The​ ​new​ ​documentary​ ​film​ ​​Soufra​ ​​opens​ ​on​ ​a​ ​dilapidated​ ​refugee​ ​camp​ ​just​ ​south​ ​of​ ​Beirut—a one-square-kilometer​ ​settlement​ ​that​ ​some​ ​22,000​ ​residents​ ​call​ ​home.​ ​Many​ ​have​ ​lived​ ​in​ ​this place​ ​for​ ​more​ ​than​ ​fifty​ ​years.​ ​The​ ​only​ ​jobs ​to​ ​be​ ​had​ ​are​ ​illegal​ ​and​ ​poorly​ ​paid.​ ​In​ ​fact,​ ​there’s a​ ​ninety-two-page​ ​document​ ​devoted​ ​to​ ​detailing​ ​all​ ​of​ ​the​ work ​these​ ​people​ ​are​ ​not​ ​permitted to​ ​do.
At​ ​the​ ​center​ ​of​ ​the​ ​camp​ ​is​ ​a​ ​small​ ​bit​ ​of​ ​respite​ ​sponsored​ ​by​ ​the​ ​United​ ​Nations.​ ​Here,​ ​aid​ ​is provided​ ​to​ ​ensure​ ​that​ ​residents​ ​have​ ​the​ ​minimum​ ​for​ ​survival.​ ​The​ ​refugees​ ​live​​ ​in what​ ​can​ ​only​ ​be​ ​described​ ​as​ ​a​ ​prison.​ ​Waiting​ ​for​ ​what,​ ​no​ ​one​ ​really​ ​knows.

In​ ​this​ ​desperate​ ​place​ ​we​ ​meet​ ​Mariam, she has lived here her entire life. Mariam has been labeled as “crazy” because she refuses to settle for what’s been prescribed for her. Seeing the needs of her fellow residents—she’s determined to make a difference. At​ ​the​ ​beginning​ ​of​ ​the​ ​film,​ ​she gets​ ​a​ ​job​ ​assisting at the​ ​United​ ​Nations post within the camp​.​ She musters the courage to ​ask​ ​for​ ​space​ ​to​ ​install​ ​a​ ​small​ ​kitchen.​ ​Mariam then ​applies​ ​for​ ​and​ ​is​ ​awarded​ ​a​ ​micro-loan​ ​to buy​ ​used​ ​kitchen​ ​equipment.​ Eventually, she​ ​convinces​ ​other​ ​women​ to join her in starting a catering​ ​business.​ Throughout the film, audiences witness forgotten souls being given a second chance. They’re provided the opportunity to leave their homes, engage in social settings ​and​ ​ultimately​ ​give ​them​ ​a​ ​sense​ ​of​ ​purpose.​ ​Their​ ​children begin​ ​to​ ​see​ ​them​ ​differently—not​ ​just​ ​as​ ​mothers,​ ​but​ ​as​ ​business​ ​leaders.
After​ ​only​ ​three​ ​months​ ​of​ ​running​ ​the​ ​catering​ ​business,​ ​Mariam​ ​is​ ​ready​ ​to​ ​expand.​ ​Twenty-five​ ​women​ ​are​ ​already​ ​on​ ​the​ ​waiting​ ​list​ ​to​ ​join​ ​her​ ​company,​ ​Soufra​ ​(meaning​ ​“feast” in​ ​Arabic).​ ​Her​ ​vision?​ ​To​ ​take​ ​her​ ​business​ ​to​ ​the​ ​community,​ ​be​ ​the​ ​first​ ​refugee​ ​food​ ​truck​ ​in Lebanon,​ ​and​ ​use​ ​the​ ​funds​ ​to​ ​improve​ ​the​ ​living​ ​conditions​ ​for​ ​the​ ​younger​ ​generation​ ​in​ ​the camp.

The​ ​documentary​ ​follows​ ​the​ ​journey​ ​of​ ​Mariam​ ​and​ ​her​ ​team,​ ​noting​ ​the​ ​endless​ ​hurdles​ ​they​ ​have​ ​to overcome.​ ​She​ manages to ​put​ ​together​ ​a​ ​Kickstarter​ ​video​, only to learn that she’ll need to ​convince​ ​a​ ​London-based nonprofit​ ​to​ ​run​ ​the​ ​campaign​ ​for​ ​her,​ ​as​ ​she​ ​is​ ​not​ ​able​ ​to​ ​meet​ ​the​ ​minimum​ ​requirements​ ​of​ ​a credit​ ​card​ ​and​ ​a​ ​street​ ​address.​ ​Will​ ​Soufra​ ​be​ ​able​ ​to​ ​cut​ ​through​ ​all​ ​the​ ​red​ ​tape​ ​and​ ​buy​ ​their coveted​ ​truck?​ ​Will​ ​they​ ​overcome​ ​perhaps​ ​the​ ​most looming​ ​and​ ​prominent​ ​hurdle​ ​of​ ​all:​ ​learning​ ​to​ ​drive?​ ​Most​ ​of​ ​the​ ​women​ ​have​ ​never​ ​even​ ​set foot​ ​in​ ​vehicle,​ ​much​ ​less​ ​climbed​ ​behind​ ​the​ ​wheel.

Produced​ ​by​ ​Susan​ ​Sarandon​ ​and​ ​Kathleen​ ​Glynn,​ ​the​ ​film​ ​had​ ​its​ ​world​ ​premiere​ ​in September ​​at ​​the ​​​El​​ Gouna​​ Film ​​Festival​​ in​​ Egypt, ​​with ​​Mariam ​​herself ​​in ​​attendance.​ Soufra ​​​will​​ also be​ ​screened during DOC NYC—in​ ​its​ ​American​ ​debut—at​ ​the​ ​beginning​ ​of​ ​November.
Director​ ​Thomas​ ​Morgan​ ​vividly​ ​details​ ​the​ ​bumpy​ ​road​ ​Mariam​ ​travels​ ​to​ ​reach​ ​her​ ​dream,​ ​and it​ ​captures​ ​the​ ​enduring​ ​message​ ​that​ ​strong​ ​women​ ​can​ ​take​ ​back​ ​their​ ​lives—for​ ​the​ ​sake​ ​of their​ ​dignity​ ​and​ ​their​ ​children—while​ ​fostering​ ​and​ ​embracing​ ​a​ ​global​ ​sense​ ​of​ ​community.​ ​It’s a​ ​documentary​ ​that​ ​audiences​ ​can’t​ ​help​ ​but​ ​cheer​ ​for.

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