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 the final six films of the 2017-18 Season

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 28 January, 2018



UK: 2016

Director: Maria Martinez Bayona                         25 Minutes

Despite being in the last stages of pregnancy, Mia must undertake an emergency trip back to her roots. On this journey, she will give birth to a baby girl. Determined to keep moving forward Mia must continue on while learning how to deal with her new child. A special creature that complicates Mia’s goal as she grows up at an unnaturally fast pace.

This is another production from The National Film and Television School

Main Feature

The Other Side of Hope                        

Finland: 2017

Director: Aki Kaurismäki                                        100 Minutes


Like many film-makers, Aki Kaurismäki wants to change people’s minds and challenge their preconceived ideas. The Other Side of Hope is the second instalment of a trilogy about refugees, following Le Havre [shown at the Society in 2012].

The film tells two stories. The first is of Khaled (Sherwan Haji), a young Syrian refugee who arrives in Helsinki as a stowaway on a coal cargo ship. He follows the correct legal procedures: he registers at a police station and carefully fills out his application for asylum at the immigration office. Kaurismaki lays bare some of the absurdities of the system. In painful detail, Khaled describes how the air raids on Aleppo ruined the city and killed his family. He hopes to find his one surviving sister, earn a living and start a new life. Yet Khaled’s application for asylum is eventually rejected on the grounds that parts of Aleppo are considered intact—he should return to an undamaged area.

The second thread of the films follows Waldemar Wikstrom (Sakari Kuosmane), an unsuccessful clothing salesman in his 50s stuck in an unhappy marriage. On a whim, he gives up the business and leaves his wife, starting anew as the owner of a small run-down restaurant in the outskirts of Helsinki. This is where his life intersects with Khaled’s: forced to live illegally, Khaled is squatting in the courtyard of Waldemar’s new acquisition. Violent antagonism eventually gives way to sympathy, and Waldemar offers Khaled shelter, a job and even a new identity. 

Kaurismaki’s locations have been carefully considered: both Le Havre and Helsinki have contended with an influx of refugees in recent years. Xenophobic attacks have increased. This is echoed in the film: Khaled is attacked several times by a neo-Nazi group in bomber jackets and combat boots. Yet  Kaurismaki prefers to focus his lens on the ordinary, empathetic citizens whom he considers his true countrymen. He admits that the film is “tendentious” in its promotion of solidarity with refugees.

It is a poetic and surprisingly light-hearted film, anticipating that humanity will one day prevail over racism and fear. Kaurismaki envisages that the next instalment of his trilogy will be a comedy; by then, he hopes, refugees will be more widely accepted. Audiences may be left waiting. 

The Economist


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