Finnish director slams Europe over refugee crisis
According to Rapporteur Report From, DPA, Link, A trademark Kaurismaki melancholic comedy, "The Other Side of Hope" was greeted with enthusiastic applause at the festival's press screening on Tuesday.
Speaking at his press conference marking the film's premiere at the Berlinale, Kaurismaki said he had ended up questioning "the mental state of Europe."
"Where the hell is our humanity?" he asked. "If we are not humans who the hell are we?"
The film starts by telling the story of two people – a shirt-and-tie salesman called Wikstrom, who abandons his wife because of her drinking problem and a Syrian refugee, Khaled, who reluctantly finds himself in Finland.
Their lives finally converge when Wikstroem, played by Sakari Kuosmanen, opens a restaurant and Khaled's bid to stay in Finland runs into trouble.
"The Other Side of Hope" is one of 18 films competing for the Berlinale's most coveted prizes, including the Golden Bear for best picture.
The list includes Hungarian director Ildiko Enyedi's romantic fantasy comedy "On Body and Soul" and Chilean director Sebastian Leilo's "A Fantastic Woman".
Leilo's film stars transgender actress Daniela Vega, whose character is battling to find a way to grieve the death of her boyfriend in the face of hostility from his family.
"The Other Side of Hope" represents the first time that Kaurismaki has had an entry in the Berlinale's main competition despite numerous appearances in other parts of the festival.
Movies telling stories about refugees are once again scattered throughout this year's programme.
The Berlinale has also again made a point of employing refugees in various positions at the festival while also opening up its screenings to asylum seekers.
Kaurismaki said he had originally planned a trilogy about port cities but changed it to a trilogy about refugees as the scale of the refugee crisis emerged in Europe and a backlash against asylum seekers grew in intensity.
Many of the most dramatic moments in Kaurismaki's film are when Khaled, played by Syrian actor Sherwan Haji, is assaulted by right-wing thugs.
Kaurismaki assembles his familiar mix of deadpan characters to tell his story of ordinary people acting to help out refugees simply because it is the right thing to do.
"I was very modest," the 59-year-old joked. "I did not want to change the audience. I wanted to change the world." But he said: "First I change Europe, then I go to Asia."
A veteran of Kaurismaki films, Kuosmanen also helped to lighten the mood at Tuesday's press conference by suddenly standing up and breaking into a traditional Finnish song with the director intermittently joining in.