Testimomy About Freedom Not Taken For Granted By Jan Foll

in 40th Karlovy Vary Film Festival

by Jan Foll

Several remarkable films from the Karlovy Vary Festival competition are linked by a topic dominating the present-day multiethnic world. Wealthy countries deal with a flood of immigrants looking for a more dignified existence, but often encounter insurmountable problems in a foreign environment. The title of the Israeli film What a Wonderful Place (Eize makom nifla) is cruelly ironic. The mosaic drama can be seen as a loose sequel to Jana And Her Friends (Ha-chaverim shel Yana, 1999) made by Arik Kaplun which won the Crystal Globe in Karlovy Vary six years ago. One of the characters is again named Jana, played once more by Evelyn Kaplun. The story begins with a scene in which Jana with a gang of guides taking people across the barbed-wire border gets to the other side and watches in horror how the arrogant Mafioso boss rapes the most attractive Ukrainian girl in front of the others. The girls — forced to become prostitutes — are seen as mere merchandise by the pimps. One of them decides to assist the helpless foreign girl.

The Danish film Chinaman (Kinamand) – which won FIPRESCI Prize – remotely recalls Kolya by Jan Sverák. A middle-aged apathetic plumber, left by his wife, meets the owner of a Chinese fast-food establishment and accepts his obscure plant. He will be paid to marry his sister so that she can obtain residential permit. The fictitious wedding, checked by vigilant authorities, turns into a real relationship. The melodrama with a touching ending is based on the excellent performances of both protagonists. It describes the contrast of exotic rituals and the Nordic people’s sterility, lacking passion and sympathy. The fragile Chinese woman – the Greenaway actress Vivian Wu – revives the burnt-out man. Her own fate is quite the opposite.

The German drama Unveiled (Fremde Haut) was one of the purest and most impressive films in this year’s competition. It points out that the topic discussed in TV and parliaments of civilized countries, can mean absurd sanctions in other parts of the world. A young girl flees Iran and ends up in a similar situation as the displaced man from Spielberg’s The Terminal, this time at a German airport. She survives with a few other desperate persons in no one’s land, waiting to either enter the free world or be deported back. It turns out the girl emigrated because of a lesbian relationship, which the orthodox system in her country punishes by death. A curious solution is found after the suicide of a young man who cannot take the waiting for asylum any more. Fariba cuts her hair, takes on his identity and pretends to be a boy in the community of gastarbeiters. One of the young female workers becomes interested in the young man who never showers with others.

The drama about double discrimination does not use flashy ornaments of complicated puzzles, but the drawer is drawn from the stereotypes of amusing or scary lullabies predominant in current distribution. One of the candidates of this year’s competition does not lack a universal element – it tells about the complex ways to freedom that cannot be taken for granted even in the most stable democracies.