Masters

The Other Side of Hope

Aki Kaurismäki

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A failing restaurant owner hires a young Syrian refugee he finds sleeping in the inner yard of the restaurant, in this Silver Bear–winning dramedy from acclaimed Finnish director Aki Kaurismäki.

One of the giants of European cinema, Aki Kaurismäki has long been a rigorous advocate for those left behind, either by economic vicissitudes, accident, or just plain bad luck. From his legendary "Proletariat Trilogy" to his prizewinning The Man Without a Past, Kaurismäki has combined his distinct visual style, his deadpan and often absurdist humour, and his acute empathy for outsiders to create a body of work at once socially astute and aesthetically unique. That sensitivity is on prominent display in his latest, The Other Side of Hope, winner of the Silver Bear at the recent Berlinale and one of the year's most beautiful and timely films.

Kaurismäki tackles the pressing issues surrounding refugees and forced migration through the characters of Wikström, a salesman who wants to break with his past and open a restaurant, and Khaled, a Syrian refugee searching for his lost sister. Tipped off that he will be sent back to war-torn Aleppo, Khaled is immediately hidden from the authorities in the restaurant's storeroom by Wikström and his employees.

Like Le Havre, The Other Side of Hope depicts a Europe united by class, empathy, and aspiration. But it's far from being naïve about the contemporary world. Far-right jingoism is very present here — in fact, it's a more substantive threat to Khaled than officialdom. But as Kaurismäki slyly points out: all it takes for the tide to turn is for a handful of people to object.

STEVE GRAVESTOCK

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