USA, Lebanon, Singapore
It is enough for a filmmaker to approach their characters with love to bring out joy from the darkest of realities.
In the heart of the Burj al-Barajneh refugee camp in Lebanon (which has existed for more than sixty years now, becoming a city neighbourhood rather than a camp in the traditional sense), Soufra follows the story of a young woman, Mariam, and her friends in their quest to buy a van and open a moving restaurant.
The film follows this exceptionally inspiring journey, through which we are exposed to Mariam’s world, from the kitchen where she passionately prepares meals with her friends to the narrow alleyways of the camp, filmed with an unusually fresh angle. We watch as she attempts to raise the required funds for the project, accompanying her on the initial moments of doubt and the triumph that follows; temporary failures that lead to success.
Soufra might give in to long stretches of expository dialogue at times, yet its dramatic structure evolves with intimate close-ups of the characters’ faces and hands as they practice their favourite activity. In its affectionate portrayal of its protagonist, the film draws a clear line between treating characters as mere subjects, and depicting them as flesh and blood humans whose struggles we actually share rather than watch from afar.
Perhaps the heartwarming humor with which Mariam and her friends face their reality are indeed what made Soufra one of the year’s distinctively feel-good documentaries, despite taking place in the desolate world of a refugee camp.
Director: Thomas Morgan
Producer: Thomas Morgan, Trevor Hall, Kathleen Glynn
Executive Producer: Susan Sarandon
Screenwriter: Thomas Morgan
Director of Photography: Johny Karam
Editor: Mohamed El Manasterly
Production Company: Rebelhouse
Thomas Morgan is a film producer and director. His award-winning work includes Storied Streets and Waiting for Mamu. Thomas was also executive producer for India’s Daughter, which received the Peabody award for journalism, and the Emmy-nominated film Silenced.
Morgan has spoken before the US Congress, the PPL Forum at the 2012 Democratic National Convention, for the United Nations on disruptive innovations and numerous TEDx talks.
He is the co-founder of Rebelhouse, a Los Angeles-based film production company. He received his honorary Doctorate degree from his alma mater Central Michigan University and teaches documentary filmmaking to young students.