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Film Review - Snack Bar
by Shelly Schoeneshoefer

Director: Meral Uslu, Holland

Director Meral Uslu uses a unique documentary technique to tell the inside story about an ethnic neighborhood in Rotterdam. The film centers on the location of a Snack Bar which is run by Ali (Ali Cifteci), a Turkish immigrant. From the get go, it’s clear that he and his family are having financial problems paying the bills. It is not entirely clear what is going on but during the film the tension increases between family members until the mother moves out. At the same time Ali plays a mentor figure for a group of young Moroccans who hang out in front of his business. The group acts like a pack of dogs often juggling their positions in order to find their place in the group. During their roughhousing, minor criminal acts, and other aggressive interactions, they often turn to Ali for guidance. He applies humor but also strict rules to keep them in line. There comes a turning point where they try to help Ali overcome his evening gambling habit so that he won’t lose the business.

The acting in this film is absolutely amazing. In close-up interviews we see the fine net which holds the group together. At the Q & A, we were taken by surprise at how well these young actors could speak English and with such elegance. They all explained how they knew people from such neighborhoods but they themselves didn’t grow up there. They were raised differently but could still identify with the dilemma that these young men were in. They depicted the characters in such a realistic and intense way that the situation was very believable and put the audience on edge. Uslu wanted to show the aggression and frustration that these young men feel since they aren’t able to find their place in society. She also said these boys have a bad image in society and in many cases they aren’t as bad as they appear to be. The actual Snack Bar does exists but it is in Amsterdam and not in Rotterdam but, due to some extra funding, they changed location and were very happy with it.