‘The Other Side of Hope’

“The Other Side of Hope”, Aki Kausrismaki, 2017

Aki Kaurismaki’s film ‘The Other side of hope’ premiered in the Berlinale 2017 and was awarded the Silver Bear. One of the two main protagonists was a Syrian refugee who had reached Finland in seek of his lost sister. 

In an interview, protagonist Sherwin Haji from Syria, said he “was very skeptical about the whole thing”, when we was approached to play. “I mean, ethically. But when I read the script I think it was a very beautiful thing for me. And it convince me – not only on professional level, but on a human experience level that someone so far from the Middle East, from Finland, comes a director who really believes that it’s possible to make change and it was a fascinating thing to see how he dived so deep into the character of a refugee”.

In the movie, now as Ali Khalid, when interviewed by Finnish officials he answered: 

I am a mechanic. I worked in a garage on the outskirts of Aleppo.

On 6th April last spring, when i returned from work something had happened. 

When I arrived home it lay in ruins. I don’t know who fired the missile. 

Government troops, rebels, USA, Russia, Hezbollah or ISIS.

My sister Miriam arrived at the same time. She’d been in the shop, queuing for bread.

We started to dig right away. The neighbours helped. 

By morning, we’d found my father, my mother, my little brother, my uncle, his wife and their children. They’d been eating lunch together.

Next morning when we buried them, I borrowed 6000 dollars from my employer.

My cousin drove us in a van to the Turkish border. We crossed the border on foot.

We were lucky – there were no border guards.

After two weeks we paid 3000 dollars to a smuggler. 

He took us to Greece in a boat. From there we walked through Macedonia to Serbia.

We arrived to the Hungarian border. There was a panic and I lost sight of Miriam.

I saw them close the border. Miriam remained on the other side.

I tried to get back through the police line. Two policemen grabbed me and threw me down. 

They handcuffed me and put me in jail. 

Official: Did you experience violence?

Khalid: All the time. 

They tried to take my sister three times, but good people helped us.


Official: Continue. You were thrown into jail. 

Khalid: I was beaten up but released after four days. I searched for my sister but I could’t find her. 

I asked all the refugee camps, but no one knew anything. 

For months I went around Hungary, Austria, Slovenia, Germany. 

I also went back to Serbia – I though she might look for me there. 

Official: How did you get across borders?

Khalid: Easily, no one wants to see us. We cause problems.

Official: Didn’t you apply for asylum anywhere?

Khalid: No. So I could move freely looking for my sister.  

On the premiere’s Press conference Mr Kaurismaki answered that ‘Cinema does not have such influence. But my honest try is to force the three people who go to see this film (think) that we are all the same, that we are all human. And tomorrow it will be you who will be a refugee. Today it’s him, or her.’

Orestis Pangalos
December 2019