A Cinema of Fear and Dreaming

in 34th Panorama of European Cinema, Athens

by Katharina Dockhorn

Migration Films at the Panorama

Some films in the program of the 34th Panorama of European Cinema dealt with migration, the consequences for refugees of losing their home, and the countries accepting them. It is obvious why the focus was chosen by festival director Ninos Fedek Mikelidis.

As a good observer of social reality, Greek director Costa-Gavras brought the subject to the table in his film Eden, which premiered at the 2009 Berlin Film Festival. Since then, Greece has faced big challenges in caring for people that apply for asylum. The country carries the burden for the whole European Union. Even today, there is no system to distribute incoming migrants across Europe.

Musa is the second feature film by Greek director Nikos Nikolopoulos. He follows the love story of Simos and Musa, two men in different positions. They share intense erotic moments and feelings and share the same apartment, but they have different experiences, dreams, and expectations. While Musa struggles to structure his daily life, Simos is stunned by his fear of losing his friend. He tries to control Musa’s life. But when he is not able to solve a crisis, he flees into his dreams, which later become nightmares. The unusual story is told in an innovative way, mixing reality, romance, and mystery. Tender moments of intimacy alternate with powerful images showing the two men’s will to survive all handicaps, in a dreamlike atmosphere that also plays with motifs of Greek mythology.

Jamila has similar feelings and fears as Musa. She is a little girl originally from Morocco in Californie, made by Italian directors Alessandro Cassigoli and Casey Kauffman. Her family moved to the Neapolitan hinterland town of Torre Annunziata. The teenage girl dreams of becoming a hairdresser and a boxing champion, but she finds disappointments, solitude, and a split identity. She wishes to go back to her homeland, in contrast to her sister, who is well integrated into the youth community. The idea of Cassigoli and Kauffman’s first feature film is influenced and, in a way, a sort of spin-off of their documentary Butterfly, which was dedicated to the boxing champion Irma Testa, who won Bronze at the Tokyo Olympic Games in 2021. They stay faithful to their former work, using a documentary style for their drama.

The touching Serbian-French-Lithuanian-Bulgarian-Luxembourgian coproduction As Far as I Can Walk (Banovic Stahinja) won the Crystal Globe Grand Prix of the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival. The story was written by Serbian Stefan Arsenijevic, who is also the director. His country faces the problem of thousands of women, men, and children coming from Greek or Turkey and trying to cross the border to Hungary. Two of them are Strahinja, an aspiring footballer, and his wife Ababuo, who come from Ghana; he dreams of becoming a professional football player and manages to find a team, but she cannot imagine working as an actress in Belgrade. One day, she leaves him and their little room in the refugee camp behind, hoping to cross the border. He follows her and realizes that they have to follow different paths to find a proper new life.

The epic story is loosely based on a famous Serbian folk poem “Banović Strahinja”, which is also the original title of the film. The film has a surprising twist in the end, showing that women want to leave traditions behind and to be independent. The camera always stays close to Strahinja, a strong-willed personality fighting for his love. Neither of them sees themselves as victims. They only want a chance to live a normal life.

Last but not least, My Mother’s Swedish Heart (Svedsko Srce Moje Majke), directed by Bosnian Adis Bakrač. His comedy follows the middle-aged couple Dervica and Adem, who is originally from a little town in Bosnia. The civil war in the 1990s forces them to move to Sweden where one of their sons lives already. On the one hand, they are lost in language and bureaucracy. On the other hand, Dervica finds a good friend in Ingrid, the owner of their flat. This particular story about a wonderful friendship and successful integration is set in 1993, but bears an important message for the present day.

Katharina Dockhorn
Edited by Robert Horton