Sherwin Haji and Face2Face host David Peck talk about his new film The Other Side of Hope, immigration, voice and identity, fear of the other, history, memory and the extreme right wing.
Sherwan Haji (born 1985) plays the role of Khaled, a Syrian refugee. Haji, who came to Finland from Syria in 2010, graduated from Higher Institute of Dramatic Arts in Damascus in 2008.
Haji acted in several TV series in Syria and continued his studies in Cambridge School of Art – Anglia Ruskin University in 2015, graduating last year with a Master of Arts degree.
Since 2012 Haji has, in addition to acting, also written and directed several short films and video installations for Lion’s Line, his production company. This is Haji’s first main role in a feature film. The film’s soundtrack also includes music performed by Haji on saz, a traditional stringed instrument.
The film consists of two stories that by chance intersect at the forty-minute mark. The first one is about Khaled, a young Syrian refugee who has lost virtually all of his family. Almost by accident, he drifts to Helsinki as a stowaway passenger on a collier to seek asylum without great hopes for his future life. Wikström, the other protagonist, is a travelling salesman of about fifty (representing mainly men’s shirts and ties). In the beginning of the film he leaves his alcoholic wife and his profession and turns momentarily into a poker shark. With the small amount of money he thus gains he then buys an unprofitable restaurant at the far end of an inner court along a back street in Helsinki.
When the authorities decide to return Khaled to the ruins of Aleppo he, just like many others, decides to stay illegally in the country and disappears into the streets of Helsinki. There he meets, besides various types of racism, also pure kindness. Finally Wikström finds our fellow sleeping in the inner yard of his restaurant. Perhaps he sees something of himself in the battered man because he hires Khaled as a cleaner and a dishwasher. For a moment life shows us its sunnier side, but fate soon intervenes and the film concludes with an open ending leading either to a respectable life or to the cemetery. For a person driven into a corner, both have their merits.
Image Copyright: Sputnik Oy and Aki Kaurismäki. Used with permission.