Khaled, syrian refugee stows away on a freighter to Helsinki. Meanwhile, Wikström is a traveling salesman who wins big at a poker table and buys himself a restaurant with the proceeds. When the authorities turn down his application for asylum, Khaled is forced underground and Wikström finds him sleeping in the yard behind his restaurant. He offers him a job and a roof over his head and, for a while, they form a Utopian union with the restaurant's waitress, the chef and his dog.Written by
Prior the film's release director-producer Aki Kaurismäki and his long-time set decorator Markku Pätilä got into dispute on how the credits are listed in the Finnish titled version as all set related credits (set decorator, property master and set builder) are listed under single title "Lavastus". Kaurismäki's response for that this wording would downgrade Pätilä's role and artistic rights in the set design, Kaurismäki rejected these claims and also said Kaurismäki himself designed the detailed visual look of the film and even provided large part of the props. The response also promised that in the international version with English titles Pätilä would be the only person listed under title "set decorator". On February 1st 2017 Pätilä and his lawyers filed a case to The Market Court in Helsinki to seek injunction on film's release in Finland in its current form and the next day the court ruled that there is no need to ban the film and the issues regarding the rights on the film's set design will be determined later - assuming the parties cannot reach a settlement outside the court prior that. See more »
a film that makes you look directly into the face of the hopeless to hear the voice of the dispossessed
Most of us have never had a 'refugee experience'. Many have read about it and some take a close interest, but usually it is something that happens to others in distant places. The confusingly labelled comedy-drama The Other Side of Hope (2017)is remarkably effective in bringing the refugee experience right into our face. Once seen, it is hard to regard it as only happening to nameless people in faraway lands.
The narrative frame has a haphazard quality about it, as if the audience has stumbled upon a vantage point from which we can see two hopeless lives randomly collide. After finally walking out on his alcoholic wife, dour Finnish salesman Waldemar (Sakari Kuosmanen) throws the sale proceeds from his business into a high-stakes poker game and makes a small fortune. After buying a run-down restaurant, he encounters Khaled (Sherwan Haji) sheltering among his rubbish bins. The Iraqi refugee had arrived in Helsinki via a coal-cargo ship while fleeing for his life. Refused refugee status and held for deportation by heartless Finnish authorities, Khaled is stateless, friendless, and homeless. Waldemar offers him work and shelter and tries to help him locate his sister who became lost while trying to escape the Syrian Civil War.
The story contains little humour. Its 'comedy-drama' label comes from totally deadpan performances that verge on absurdism, aided by a dark, almost noir filming palette. Most of the sub-titled dialogue is delivered without expression, which emphasises the heartless world into which the refugee is pushed. Dramatic situations that cry out for emotional expression are left cold, and it is this denial of the natural that most hits the viewer. For example, when the Finnish immigration official interviews Khaled for his refugee status, the honesty and sadness of his story are overwhelming yet not a trace of emotion is evident in either interviewer or interviewee. When Khaled is asked what he wants, the depth of his despair is in his words, not their expression: "I do not matter".
An element of the unexpected can add to the enjoyment of a movie, but perhaps not in this case. If you expect an entertaining comedy-drama from a nation well-known for its dark quirky humour you may be disorientated and possibly disappointed. The intention of this film is not to entertain, but to confront, inform, and engage. As global refugee problems continue unabated, The Other Side of Hope does not offer comfort or clarity, and this is reflected in its open-ended conclusion. The film's major achievement is how it makes us look directly into the face of the hopeless and hear the voice of the dispossessed. It leaves a heavy footprint.
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