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In "The Other Side of Hope," the cult Finnish director explores difficult realities in his own delightful style. Kaurismäki's latest film won a Silver Bear at the Berlinale and is now released in cinemas in Germany.

Kaurismäki's films are characterized by odd figures; in his latest movie, he once again offers two wonderful characters: the Syrian refugee Khaled Ali, played by Sherwan Haji (left) and Waldemar Wikström in the role of Sakari Kuosmanen, who's just left his job as a sales representative for menswear and decides to open a restaurant.

"The Other Side of Hope" was a critics' favorite at the Berlinale. The work by Finnish filmmaker Aki Kaurismäki came at the top of the list of a ranking of all the movies competing at Berlin's international film festival in 2017, according to a ranking by British film magazine "Screen International," which compiles different reviews.

The jury headed by Dutch director Paul Verhoeven nevertheless decided to give the Golden Bear to the Hungarian film "On Body and Soul."

Kaurismäki won the Silver Bear for best director, and "The Other Side of Hope" is one of his most accomplished films.
Film still The Other Side of Hope by Aki Kaurismäki (Pandora Film)

His movies can always be immediately recognized. There are few directors with such a strong personal signature. "The Other Side of Hope" is no exception. The story told by the Finnish director features once again his typical combination of dry humor, bizarre wit and melancholy.

An unusual approach for a refugee story

In this film dealing with a politically-charged topic, refugees, Kaurismäki's particular filmmaking style comes as a blessing. Where other directors too often point accusing fingers, the Finn allows his audience to breathe. Many political movies promote moral views through intellectual overstatements or through Hollywood-style sugarcoated plots, yet a story that isn't burdened by sermons tends to have a more honest and durable impact.

Kaurismäki, a master of cinematic understatement and laconic wit, deals with the refugee crisis without avoiding difficult aspects of reality.

"I would like to change the Finns' attitude," said the filmmaker in Berlin. When 20,000 Iraqis came to Finland, many people in the country "perceived that as an attack, like a war." He was alarmed by their reaction and decided to make a film dealing with the issue.

"I respect Mrs. Merkel," he also said of the German chancellor, who was harshly criticized for her open-door refugee policy, "She is the only politician who seems to be at least interested in the problem."

Author: Jochen Kürten (eg)

First published March 29, 2017

tj/sms (AP, AFP, dpa)

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