospect Cinemas
Port Pirie, Renmark, Whyalla, Mount Gambier: 24th March to 26th March – Northern Festival, Chaffey Theatre, Middleback Arts Centre, Sir Robert Helpmann Theatre
Gold Coast, QLD: 29th March to 16th April – Dendy Southport
Parramatta, NSW: 29th March to 2nd April – Riverside Theatre Parramatta
Victor Harbour, SA: 3rd and 10th April – Victa Cinema
Bendigo, VIC: 21st to 23rd April – Star Cinema
HOW: The full program of 41 films can be viewed at the official Alliance Française French Film Festival 2023 website via this link: https://www.affrenchfilmfestival.org/
HOW MUCH: Ticket prices vary between cities and there are also discounted festival passes available if you want to see several films. (NB You will need to pick the films and sessions when purchasing the pass)
More Alliance Française French Film Festival 2023 content
Our picks from the Alliance Française French Film Festival 2023 program
Alliance Française French Film Festival 2023 first 15 films announced
Final Cut: a comedic zombie film that’s even for people who don’t like horror or gore
Silver Rockers: a film inspired by the story of rocker retirees from Normandy
For other events with French and francophone links happening this month, check out our What’s on in March