Winner of the Silver Bear for Best Director at the Berlinale, Aki Kaurismäki's new film is a heart-warming, funny, melancholic tale of the friendship between a Syrian refugee and a restaurant-owner.
A great humanist filmmaker, Kaurismäki is a champion of the underdog. His amusing, thoughtful films frequently depict difficult situations in society, and people coming together to help each other. It is just such a community of people he portrays in his marvellous new film. Khaled, a young Syrian refugee, arrives in Helsinki as a stowaway and applies for asylum. Meanwhile, travelling salesman Wikström decides to change his life, and invests in an unprofitable restaurant. When the authorities deny Khaled's application for asylum, he decides to stay on illegally, and it is then that he meets Wikström outside the restaurant. After a minor disagreement, Khaled is hired to work in the restaurant and finally finds some refuge, but it's far from permanent. Kaurismäki says that the film is an attempt to shatter the "way of only seeing refugees as either pitiful victims or arrogant economic immigrants invading our societies." With his unique sense of humour and fundamentally optimistic vision of the world, he achieves a great deal more than that.
It's difficult to imagine anyone coming away from Aki Kaurismäki's gorgeous tragicomedy about the refugee crisis in Europe, the challenges of the restaurant business and the rewards of self-reinvention without feeling gentle elation sparked by the story's evidence of human kindness amid cruelty and indifference. – David Rooney, The Hollywood Reporter
As economical in his visual style as he is with his dialogue, Kaurismaki makes the most out of having his actors do the least. He does not feed the audiences any lines or messages, he lets them imagine and discover this film all on their own. Whether a character painstakingly cleans a window which does not exist or earnestly prepares sushi without having the slightest idea what to do, the result is not just comic but touching as well. – Dan Fainaru, ScreenDaily
Festival guest: Sherwan Haji
AKI KAURISMAKI started out writing screenplays for his director brother Mika including The Worthless (1982) in which he also starred. Kaurismäki soon moved into directing with Crime and Punishment (1983). Other films include: Hamlet Goes Business (SFF 1990); The Match Factory Girl (SFF 1990); La Vie de Boheme (SFF 1992); Take Care of Your Scarf, Tatiana (SFF 1995); Drifting Clouds (SFF 1997); The Man Without a Past (Oscar-nominated, 2002).
Finnish, English and Arabic with English subtitles
Toivon Tuolla Puolen
Aki Kaurismäki, Misha Jaari, Mark Lwoff, Reinhard Brundig
Sherwan Haji, Sakari Kuosmanen, Ilkka Koivula
Distributor: Palace Films