I opted to see Snackbar mostly because the middle-eastern hip hop on the trailer appealed to me. Unfortunately for me, there is almost no music in Snackbar, save for the homesick Turkish riffs played by a Kurd on his oud after he closes up shop.
Ali (Ali Cifteci) owns the titular shop in Rotterdam, which sells fries, soft drinks, and other snacks sold more to kill time than to nourish. His wife Pinar (Nazmiye Oral) is hard-headed about business while Ali takes the longer, bigger, and less rigorous view of his finances.
Young Muslim men of Moroccan ancestry hang around Ali’s. Half a dozen are introduced and we usually see three or four at a time. Characters are introduced with a monologue and a red title card showing their name: Heertje. Chiwawa. Farid. Mounir. They are not thugs, just unemployed young men who kill the time with marijuana and machismo.
Nouredine wears a baseball hat and a thin beard. He’s not quite a leader; he’s more an enforcer. He’s the quickest to violence and the most resentful when one of the gang leaves to find work. Mounir, who has been sweeping the shop for Ali, goes off with an unpopular drug dealer on a delivery for some quick cash. Another youth accepts an invitation from a recruiter looking for able-bodied men — without criminal records — to go work at the docks.
The movie is reminiscent of Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing, right down to the corner eatery, whose importance to the neighborhood is far greater than its cash flow would suggest. Ali’s is not just a restaurant; it’s the center of the entire neighborhood.
Snackbar is shot with lots of handeld camera that gets very close-in to faces. The motion and proximity make it a little hard to read the subtitles, but you can usually tell what’s happening, even without the translation. But if you buy a ticket, choose a back row.
It’s interesting how vehement the young men are about not having, nor wanting, any opportunities. In one scene they hassle two blond men munching fries outside of Ali’s place. I assumed the blond men were natives, but it turns out they are Poles, here in Holland to take away “our” jobs — that’s according to the Moroccan youths, revealing that they are native-born Dutch citizens. Yet when job opportunities come up, they don’t take them. Whether we call it German angst or French ennui, teenaged surliness knows no cultural or national bounds.
Snackbar is a slice-of-life movie; there are developments and an ending, but not a strong sense of story arc. It’s not my favorite style of filmmaking, and Snackbar is not an exception. It’s not insightful or original enough to capture my imagination. I’m not saying I hated the movie; just that I’ve already seen enough angsty slice-of-life films to hold me, and that except for the regional details, Snackbar doesn’t stand out.