FFF 2018 Day 10 Soufra and Mama


A Heartwarming True Story of Cooking as a Way to Escape Poverty

On the closing day of this year’s FFF, Mrs. LanceAround and I decided to see Soufra. This has been a year dominated by fantastic documentaries and this film is no exception.

A dilapidated refugee camp in Lebanon houses Syrians, Palestinians, Iraqis, Lebanese and other people looking for a safe place to call home. Survival in this one square mile is a challenge because there is no work and stepping outside the refugee area is an unwritten faux pas.

Palestinian born Mariam Shaar is a dynamic and forceful entrepreneur who is determined to create a better life. She assembles a group of women friends and creates the Soufra catering company. At first, they find success in preparing school lunches and then branching into farmers markets. She then heads a kickstarter campaign and raises over $50,000 to purchase a new food truck and expand the business even more.

Over a year and a half after raising the money, there is still no truck as the women have to fight bureaucratic prejudice. A lesser person would have caved a long time ago. But there is a peaceful determination in Mariam that overcomes all barriers.

As the documentary shows the women cooking and the incredible dishes they create, your mouth will water. Without the ability to taste, simply the visual display and watching the reactions of the people eating, it’s clear that these women know how to cook.

A harrowing scene that shows the refugee camps dilapidated power grid burning during a rain storm and the off hand comment of a local who notes, “This happens about once a month” gives the filmgoer some insight into the challenges faced by these disenfranchised outcasts. But this film tells the story of warmth, love, and inspiration that overcomes such difficulties.

Well made and artfully filmed, it’s a movie that will warm your hearts and make you (literally) hungry for more.

In fact, the movie featured a scene with one of the women making zaatar–a middle eastern specialty of spices cooked on top of a pita bread. Mrs. LanceAround and I were so inspired by the movie, afterward we sought out an Orlando restaurant ironically named Sofra on International Drive and enjoyed some hummus, falafel and zaatar. It was the perfect ending to another great year of the Florida Film Festival

Preceded by Mama
Deep in the African country of Uganda where barren huts and unpaved roads are the norm, giving birth can be a harrowing experience. An extraordinary woman referred to as “Mama” has dedicated her life to delivering children using only natural plants for medicine. This seven minute short film powerfully captures a lifestyle that those of us who are lucky enough to live in America seldom have a chance to witness. A local reminder of the power of our largest corporate interests, it was shamefully amusing to see the poverty stricken children of this third world community wearing Minnie Mouse shirts in their isolated Ugandan village.

After these two wonderful documentaries and a delicious Middle Eastern meal, Mrs. LanceAround and I drove home. We discussed how we are always attracted to the documentaries and shorts during the FFF. We wondered why it was that great documentaries and shorts rarely show up at the local cinema. Are such films really non grata to the public at large? Or is it that we as a society have just done a horrible job spreading the word about these remarkable films that are both informative and entertaining.

Perhaps with the rise of arthouse theatres and with more and more festivals such as the FFF gaining in popularity, that will change. Until then, we now have to wait another year before enjoying a week at the FFF. We hope you’ll join us there next year.

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