Soufra - Improving the Lives of Palestinian Refugees One Bite at a Time
By: Ranny Levy
Posted: Sep 8th, 2018
South of Beirut, Lebanon is a 68 year old refugee camp housing refugees from Palestine, Syria and Iraq. Many have lived in this camp their entire lives-- Mariam AlShaar is one of them. Now, Mariam has pulled the women of this camp together to do what has never been done before. They started with a small kitchen from a micro-loan. With nearly insurmountable political odds against them-- they look to start the first refugee food truck. Their journey is one of many ups and downs but it is the community that is built, their sense of hope and how they see themselves that makes this a moving, touching film about their journey. Mariam has been known as 'the crazy lady' and now she will show just how crazy she is. KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Ella L, comments, “. I felt so connected with the women in this film and was really intrigued by their stories, as well as what they have to say. This is an incredible film in so many ways.” Kimberly M., KIDS FIRST! Adult Juror adds, “This documentary is about one woman’s quest to start a food-truck business in the refugee camp where she resides, in Lebanon. Mariam Shaar, with her adept business sense and entrepreneurial spirit sets out to improve the quality of life for herself and those around her.” See their full reviews below.
By Ella L., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 14
Soufra is a fantastic film filled with delicious-looking food and inspiring messages for women and others. This documentary is clearly made with passion, purpose and heart. It is a little heart wrenching, but still fun and interesting at the same time. The production values are high, particularly the cinematography. I felt so connected with the women in this film and was really intrigued by their stories, as well as what they have to say. This is an incredible film in so many ways.
The filmmaker follows a group of women in a Lebanese refugee camp who enjoy and have a passion for cooking. They are hired by a fellow refugee, named Mariam, to start a catering company called Soufra. The film documents the struggles of these women being unable to purchase a food truck for their business. Even though they raise the money to purchase it, thanks to a Kickstarter campaign, it is still difficult for them to get the proper permits to own the truck, due to local laws.
What really intrigued me initially was the beginning scene in the kitchen. It is so lively, entertaining and captivating. The introduction to a film is so important. The rest of the film is equally well shot. The camera quality is clear and the cinematography is pretty spot on. This film really is quite entertaining and educating at the same time. I thoroughly enjoyed watching it because every aspect is so incredible.
The messages the film promotes are completely pure and positive. These women deal with really tough situations and lead extremely tough lives. However, they manage to stay strong and powerful regardless. The message is about never giving up or quitting, even when it feels like the entire world is telling you to. Never lose sight of your goals. I recommend this for ages 10 to 18, as well as adults and give it 5 out of 5 stars. I am so impressed with the women in this film and everything they have accomplished. I admire them all very much. This is a film that is truly incredible and one I will remember for years to come.
This documentary is about one woman’s quest to start a food-truck business in the refugee camp where she resides, in Lebanon. The quality of life for the camp’s residents is quite low, with many people living in very condensed dwellings. Mariam Shaar, with her adept business sense and entrepreneurial spirit sets out to improve the quality of life for herself and those around her. She, along with other women, cook high quality Mediterranean food and through a Kickstarter Campaign, raise and exceed the amount of funds needed to buy a van and get the permit for the business. Not surprisingly, things do not go as planned. Mariam’s lawyer tells her there may be hurdles in terms of getting the permit and obtaining a truck because she resides in the refugee camp and because of her ethnicity. Therefore, when she goes to the automobile dealer, she is turned down. Inevitably, a few months later, she is turned down for the license to operate Soufra also. She feels defeated at this point, but her lawyer explains a way in which she can circumvent these laws regarding license, location and ethnicity Mariam can find a brick and mortar place as a legitimate residential location for her business on the outskirts of Beirut. She does in fact find a place and is then granted a license. The van approval for her food truck comes smoothly after that. Her dream of a food truck business is then realized. I enjoyed watching this documentary mainly because it has a happy ending. Many documentaries seem to end on a desolate note. In addition, people residing in the West think about the Mid-East as being repressive towards women, in general. This documentary counters this thought process. We see Mariam as a determined businesswoman making lots of decisions and meeting with others on her own to get the business up and running. As the director of a Foundation stated, she would “get this going with or without financial help.” I give this documentary 4.5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 10 to 18 as well as adults. This film is being shown at select theaters throughout the country. To find a screening near you, visit https://www.soufrafilm.com/