Directed by Aki Kaurismaki
On general release
Well over a million people have been shoved through Europe’s “reception centres” since the refugee crisis began in 2015. Yet it’s remarkable how little impact this has had on the big screen.
This drily absurd sort of comedy does its bit to address that gap.
It contrasts the ordeal of Khaled (Sherwan Haji), a mechanic fleeing war-torn Aleppo, with salesman Wikstrom’s (Sakari Kuosmanen) attempt to change career.
In many ways it’s a follow on to Kaurismaki’s 2011 gentle comedy Le Havre.
It uses many of the same techniques, notably a jarringly surreal choice of props.
And it echoes Le Havre’s celebration of many ordinary people’s instinctive solidarity with the refugees they are supposed to fear or hate.
But this is a much colder, sadder film.
Deliberately artificial staging and camerawork makes the characters look lonely and fragile, boxed in or locked out by a bureaucratic world.
This studied awkwardness also sharpens the deadpan humour of many scenes.
And it creates an unflinching honesty about the horrors refugees face—family separation, poverty, fascist violence and police repression.
The understated acting leaves the frequent musical interludes—from rock’n’roll buskers to Khaled himself on a borrowed oud—to provide the emotional warmth.
But in its own wry way The Other Side of Hope argues powerfully against the cruel hypocrisy of immigration controls, and for faith in human solidarity to overcome them.