Mounzer’s story hits the big screen

The Barbers of Bute  documentary focuses on Mounzer (31), a Syrian refugee, who is rebuilding his life on the Scottish Isle of Bute after fleeing the war.
The Barbers of Bute documentary focuses on Mounzer (31), a Syrian refugee, who is rebuilding his life on the Scottish Isle of Bute after fleeing the war.

A student film maker will this weekend hold a screening of his documentary about a Syrian refugee who has started a new life as a barber on Bute.

UCL student Joe Steptoe (27), from London, will screen his 25-minute-long film ‘the Barbers of Bute’ on Saturday at 5.45pm at the Isle of Bute Discovery Centre cinema.

UCL student Joe Steptoe pictured during filming.

UCL student Joe Steptoe pictured during filming.

The documentary focuses on Mounzer Al Darsani (31), a Syrian refugee rebuilding his life on the Isle of Bute after fleeing the war in his homeland.

While trying to realise his dream of setting up a barber’s salon on Bute he finds he might have more in common with islanders than he first expected.

Film student Joe made the film as part of his Masters in documentary making.

He said: “The story came to me four years ago when I visited Bute on holiday.

Mounzer at work.

Mounzer at work.

“Then two years later I heard on the news about refugees being settled on the island.

“During my next visit here I made a short seven minute version of the film.

“It was a bit of a struggle, people didn’t know who I was and were reluctant to talk to me.

“When I came back in April this year I had more time to invest in building trust with people to show I was going to tell this story in a good way, not catch people out.

“I’m just there to tell the story as I see it. The process was quick but stressful, there were definitely difficult times but overall I’m quite happy with how it turned out and I think it’s a fair reflection of the situation.

“I’m proud I have been able to put together something about this.”

As well as making a film on the island, Joe has also made a “friend for life” in Mounzer.

He said: “We are definitely really good friends. We have got a healthy relationship having spent a huge amount of time with each other. I would certainly consider him a friend for life.

“It was a bit difficult for him to understand what I was trying to achieve at times.

“He has had media attention before but my filming was obviously more long-term. So he maybe found it difficult at times and understandably that can put a bit of strain on things.

“I learnt a lot about how to deal with relationships like this during filming.

“But Mounzer is very happy with how it has turned out and we are good friends. I’m looking forward to seeing him at the screening.”

Joe hopes locals will like his documentary and he spoke of his love for the island.

He said: “In the two months I spent on Bute I was touched by how welcoming and friendly everyone was, it made the whole process a lot easier.

“I was struck by how beautiful it was and I had always wanted to come back.”

Seats at Saturday’s screening will be allocated on a first come first served basis, for more information go to www.facebook.com/events/185690765339078/.