The Other Side of Hope: a Finnish refugee crisis of conscience
Finnish auteur Aki Kaurismäki’s film is filled with curious oddballs, but there are also many ethical connundrums to contend with
Simon Al-Bazoon and Sherwan Haji in The Other Side of Hope
It’s not entirely accurate to say that there is nothing quite like an Aki Kaurismäki film. The languid pacing and deadbeat deadpan that defines the Finnish’s auteur’s milieu is not entirely dissimilar to Jim Jarmusch’s hip, still-to-be-gentrified corner of the space-time continuum. The oddballs with odd vocal patterns who inhabit the Kaurismäkiverse could equally, one feels, be persuaded to settle down in David Lynch’s Twin Peaks. Yet unlike these close-enough US equivalents, there’s a social, political and ethical engagement underpinning such Kaurismäki favourites as The Match Factory Girl, The Man Without a Past, and, well d’uh, Crime and Punishment.
Following on from 2011’s Le Havre, in which an elderly shoe-shine merchant harboured a young African migrant, the second instalment of a proposed port city trilogy follows the migrant trail to Helsinki. Or rather the director’s Helsinki, a city defined by candy-coloured formica, old rock’n’rollers, and fish. In a knockout opening gambit, Khaled (Sherwan Haji), a stowaway Syrian asylum seeker, emerges from the black cargo of a coal freighter. How did he get that far from Aleppo, the authorities later enquire: “Nobody wants to see me,” he says flatly