Aki Kaurismaki, the famed Finnish director, has been honing his trademark deadpan, serio-comic style for over 35 years now. He first rose to international prominence in the late-1980s and early-1990s, when he released the offbeat comedy Leningrad Cowboys Go America (1989), which drew comparisons to the work of Jim Jarmusch, and the bleak, darkly comic The Match Factory Girl (1990), which Roger Ebert described as “unremittingly unyielding,” yet nevertheless “mesmerizing.” Most of Kaurismaki’s films have been set in his hometown of Helsinki, and he’s established himself as the city’s great chronicler, capturing its peculiar tone and pulse in film after film. In 2011 he began a planned trilogy of films on immigration in European port towns with the French-language film Le Havre. This year he returns to this theme, and to his hometown, with The Other Side of Hope, a study of Helsinki’s response the Syrian refugee crisis. Once again, he does so with his keen eye for irony and offbeat humour, as well as with compassion. Critics have praised his work. Kaurismaki’s handling of this material won him the Silver Bear award for Best Director at this year’s Berlin Film Festival and Piers Handling rated this film as one of his top picks of the 2017 edition of TIFF.
-Anthony Kinik, Contributor