Tuesday, December 20, 2016

1990 Winner, Journey of Hope

Journey of Hope

Director:  Xavier Koller

Distributed by:  Miramax

Released:  August 1990

Country:  Switzerland

A 20th century poet once opined, “It’s no fun being an illegal alien.”  Truer words were never spoken for Haydar, a sheep farmer from rural Turkey.  Sure Haydar has a loving wife, a gaggle of fun children, a supportive extended family, and a never-ending supply of lamb chops.  But he gets a postcard from his brother in Switzerland that says something like, “Having a lovely time sucking down hot chocolate and listening to that Ricola dude yodeling in my back yard.  Hope to see ya soon on the ski slopes!”  (that’s a rough translation)  This postcard enchants Haydar, and soon his mind is made up--he's off to Switzerland.

I’m no whiz in geography, but it would seem to me that it isn’t all that easy to get from Turkey
Haydar and Mehmet Ali reading the postcard
to Switzerland without a passport.  Switzerland doesn’t have a huge wall at its border (or didn’t in this movie—how the heck should I know?) but it does have a little thing called the Alps!  Haydar may have watched the Von Trapps saunter through the mountains to escape the Nazis, but he will soon find that this isn’t the movies.  Well, it is the movies, but you know what I mean.

Haydar can’t afford to take the whole family—he will have to grease a few officials along the way and sell everything he has just to get himself and his wife out of there.  He decides to take one of the kids with him because kids adapt so well to new things.  At the beginning of the film, all Haydar’s kids had a group dare, the stunt being to lie on the train tracks while a train passes over
them.  All be but one chickened out before the train got there—all but little Mehmet Ali, a cute 7-year-old boy.  Watching the kid who plays Mehmet Ali was probably the most enjoyable part of this film for me.  He’s one of those kids who pisses a parent off by ignoring what he’s told to do, but Mom or Dad can’t stay mad because you cannot help but like his pluck and good nature.  Mehmet Ali wins over everyone he comes in contact with, including a crusty old trucker who helps the threesome get toward their destination.  There is one scene in particular—toward the end of the film, when the family is struggling in the cold mountains, when Mehmet Ali is cold and scared and you can’t help but worry about the little fella.

One thing I struggled with was why on earth Haydar got it into his Turkish skull that he had to move to Switzerland in the first place.  Sure, his dopey brother painted a pretty picture for him, but he really didn’t seem to have it all that bad in Turkey.  I mean, it’s not like he lived in Detroit.  He was willing to sacrifice everything to get to his Shangri-La, and I don’t want to give away the ending, but sometimes you have to realize the grass isn’t always greener on the other side of the mountains. 
Crossing the Alps in the movies

The Title:  Also known as Reise der Hoffnung in German and Umuda yolculuk in Turkish.  I’m not sure those are direct translations, but they can’t be worse than Journey of Hope as a title.

The Culture:  What I got out of it is that if they can, Turks will do anything to get out of their country, and there are plenty of crooks willing to take their money to help them do it.
Crossing the Alps in this movie
Agenda Danger:  I GUESS if you are obsessed with illegal immigration, you might find fault with how sympathetic Haydar and his family are seen.  But only if you are like Ann Coulter-crazy.

Best Picture that year:   Dances With Wolves

Rating:  It was nothing downright special, but I admit to having rooted for this family, or at least to see something go right for them.  This cost me $2 on Amazon to watch it and it was worth every penny.

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