When Susan Sarandon visited refugees on the Greek island of Lesvos at Christmas 2015, she asked each one three questions: Hold old are you? Where are you from? What is your job?
Architect, teacher, lawyer, they said, and spoke to her about wanting to go back to work.
Her new venture, a documentary film called Soufra, which she executive-produced through Rebelhouse Group and Pilgrim Media, looks at the value of how work and entrepreneurship empowers people. It's also designed to help Americans see refugees as people instead of a concept. "This is about seeing refugees as individuals, as people," Sarandon said in an interview with CNBC. "This is about believing they can have a dream."
The number of women entrepreneurs is exploding around the world — and the issue is beginning to draw attention from celebrities, investors and others. The universality of the cause makes for strange bedfellows. Last week Ivanka Trump was in India giving a speech on women entrepreneurs at the Global Entrepreneurship Summit, while Soufra was set to show again in New York City. Producers, including Kathleen Glynn, who also produced Bowling for Columbine, hope it will make the shortlist for a documentary Oscar. Sarandon is a longtime activist for women in politics and liberal causes.
The film follows Mariam Shaar, who was born into an environment seemingly designed to snuff out hope: a Palestinian refugee camp called Burj el-Barajneh in Beirut, Lebanon.
Soufra tells how Shaar struggles to buy a food truck to employ a half dozen other women in her community, including refugees from Iraq and Syria. Soufra means feast in Arabic.
"I hope the film encourages people to understand the breadth of what we are trying to achieve," Shaar said in an interview. "Dignified employment for women, high-quality education and better, more productive lives."