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From Refugee to Chef: Berlin Film Festival to Showcase Syrian Cook


Syrian migrant Malakeh Jazmati poses for a picture in a kitchen of Cafe in Berlin, Germany, Jan. 23, 2018.

A Syrian refugee will be cooking dishes from Damascus and Aleppo for VIP guests at the opening of the Berlinale International Film Festival next month.

The choice of Malakeh Jazmati reflects the mission of the festival, which was set up in 1951 to showcase films that address urgent social and political issues in the world.

The festival devoted its program to refugees and migration in 2016 after Europe's politics were convulsed by the arrival of more than a million refugees from the Middle East and Africa, including Jazmati herself.

At the Berlin film festival opening reception in February, the 30-year-old chef, who runs a catering business in the German capital with her husband, will be cooking for more than 400 guests attending the opening reception.

"When I went and saw it's not just any film festival but the Berlinale, I was more than happy," she said of her reaction on learning she had been chosen. "It's like getting to fulfill your dreams."

She will be working under the management of Berlinale's chef Martin Scharff and cooperating with the Lebanese-American cook Barbara Massaad, known for her Syrian cookbook. Her menu will range from Aleppo stuffed aubergine to a Damascene "Syrian pasta", seasoned with tamarind sauce and pomegranate molasses.

"People think about our food that we only have falafel and hummus, but after that they see it's a very big kitchen," Jazmati told Reuters TV.

The festival will open on February 15 with the world premiere of Wes Anderson's animated film "Isle of Dogs," staring Hollywood actors such as Bill Murray, Scarlett Johansson and Tilda Swinton.

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