For his latest film, the melancholy Finnish director Aki Kaurismäki appears to have broken with tradition. Previously, his films like The Leningrad Cowboys series, have largely taken place in a version of Finland that seems largely untroubled by contemporary events. This new film, however, finds an urgent topically breaking through.
The Other Side Of Hope interweaves the stories of two men who have fled their homes. First, we meet Khaled Ali (Sherwan Haji), a refugee from Syria who has stowed away aboard a coal ship and arrived in Helsinki seeking asylum. Then there is Wikström (Sakari Kuosmanen), who has taken a less perilous, though no less dramatic, route to freedom. He has abandoned his boozy wife, won at poker and bought a dilapidated restaurant named The Golden Pint with the winnings.
In some ways, The Other Side Of Hope is a companion piece to La Havre, Kaurismäki’s 2012 film that also brought together an ageing local with a much younger refugee. Kaurismäki has often displayed compassion for the dispossessed – in The Man Without A Past, his nameless protagonist joined a community of homeless folk living inside empty container units. But here, he brings a torn-from-the-headlines immediacy to Khaled’s tale. A speech to the Finnish Immigration Service reveals the horrors he endured in Aleppo and during his hazardous journey to freedom.
The film’s tone shifts imperceptibly when Khaled and Wikström meet. Much droll humour – a Kaurismäki trademark – unfolds. Wikström offers Khaled a job at The Golden Pint, which is transformed into a sushi bar, much to the chagrin of the venue’s indolent resident staff. As the doorman, Ilkka Koivula is especially good, in that deadpan, Kaurismäki way.
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The July 2017 issue of Uncut is now on sale in the UK – featuring our exclusive interview with Roger Waters on the cover. Elsewhere in the issue, there are new interviews with Evan Dando, Jason Isbell, Steve Van Zandt and Kevin Morby and we look at shoegazing and the Scottish folk revival. We review The Beatles, Fleet Foxes, U2, Van Morrison and Dan Auerbach. Our free CD features 15 tracks of the month’s best music, including Can, Richard Dawson, Saint Etienne, Ride, The Unthanks, Songhoy Blues and more.